At the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games tonight – as tourists from all over the world sit at the Arpoador rock on Ipanema beach to clap for another magnificent sunset in the Marvelous City – Fernando Meirelles, the movie director behind “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener,” is reportedly presenting a quintessentially Brazilian celebration of the environment and the Amazon, all while showcasing the flesh of the nation's comely Carnival dancers.
But Meirelles could easily have chosen to put on a much darker show – a tragedy of nearly Shakespearean proportions based on the country’s recent history.
Call it “A Tale of Three Kings.”
The International Olympic Committee says it has invited three current or former heads of state – one of whom actually is both a current and a former head of state. But apparently, none of the options seems to please the divided local populace.
First, there is the man who actually landed the Olympic Games for Brazil back in 2009, former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who still may be the most popular head of state in the country’s history.
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But "the man,” as U.S. President Barack Obama called him, won't be attending the opening. Caught up in a corruption investigation, Lula is now a ghostly presence in the corridors of power, who stands accused of attempting to obstruct justice.
Rightly, the ex-president feels that the "political climate" does not warrant his appearance at the opening of the games.
Then there is – depending on your point of view – either the rightful heir to Lula’s throne or the dangerous tyrant who abused her power to the point that she had to be removed from office, Dilma Rousseff.
It was her administration that found the funds for all the projects required to pull off the 2014 World Cup as well as the Rio Olympics, and it was she who paid the political price after the country’s economy tanked and the billions spent became a flashpoint of anger for the people.
It was also Rousseff who, fairly nakedly, attempted to grant Lula immunity from prosecution by naming him her chief of staff earlier this year.
She is in the process of being impeached – not for any of that, however. That would be too simple.
No, Rousseff has been removed from office for six months on suspicion that she improperly manipulated some government budget figures.
After suggesting that she had every right to attend the Olympics, Rousseff last week announced that she will stay away from the opening ceremony.
She feels that Michael Temer, her former vice president and the acting president, is a usurper who is basking in the Olympic glory after all the work she has done to prepare for the games.
Although her popularity has increased since the impeachment process began, it would be hard to believe that, if present, Rousseff would be warmly welcomed.
Temer, the only one of the three who will actually represent the country at the Olympic opening, has virtually zero public support, but he seems genuinely excited to participate in the ceremony.
Despite his enthusiasm, most expect that he will be given the same treatment Rousseff received at the opening of the World Cup in 2014 – a hearty and most unpresidential "boooo."