With less than four months until a samba-strewn opening ceremony at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian organizers still can’t seem to sell tickets for South America’s first Olympic Games, and the problem only seems to be getting worse.
Only half of the available tickets have been sold, and just weeks ago, the country’s sports minister resigned. Brazil’s new minister of sports Ricardo Leyser said plans are in place to drum up excitement for the world’s biggest sporting event of 2016.
“There is a perception that the Brazilian population has not yet woken up for the Games. We are going to work energetically on this because it’s still not in people’s heads. We need to sound an alert so that people remember this event and go and buy tickets,” he told the Brazilian newspaper Folha.
And what’s this plan to build up excitement? Well, the government’s considering giving away unsold tickets to boost—albeit artificially—attendance to the games because, for many Brazilians, buying tickets is damn-near impossible.
Currently, Brazil’s in the midst of its worst economic recession since the 1930s, and less stable than it was when the games were awarded. Furthermore, country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, faces impeachment.
And for travelers, the ongoing threat of Zika draws hesitation along with the country’s high crime rate, which just became a bigger concern since the country’s national security chief surprisingly resigned just two weeks ago.
For months, Brazilian and Olympic officials have downplayed the lackadaisical ticket sales, even after early ticket applications garnered five times fewer applications than the London Games. And it’s not uncommon to see stagnating sales as the games approach. The Sochi Winter Olympics reported thousands of unsold tickets just weeks prior to the event, and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing held one million unsold tickets in the weeks before as well. Even the 2012 Games in London struggled to sell out the soccer events.
Usually, you won’t find a shortage of people to go to Brazil, especially visa free. But right now, of all times, seems to be the exception.
Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.