Brazil's Olympic Stadium Goes Dark Over Unpaid $250,000 Electric Bill

Three weeks ago, in “‘Dark’" Days Ahead: Main Power Supplier For Brazil Olympic Games Pulls Out”, we brought you the latest humiliation out of Latin America’s EM darling gone bust.

To be sure, there were already a number of concerns about the upcoming Olympic games in Rio. For instance, last summer we learned that thanks to a lack of sanitation infrastructure, Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses in the water. As AP reported, these viruses in some tests “measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.”

Meanwhile, Brazil’s worsening budget crisis means the government is no longer willing (or able) to foot the bill for costs in excess of the Rio organizers’ budget. In other words: organizers can only spend what they estimate they’ll take in from sponsorships, ticket sales, and a grant from the International Olympic Committee.

Unfortunately, the games are already some $520 million over budget, which means cutbacks will be necessary.

First on the list: amenities in Olympic Village where athletes will be forced to pay for their own air conditioning and where televisions will not come standard in rooms.

As if all of the above weren’t embarrassing enough, a major supplier of power reportedly backed out of the event last month, suggesting that in addition to unsanitary conditions and no air conditioning, athletes could well run out of energy - literally.

As Reuters reported, “longtime Olympic power provider Aggreko has pulled out of a tender to supply generators for the games in Rio de Janeiro next year, dealing a major blow to organizers rushing to secure an energy source for the world's largest sporting event.” Here’s what we said:

More worrisome is that “the temporary power contract guarantees a stable and secure energy supply for international broadcasters.”

 

Interruptions in coverage mean lost ad impressions and if advertisers and sponsors become concerned that Brazil will ultimately be unable to deliver, they could begin to rethink their commitment.

 

Additionally, one has to wonder how long it will be before fans begin to rethink their plans to attend.

 

After all, no one wants to go to an opening ceremony where the only light is the Olympic torch.

Well believe it or not, the track and field stadium for this year’s games went dark on Monday due to unpaid utility bills. "In a statement, the city hall said Botafogo soccer club has been responsible for the utility bills since May 2015," AP reports. "But the club told the AP in a statement that the city government owed it money to pay water and electricity bills."

“We have to find out who is responsible for the debt,” the club said.

Yes, "we have to find out," because the bill is a quarter of a million dollars. "The Brazilian website Globo Esporte, which is connected to the newspaper O Globo, said the unpaid bills totalled 1 million reals ($250,000)," AP continues, noting that apparently, the lights have been out since last week while the water was cut off last month. 

"[The stadium] is the home ground of Botafogo football, which was previously responsible for the costs of running the stadium," Sky News says. "But this month the club returned management of the arena to Brazil's government while preparations got under way for the Olympics."

AP goes on to document the pitiable plight of the games' organizers, many of whom are now unpaid volunteers who, in addition to not receiving a wage for their efforts, are actually forced to pay for their own accommodations while in Rio. 

So not only has the provider of auxiliary power pulled out of a tender for the games, the host city is now refusing to pay the light bill for a key facility. We wonder how long it will be before Brazil "pulls the plug" (so to speak), on the whole thing.