Rio de Janeiro is fighting a crime wave, a Zika epidemic, growing jihadi plots, and pollution so dangerous Olympians are getting sick from minor contact with seawater. Mayor Eduardo Paes desperately needs a reason to get people to come to August’s Summer Olympic Games, and he believes he has found one: Pokemon.
Paes is using his social media presence to request that Nintendo make wildly popular mobile phone game Pokemon Go available in Rio de Janeiro in August so that Olympic spectators and athletes can play while on vacation. The game places a variety of 151 creatures known as Pokemon throughout the world, using GPS to place aquatic Pokemon near bodies of water, plant Pokemon in forests, and vermin Pokemon in inner cities. Rio de Janeiro, Paes appears to contend, could be fertile ground for such a game.
“Hi, Nintendo!” Paes wrote on Facebook. “There are 23 days to go for the Rio 2016 Olympics. The whole world is coming here. You should come too!”
Pokemon Go is currently officially available in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. But users around the world have changed their phone’s regional settings to play, and authorities from Abu Dhabi to Auschwitz have been forced to warn players to be mindful of only playing the game at appropriate venues and not accidentally walking into traffic while trying to score points.
While the hashtag campaign to bring the game to Brazil – #PokemonGoNoBrasil – is flooded with fans of the game seeking Nintendo’s attention, some commenters on Paes’ page have highlighted some significant infrastructure problems that would make Rio an undesirable locale to play Pokemon Go. One user wrote:
Water Pokemon will die with the superbacteria. The land ones will be shot and mugged. The electric ones will explode in the manholes. The flying ones will be used for trafficking [drugs]. The poison ones will become obese from eating all the sewage and will need rehab. It’s not easy.
The user went back and edited his post to lament that he did not find a way to include the pun “Bulbassault.”
Rio de Janeiro is home to a number of urban crises. The “superbacteria” mentioned in the post, which are highly dangerous and not easily susceptible to antibiotics, have been found in most Rio beaches, and at least one Olympic venue is home to pollution so toxic athletes have already gotten sick in practice. Violent crime is on the rise, with Olympic athletes having already been mugged and at least three people being killed by stray bullets in as many days. As the state of Rio de Janeiro no longer has funds to pay police or provide them with money for necessities like gasoline and toilet paper, cops are protesting and warning of even more crime ahead, a month before the Olympics.
Rio de Janeiro is also one of the hardest-hit cities by the ongoing Zika epidemic in Latin America, a concern minimized by the threats to a safe Olympics.
As Pokemon Go requires players to explore the cities they are in and does not yet appear to have control for the relative criminal dangers in each location, it is possible that players will accidentally wander into some of Rio’s most dangerous favelas, or slums. In the United States, police have already documented instances of robbers using the game’s features to attract victims to dark areas in nighttime, making them easy targets. The potential for such activity in a city as crime-ridden as Rio de Janeiro is prodigious.