2012 was the year of the Olympic games. After Beijing in 2008, London showed last August that it is still proud to be at the center of a never-ending ancient empire. At the end of the games, the baton was handed off to Rio for the summer games of 2016. The five colored rings of the Olympic flag have moved from Far East to Europe and now on to South America. Soon the Olympic flame will move from the sacred fire of Olympia in Greek mountains to the Brazilian beaches of Copacabana.
But before that all happens, beginning this month and ending halfway through next year, there will be several crucial appointments for the global community. From South America to China, from USA to Europe, there will be several election tournaments that, depending on their results, will determine the way forward of the entire world for the next decade. Venezuela has already renewed current president Hugo Chavez for another term (his 8th), next month the United States will choose its president, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and then China will elect its new president and politburo. And while after these events the world will verify the new equilibriums that will govern China in the coming years (and as a consequence the new global interactions between the two shores of the Pacific ocean), in the first half of 2013 it will be Europe’s turn, with two strategic elections in Germany and in Italy that will surely have and impact on the future of Euro zone.
Setting ideological matters aside, the basic premise that links all these events is the development of the current situation of global uncertainty, generalized fear, and economic crisis. Since 2007 the world has been living in apnea, one country more or one country less may be underwater, but the thundering train of globalization and never ending economic growth has slowed down and on several occasions it came very close to going off the rails (in some contexts, such as the Eurozone, the grim background noise can be still be heard). Then, after the decade that bridged the two millenniums and when the globe was still riding the train of the globalization, the situation changed. Now, depending on the results of the upcoming elections, the world looks more like the Olympic flag: five circles that share an interconnected area, but each has its own particularity.
In the Far East, China and its new leadership should manage the evolution of the its economy from being manufacturing oriented to a more consuming one; on the other side of the Pacific, the US will need to find a balance between its federal deficit and public debt and its necessity to boost the economy to recover from one of its highest unemployment rates since the great depression. China and the US, in addition to their internal dance, will also play a global game as the two most important economies in the world. They are both columns of the same arch, as they know this well despite public posturing. They are joined by other players like Japan, India, Australia, Canada, and newcomers like Indonesia or Vietnam, that will be able to influence and balance the direction of the game with their “regional” power.
Europe will be focused on the resolution of the sovereign debt crisis and the attempts to ensure the future and consolidation of the Euro currency. This will not be the only challenge, since economic growth is a critically important need for the old continent. New growth will probably be different from what we are accustomed to; it will be greener and more oriented towards the new industrial sectors, because the European people cannot continue to be under the strain of the enormous level of privations. Of course the sick must be cured, but the cures must not kill the sick.
There are two different circles of hope. South America and Africa are two possible places where there can be a different model for economic growth. The social wave that is rolling across the Latin American continent is going strong and in some situations is increasing (consider for example recent events in Ecuador or Argentina, and the local support that more wealthy countries like Brazil or Venezuela are giving to them). On the African continent, while there are still so many situations of human suffering, there have been some positive signals of political continuity and economic growth. The active presence of a new player like China (with an influx of investments in infrastructures in exchange for raw materials, even there is a real risk of this relationship becoming a new form of colonization) can reinforce that trend.
The United States is important enough to be its own circle. Despite the many conflicts and consideration, America still holds the balance of power. If the US electorate confirms Mr. Obama, the world can continue to hope for a multicultural and “Olympic” direction. That direction will be different If Mr. Romney wins the election, resulting in a more difficult relationship with foreign powers. The whole world needs the US to play a global role, but with the sensibility to respect the differences of the other players and their eventual aims to follow a different model of development, or to create their own.
From a single train carrying the whole world together, we are moving towards a situation where the different interests are played out locally and the different forces have some degree of interconnection. Like the Olympic torch, the trend is moving from the Far East, through Europe, and is now headed to South America. We can only hope that when it sees Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado hill in 2016, the world will finally have achieved an Olympic economy. This will depend on the choices that millions of citizens will exercise with their votes over the next few weeks. In the end, democracy will choose its own future.