Fallen Billionaire Batista Lands Olympic Seat After Funding Bid

  • Eike Batista accepted invitation from Rio 2016 organizers
  • Batista provided bulk of funding for Rio’s successful bid

Eike Batista, the ex-billionaire whose meteoric rise and calamitous fall has come to symbolize Brazil’s shifting fortunes, has accepted a seat among the guests of honor at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Batista, who gained and lost more than $30 billion with a group of startups that unraveled during the commodities bust, donated $4.5 million to Rio’s ultimately successful Olympic bid in 2009. Brazil beat competition from a Barack Obama-backed Chicago, Madrid, and 2020 host Tokyo at a time of economic bonanza, when Batista had laid out plans to become the world’s richest man.

“The bulk of the money for the bid was his,” Rio 2016’s communications head Mario Andrada said in an interview. “He’s a guest of honor at the opening ceremony.”

Brazilian regulators have banned Batista from managing companies or serving on their boards after a group of them wound up in bankruptcy protection. He is also battling allegations of engaging in insider trading on shares in his own companies. His commodities empire began to crumble after his flagship company, an oil driller now called Oleo e Gas Participacoes SA, failed to meet ambitious production targets.

For a look on how Batista lost his fortune, click here.

Batista accepted the offer after being personally invited by the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Carlos Nuzman, Andrada said. Batista’s lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The first South American Olympics are taking place in the midst of a deep political and economic crisis in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff is suspended from office pending an impeachment trial that’s been delayed until after the games, and the country continues to battle its worst recession in decades.

Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who led Brazil’s delegation when it was awarded the Olympics, and the country’s other living presidents have also been invited to be guests of honor at the Aug. 5 opening ceremony.

Rousseff, who tweeted that she should be allowed to attend the games, and Lula haven’t yet accepted their invitations, Andrada said. Former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Fernando Collor de Mello have formally turned down theirs.

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