Rio de Janeiro is hosting the Pan-American Games next week (or is it this week? I don’t know and I don’t really care). This is a cause for much excitement here in Rio. But arrival of so many guests, of course means arrival of a few idiots among them. One of the administrators of the American delegation, apparently held a training session for the American athletes, writing “Welcome to the Congo” on a white board and warning them to use disinfecting spray on everything. Oh, my. Seriously, there just isn’t a better way to p*** off Cariocas more than to compare Rio to the Congo. It’s about as bad as asking Romanians if their language is similar to Russian. To make matters worse, he then tried to explain the sign by saying “Because it’s really hot in here.” Of course, Rio is hardly “hot” this time of the year, but I suppose he has been inside since his arrival and wouldn’t know what kind of temperature 22°C would stand for. (For any American readers: it’s 72°F.)
On Saturday “O Globo” dedicated a full page to recounting the bitter memories of American’s saying stupid things about Brazil (Reagan confusing Brazil and Bolivia is of course at the top of any such list.) They also had another full page showing a large map of the world, with Brazil and the Congo marked with arrows and labels (in English) “This is Brazil” and “This is Congo”, with a handy memory aid (“Pan-American Games” and “African Games”), and a large heading over the whole thing: “Watch and learn”.
Of course, the funny thing is that in protesting so vehemently against stupid comparisons to Africa, Brazilians of course express the same prejudice about Africa as they say Americans have about Brazil. In fact, a few years ago Brazilian President Lula was visiting Windhoek, Namibia and commented there that he found the city so clean that it “hardly seems like Africa.”