Branding is everything with the Olympics. It’s why you will spend the next month seeing commercials for pizza, yogurt and soft drinks starring Olympic athletes you probably don’t recognize. But when a pizza brand hooks up with the Olympic brand, it makes that very popular product, the pizza, even more noticeable. The consumer says to themselves, “I love America and want to support our athletes, so this 2-foot pizza from Pizza Hut I’m buying is a patriotic act.”
Apparently, cocaine dealers in Rio are having the same thought, as the above bag of drugs with an Olympic logo on it shows. If you’re living in Rio and in need of an 8-ball, are you going to buy the cocaine that doesn’t support the Olympics? You are? Why do you hate Brazil, sir? Why don’t you support the athletes?
Of course, that doesn’t apply here, because as corrupt as the IOC is, they (probably?) haven’t entered into a brand partnership with a local drug dealer.
But of all the #RioProblems that currently exist — substandard living accommodations for athletes, doping, kidnapping, police corruption — the drug problem is the one that will be just as rampant after the Olympics end. Martin Rogers of USA Today investigated the drug problems and Rio and, as you might have guessed, it’s awful and depressing.
Less than a mile from Maracana Stadium, where the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics will be staged Aug. 5, lies the most hopeless place imaginable.
Cars pass by a squalid sidewalk where Rio’s undesirables go to feed their cocaine habit. Prostitutes, some of them pregnant, sell their bodies for a couple of rocks of crack or a few reals, the equivalent of less than $5. Dozens of people ingest the drug in open view. No one pays much attention.
These are the Cracklands, or Cracolandia, where drugs are the only currency that matters and lives are as expendable as the fleeting high from each hit of makeshift crack pipes.
“The Olympics? I’m happy it is coming,” one man says via translator. “More money for everyone.”
And the story just goes from there. It’s important to keep that in mind when the IOC inevitably condemns the use of a logo on something a heinous as a bag of cocaine, but doesn’t care about holding its event where drugs are a problem this massive.