Here’s the side of the Olympics the press doesn’t want you to think about.
Sure, there’s the odd wacky story about how many condoms are being shipped into the Olympic Village (450,000 in Rio) ending with the implication that the last few days are just an orgy of athletes with perfect bodies.
Yet very few focus on the sex workers already living there. That’s the pattern for international sporting events: focus on the athletes an the medals and for god’s sake don’t turn the camera around to look outside of the stadium – especially when the people being affected don’t fit in with the moral majority.
Increased Sex Trafficking
Depressingly, Brazil’s Department for Child Labour estimates that up to half a million children are being exploited in this way, often lured away from poverty in villages by promises of a decent job.
The Olympics has been blamed for an increase in human trafficking before; in 2004, the Athens games saw an increase of 95% that year, although in practice that’s 181 victims rather than 95. However, unlike those other countries Brazil also suffers from extensive trafficking within the country of girls 15 or younger.
While it seems an unlikely crossover between sports fanatics and child sex tourists, bear in mind the games will also see a lot of wealthy Brazilians traveling from across the country to Rio too.
When the world’s beating a path to your country’s doorstep, the government doesn’t want those people being solicited on the way. Unlike in London – which was subject to numerous raids in 2012, prostitution isn’t illegal in Brazil – although brothels are.
Despite this, Rio and surrounding areas saw a crackdown anyway in the lead up to World Cup 2014, with some accusing police of unlawful arrest, illegal robbery and even rape. On the other hand, before Rio 2016 these same crackdowns were also responsible for ending a trafficking operation near Copacabana beach.
Paradoxically, the police have also been accused of running their own sex establishments, which somehow always seem to escape these crackdowns.
The Zika Scare
Zika hangs over the Olympics like a storm cloud, and while you’re unlikely to catch it watching the swimming, those chances rise dramatically with sexual contact.
Perhaps more effective than the actual virus though is the scare surrounding it. People are less likely to take their chances with a stranger, and sex workers themselves might be at risk from infected clients.
Not That Good For Business
For sex workers in Rio, The Olympics isn’t actually that good for business. During 2014’s World Cup, many workers saw trade drop dramatically while the football was on. Foreigners will tend to avoid the main areas because those are perceived as dangerous, while ironically Brazilians that normally use them will stay away because there might be an influx of strangers.
In fact, recently a story emerged that sex workers in Vila Mimosa – right outside the Olympic stadium – have been handing out discount leaflets to athletes in the Olympic Village, along with journalists and general spectators. While the coverage in tabloids might as well have been an ad for cheap prostitution, this also means that those same workers won’t be able to pay their bills.