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Happiness, Rio, and Olympics


When news broke that Rio de Janeiro had been awarded the 2016 summer Olympic games, TTLA asked Phuong-Cac Nguyen, this blog's Brazil Bureau Chief, if she could explain what getting the games means to that nation.

Nguyen is the author of the guidebook and related website, Total Sao Paulo: A Guide to the Unexpected. Here is her reply:

"Who would think that a bunch of seratonin-gushing people could influence the world so much? But it makes sense, considering how the economic kick in the butt has left citizens across the globe over the past few years: with low morale, a continuous feeling of deflating hopelessness and, well, add your own word to describe angst here. According to Time last year, the results of a Time/Rockefeller Foundation study showed that 85% of Americans aren't feeling happy about the economy. USA Today reported in 2007 that every three people in four are feeling down in the dumps. I can't imagine any of this has changed significantly since then. "But when the International Olympic Committee picked Rio de Janeiro to host the Olympics in 2016 last week--Rio was recently awarded by Forbes the title as the happiest place on earth (usurping Disneyland's long-standing position, much to its own shock I'm sure)--it was a big firecracker that says we're all collectively done with feeling plaintive and lousy, and release WILL be found through caipirinhas and sports, okay? "Despite a high crime rate, despairing poverty, a bureaucratic system so full of red tape that it'd be easier to figure out which cortex of the brain is responsible for nose-picking, Brazilians have an amazing knack to remain positive. While I was living in Sao Paulo, I taught English. One of my students, a smart woman who handles international clients at a major public relations firm, gave me the following prudent insight: Brazilians are happy because they choose to be. Without digressing off-topic into whether happiness is an emotion or a state of mind, the point was made. However, she said, it comes as a detriment: Many of Brazil's problems endure because of its citizens' proclivity to turn the other way when faced with an unpleasant discussion about a subject that they can't do much about. BBQ or bullets--which one would you pick? "Although happiness will not solve our economic calamity (Brazil's officially out of the recession, by the way), putting South America on the map with the Olympics not only is significant because it's the first Games on South American ground, but it means we're ready to join the beer line with our always-upbeat cousin, who tolerates his richer, more powerful relatives even through their fits of malcontent and annoying tendency to spoil the party with their problems. "We will party and we will have fun. But most importantly, we might just learn how to be a happier nation."

Related: A previous TTLA Olympics post.

Photo Credit: The image accompanying this post was taken by Flickr user SantaRosa Old Skool. It was used under Creative Commons license.

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