Ever heard of a favela? No, not a falafel, a favela. If you’ve been following the news about the Rio Olympics, which miraculously began this week, you’ve certainly encountered the word. And you should hope that’s as close as you ever get to one.
Favelas are the Rio equivalent of a ghetto, the slums, the wrong side of the tracks. Only much worse than any of them. There are, according to one count, about 1,000 favelas in Rio, home to about 1.5 million people. Most of them do not have basic sewage systems, some have no running water, or worse, the only running water is open sewage systems. They are hotbeds of crime, run by murderous drug lords, which means for some rich folks, they are very cool places to visit. Seriously.
You will hear more about the favelas over the next few days, but don’t expect any of the Olympic events to be anywhere near them. Rio built an entirely new golf course for the Olympics, despite the fact it had a perfectly good course already in use. The course, unfortunately, was too close to a favela, so they build a new one. That’s what the Olympics are all about, after all — putting on the best face for the world, regardless of the cost.
But I’ve got to give credit to the organizers of the opening ceremonies Friday. They didn’t avoid the favelas, they made them a central part of the ceremonies. They were portrayed as places occupied by happy, smiling, dancing young people, which is to be expected. It would have been a bit of a downer to have stylized gunfights.
The opening ceremony was the usual spectacle that we’ve come to expect at these things. It was surprisingly light on Brazilian stereotypes – no soccer! – but it was basically pretty cool. The oddest thing was the appearance of uber supermodel Gisele Bundchen,who walked 100 metres across the stadium floor, alone with just a spotlight, to the strains of The Girl from Ipanema. The proudest person in the world right then had to be her husband, NFL quarterback Tom Brady.
The oddest part of the show was a tribute to a guy named Alberto Santos-Dumont, whom the Brazilians claim was the first man to fly. The claim is hilarious, in that the Wright Brothers flew three years before Santos-Dumont. When a guy who is entirely unknown elsewhere is a national hero, then your country should really be looking for another hero.
So the games have begun, two weeks where we can all feign interest in archery, air rifle, modern pentathlon and table tennis. Some time in the next two weeks, a Canadian will win a gold medal (hopefully), becoming the ‘golden girl’ of the moment (60 per cent of our team is female), then just as quickly be forgotten. After all, hockey season is only a couple of months away.
I am so bored with Donald Trump
The Republican candidate for president is no longer jaw-droppingly amazing. Now, he’s just boring.
He won’t support members of his own party, continues to say shockingly stupid things (he actually said that reporters from the New York Times “don’t write good”), picked a fight with the parents of a dead soldier, kicked a crying baby out of an event, blamed Hillary Clinton for the rise of ISIS, and in general proved again and again that he is the most out-of-his-depth, off his rocker candidate any party has ever offered up anywhere.
His poll numbers are cratering. The best strategy for Hillary Clinton right now would be to go on a three-month vacation and watch as Trump self-destructs. This election is over. The best the Republicans can do now is just pretend the whole thing didn’t happen — like that time on Dallas when they decided that an entire season was just an extended dream sequence — take their lumps and try again in four years … if there is a Republican party in four years.
Wanted: Supreme Court justice.
The Trudeau government has made the process of choosing a Supreme Court justice more “transparent” and “inclusive” (the government’s favourite buzzwords). Now, you can actually apply for a Supreme Court position, and a panel will pick the most suitable candidates. Now, aside from all of the usual things you might need as a Supreme Court justice (a law degree is kind of important), you must also be functionally bilingual. That likely means that a supremely qualified Supreme Court justice will be overlooked because they don’t speak French (or English, for that matter). Seems to me that you want the absolute best person for this critical job, and making bilingualism a requirement makes the selection pool much, much smaller than it already is. Is it fair to a brilliant jurist in, say, Saskatchewan or Alberta, to be overlooked because he or she was too busy becoming a brilliant jurist to make time for French lessons?
Mel Hurtig, 84, formerly the Edmonton-based bookseller and book publisher, and one of the premier Canadian nationalists of his day … Gloria DeHaven, 91, minor actress from Hollywood’s golden era … Pete Fountain, 86, one of the world’s great clarinetists.