Saturday, July 07, 2007

USOC apologizes for Congo joke in Brazil.

It would be easy to blame the fact that the rest of the world perceives Americans as arrogant, prejudiced and in denial of reality on President Bush and the Iraq war, perhaps along with anti-immigration hardliners. But that would be too convenient. And it would also be an oversimplification. At most, all Bush and the anti-immigration crowd have done is confirmed and strengthened feelings that have existed towards Americans for years.

It is a prevalent opinion around the world, and opinions like that have to be earned. And so it was today, after the United States Olympic Committee, shortly after arriving in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, had to apologize for the actions of one of their workers who scrawled, 'Welcome to Congo,' on a message board, apparently comparing Brazil with the war and poverty torn central African country.

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- In a joke that made Brazilians cringe and forced the U.S. Olympic Committee to apologize, a USOC worker scrawled "Welcome to the Congo!" on a board in the organization's Rio de Janeiro media center for the Pan American Games.

Rio's O Globo newspaper published a photo of the message on its front page Saturday, and ran a headline saying the joke was "full of prejudice." The message was condemned in a nation extremely sensitive about being compared to less-developed countries, especially by Americans -- who often are perceived as arrogant by Brazilians.

The controversy occurred as American athletes arrived in Latin America's largest country to compete in the event that starts Friday.

The USOC issued a "deep apology to the people of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro" in a statement Saturday, and said the worker who wrote the phrase was disciplined and is no longer a member of the U.S. delegation to the games.

And on top of that, even when trying to explain the 'joke' away, a USOC member also made us look like wimps:

The picture in O Globo showed USOC media employee Kevin Neuendorf in front of the whiteboard, and the story quoted him as saying it was written because "it's really hot in Rio."

O Globo noted that Rio is in the middle of its South American winter, and that the USOC office at the games is air conditioned. The average temperature in July in Rio is 78 degrees -- on Saturday, the temperature was in the low 80s.

translation: 80 degrees to an American is 'really hot.' And those are supposed to be our athletes! This is embarrassing.

I'm glad that the USOC made an apology to Brazil (which is not such a backwards country as some uneducated Americans may think-- the living standard in Brazil is probably about what it was in the U.S. twenty or thirty years ago, and most Brazilians now have access to the internet.

I might also suggest that they make an apology to the people of Congo (who are probably too preoccupied with trying to keep alive to have paid much attention to this story, but we should apologize anyway.) After decades of the tyrannical, corrupt and despotical rule of the dictator Mobutu ended about a decade ago, Congo has been wracked by war, violence, anarchy and starvation, in which the only attention the world pays to the country is when they also have the occasional outbreaks of Ebola. Congo is a tragedy, not a joke.

Attitudes like those held by the Brazilians can be stoked overnight by comments like these, and they aren't easy to erase.


Anonymous said...

He wasn't an athlete; he was a "media employee" -- a PR guy. Not so great PR, I agree. But jeeeeezzzz -- EVERYBODY is SO freakin' sensitive!!!! I also wonder if the AP writer isn't making a mountain out of a molehill (journalists have been known to do this on occasion) -- he found a couple Brazilians who were offended, and quoted them, and proceeded to build a story tha supported the liberal worldview that Americans are stupid and evil...

How about the millions of Brazilians who would have laughed off this idiot's "joke?" No -- couldn't quote any of them....that wouldn't be politically correct...

Eli Blake said...


First, it was the Brazilian paper that he quoted. Second, if no one was offended why would the USOC have had to shift into full damage control mode and fire the employee and apologize both to the nation of Brazil and to the Mayor of Rio de Janiero? All the AP writer did was report on it.

But the fact is, if you go virtually anywhere in the world, they will use the same words to describe Americans-- 'arrogant, slothful, rude, and bullying.'

People from Latin America, where the news about anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. has been making headlines for years (and where before that they survived through decades of American-supported, and in many cases even American installed dictators) are really not that different in that regard from people in a lot of places (I doubt if you'd find Congo to be so friendly to Americans either as it was in 1976 when Ali and Foreman staged a great heavyweight fight in Kinshasa.)

shrimplate said...

What fantasy world is this "anonymous" living in, and why?

Anonymous said...


Save M.L. King, Ali, Jordan, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday!

Poor rich country...

Anonymous said...

>>But jeeeeezzzz -- EVERYBODY is SO freakin' sensitive!!!!<<

Give me a break, will you? It's about time Americans stopped thinking that just because they have more money, more power and better athletes, that people should revere and admire them.
Well, surprise...not anymore!!!
Actually, nobody can stand Americans in the world mostly because, among many other things, they keep defending their inner racist lack of political correctness, which is outrageous! Freedom of speech? No, this isn't freedom of speech! No way! This is freedom to be racist, to be nazi, to think that they're superior to everybody else, including Latins.

I think they'd do a great job if they stopped behaving like that! Everybody, literally everybody, is fed up with it!

Chuck said...

FWIW (probably not much)-

The term "American" when referring to a U.S. citizen isn't exactly a misnomer, but it really is broad.

It is: The United States OF America.

Brazilians are Americans. (Also lots of money to duhbya)

Mexicans are Americans. Canadians are Americans.

I know...I know. Semantics.

And anyway, good catch Eli. You guys are right, though. When our students have to hide their identities in foreign countries for fear of intimidation, hatred and possible assault, its a sad day.

We all are the same as bush (or at least bush lovers) to the majority of them.

Empire baby.

thephoenixnyc said...

Yeah, really. Buchco and the average knuckledragging caveman American give the world plenty opf reasons to not like us. This was impoltic but not awful. That's really an overreaction by Brazil.

Besides the 30 million Brasilians who live in Favelas have it a lot worse than your averge person in the Congo.