The preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio have received substantial criticism, from the tattered infrastructure to the polluted water to public health questions and more. On Tuesday the focus shifted to the upcoming Opening Ceremony, with the Washington Post reporting that a skit starring supermodel Gisele Bundchen will be cut from the program due to what one prominent onlooker described as “reaffirmation of a racist stereotype.” The story was first reported by Brazilian outfit UOL.com.
There are conflicting reports on the precise content of the skit, the Post explains. Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo described it as Gisele being robbed by a black boy in “simple clothes.” Fernando Alvares Salis, head of the communications department at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, called it “totally unacceptable” and took umbrage with the violent portrayal of young black men. However, filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, serving as the creative director for the Opening Ceremony, had a different story, via the Post:
What actually happened, he said, was that they tested out a scene in which a food vendor on the beach rushes up to take a selfie with Gisele. Security guards don’t like it and give chase, but Gisele intervenes to protect him.
“It was a gag that was not funny so we cut it,” he said. “There was nothing that looked like a robbery in the scene except two security guards chasing after a vendor. They are three professional clowns.”
The skit will be cut from the Aug. 5 ceremony that celebrates Brazil’s history and that Meirelles hopes will be uplifting for a populace in need of some good feelings and renewed national pride. Meirelles, an Academy Award-nominated film director, called the entire episode a “tremendous misunderstanding.” As he told the Post: “Imagine us doing a scene like that in the opening, I’m not that clueless.”