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Andy Spalding: The four pillars of Brazil’s Olympic governance legacy

The Brazil narrative of crisis and collapse has reached a fevered pitch: Zika, pollution in the bay, economic recession, and what may be the world’s largest corruption investigation. But this now-fashionable refrain misses a deeper and more compelling story.

Brazil is building for itself an Olympic legacy, one that almost nobody outside Brazil is noticing. And in so doing, the country is redefining that oft-used phrase. We typically think of legacy in purely economic terms:  we determine the costs of preparing for and hosting the Games, and weigh them against anticipated economic benefits such as tourism revenue and the long-term value of infrastructure investments.

The resulting number, all too often is not gold or silver but red: hosts lose money, which is why so many cities (including Boston) have lately withdrawn their candidacies.

But Brazil has built a different kind of legacy: a governance legacy. On the eve of hosting the Olympic Games (and the FIFA World Cup) the Brazilian congress has completely reshaped the anti-corruption legal landscape. It enacted four separate laws, which I will call the four pillars of Brazil’s governance legacy. And it did so in direct response to public protests about corruption and poor governance. It’s a success story for democracy, the rule of law, and the global anti-corruption movement.

These laws, taken together, plainly make Brazil a place where corruption is less tolerated and more severely punished. The scandals we now read about are not evidence of a state in decline; far from it. Rather, they show us how well these new laws actually work.

In a series of posts, I’ll briefly explain each of the four pillars:  the 2011 procurement reforms, the 2011 freedom of information law, the 2013 Clean Companies Act, and the 2013 criminal enforcement law. And we’ll let the record speak for itself.

If I have piqued your interest, see our ebook, videos, and other resources at law.richmond.edu/olympics

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Andy Spalding is a Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog and Associate Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. He’s the author of the e-book Olympic Anti-Corruption Report: Brazil and the Rio 2016 Games (available here). He’ll be a speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.

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1 Comment

  1. It is heartening to note that Brazil is containing corruption. Corruption is a universal menace and must be dealt with sternly. The role of developed world in eliminating corruption and ensuring Rule of Law will benefit those countries as well as the developed countries themselves. They are the powers which can introduce laws through which human rights are protected, deprivation and disparities are eliminated; social justice for all is ensured and difference between the haves and have-nots is eliminated. The result will enable the poor come out of poverty, establish businesses and promote entrepreneurship, create employment and build capacities to buy goods and services. The quality of life will also help contain the population growth, greater tolerance and reduced chances of people playing in the hands of religious and political terrorist out-fits. Since peace and respectable earning level could be available in their own countries the influx of immigration could also be handled easily. Brazil is the Oxygen hub of Earth – its efforts as a country and member of BRICS in eliminating corruption is also like fresh air and must be appreciated and emulated by other developing countries as well.


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