There has been a fair amount of publicity in the past couple days about how Brazil's loss to Germany in the World Cup has disheartened the entire nation. There have been numerous articles with embedded videos of Brazilians crying and carrying on as if a loved one had just died. The 7-1 loss is considered a national tragedy.
Someone should tell the Brazilians that soccer is just a game.
The Italians have a reputation for being a demonstrative, emotional people. The Brazilians make them look like inhibited robots.
I've known Brazilians, and I've liked almost all of them. Yes, it's a cliche, but they really do seem to be warm and friendly. But I know to avoid the subject of Brazil with them, at least in any honest way, since they all have this weirdly emotional nationalistic mindset.
I occasionally read the comments following articles on swimming websites. Whenever a Brazilian swimmer is a contender for a title, Brazilians write in to state that his victory is a foregone conclusion, or something to that effect. Worse, if anybody on the message board says anything that could possibly be interpreted as remotely critical of a Brazilian, the Brazilians react like scalded cats, and lash back. They seem to have huge amount of national pride combined with an equal helping of national insecurity. It's a volatile combination.
Every year Swimming World Magazine names the World Swimmers of the Year. In 2007, they decided to let the readers vote for their choice. That year Michael Phelps won seven gold medals at the World Championships in Melbourne, five of them in individual events, and set four individual world records. Later that year, Brazilian Thiago Pereira won six gold medals at the Pan Am Games, a second tier meet. Four of his golds came in individual events, and he didn't come close to any world records. (At Melbourne, Pereira's best finish was a solitary fourth place.) The Brazilians orchestrated a campaign to flood the Swimming World website with votes for Pereira, so he "won" the popular vote for Swimmer of the Year. (What did the Brazilians think they were proving?)
Swimming World discontinued popular votes for Swimmer of the Year after that.
Cesar Cielo, the great Brazilian sprinter who holds the world records for the 50 and 100 meter freestyles, bursts out crying after every major victory. He does this without fail. Others find it a little embarrassing, but in Brazil this is probably considered normal behavior.
Think of the most diehard sports fan you know, the one who lives and dies with his team's fortunes. Let's say he's a Boston Red Sox fan. He's not a bad guy; he's just a little insane when it comes to the Red Sox. He wears sweatshirts with Red Sox logos, Red Sox baseball caps, and his room is festooned with team pennants. You sometimes wonder about his sanity, and every now and then you get the urge to ask him why he cares about the Red Sox so much, since he has no personal relationship with any of the players. But you refrain, because you don't want to provoke an emotional outburst.
Now, imagine an entire country composed of people like that.
Renzo Gracie, the great Brazilian mixed martial artist, was in the news a few weeks ago, for having been involved in a brawl outside a nightclub in Manhattan. It turned out that he and some of his friends had gone there to rough up the doormen because a few nights before the doormen hadn't let Gracie's cousin past the velvet rope. There's something quintessentially Brazilian about such an overreaction to a minor insult.
Don't ever try to tell the girl from Ipanema that her country does not have the best cuisine, the best-looking people, the greatest athletes, and the most beautiful scenery in the entire world. Not if you don't want to start a fight.
There's been some recent talk that because preparations are behind schedule, the 2016 Olympics may be taken from Rio de Janeiro. Evidently the IOC has already made some discreet inquiries to other cities about possibly substituting at the last minute.
My advice: let Rio have the Games. Even if the venues are unfinished, even if some of the events have to be canceled, even if the track measures 399 meters and the pool 49 meters, do not move the Games. The national crisis of confidence that would erupt would be just too terrible to contemplate.