In the end, who won gold?

by Camila Jordan, Co-Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

Post Rio 2016 Olympics reflection on the Legacy left by the Olympics

Hosting the Olympics games is sold to the general population as if hosts cities would continue to benefit from investments and improvements made specifically for them. Proponents of the games will say, for example, that investments made for the mega event will bring benefits across the social spectrum through the building of infrastructures, such as public transportation[1], social housing[2], and cleanup of polluted areas[3]. However, this is not the whole truth. Some improvements do happen, but the final balance[4] is not positive, as this last edition in Rio de Janeiro has once again proven.

Rio’s metropolitan area has a serious housing deficit problem[5], and hosting big events like the World Cup and the Olympics exacerbated the issue, forcing more than 22.000 families[6] out of their homes, often through provisional and inhuman housing solutions. Under Mayor Eduardo Paes, Rio suffered the biggest displacement operation in its history[7], with the eviction of around 77.200 people. In the beginning of the removals, families were given one week’s notice to move out with merely R$6.000[8] compensation. Violence was used if the families offered resistance causing deep trauma. Some people even moved back to their longtime communities after evictions, exposing themselves to dangerous situations[9].

At the same time, much needed social housing projects are not coming into fruition. Some of the evicted communities have been in place for over 40 years[10], during which time were abandoned and ignored by the government.

According to the World Cup and Olympics Popular Committee of Rio the mega-events were used as an excuse by the government and big construction companies to “clean up” favelas located in extremely valuable areas, aiming to profit from real estate appreciation and transportation improvements in the region.

Furthermore, many people have been questioning why there always seems to be a lack of investment in education, health, and other pressing issues. In the past years, sports facilities in underprivileged communities have been closed. The Célio de Barros Stadium, that had the best training tracks in the city, closed in January 2013 leaving hundreds of children and Olympic athletes without a place to practice. After popular manifestations the city government decided to remodel it, construction is planned to be concluded in 2017[11].

In spite of these problems, Brazil was able to deliver two mega events leaving an overall positive image to the world. However, do Brazilians question themselves about the not so surprising misallocation of resources and capability? Brazil has the tools and resources to end poverty and inequality, unfortunately, big interests, aka corruption, prevent structural changes, keeping the poor away from opportunities of participating fully in society, not being able to fulfill their rights and duties as citizens.

“This is a missed opportunity. We are not showcasing ourselves. With all these economic and political crises, with all these scandals, it is not the best moment to be in the eyes of the world. This is bad.”

– Former Mayor Eduardo Paes

The Olympics was another chance Rio and Brazil missed. This was even admitted by the former Mayor[12], although he did not acknowledge any responsibility on, for example, all human rights violations committed in the name of the event during that period. In addition, the infrastructure built for the event will have an annual cost of R$ 59 million, of which the federal state that filed for bankruptcy[13] and had its governor arrested on corruption charges[14] pledged to pay R$ 46 million.

The Olympics are over and Rio’s image sold across the world as an inclusive city has washed away on the still polluted beaches of Copacabana.

A famous Brazilian artist once said that “Brazil is not for amateurs”. Indeed, learning how to navigate Rio is not an easy task. After the euphoria of the games and despite everything mentioned above, I personally feel that people’s awareness has grown. The games shed light on issues that beforehand, were easily dismissed over who won the latest football match. Many social movements were born out of these difficulties and injustices, and their legacy will remain and they will continue fighting for long lasting inclusive change in the city.

[1] “Dossiê do Comitê Popular da Copa e Olimpíadas do Rio de Janeiro” (Nov 2015)

[2] “Como no Rio, Vila dos Atletas de Tóquio 2020 irá privilegiar luxo em vez de moradia social, diz diretor”, (Ago 2016)

[3] “Promessas ambientais ficaram no papel” (Jun 2016)

[4] “Em vários países, a população já percebeu quem realmente ganha ao se sediar a Olimpíada” (Ago 2015)

[5] “A explosão do déficit habitacional no Rio” (Apr 2014)

[6] “Dossiê do Comitê Popular da Copa e Olimpíadas do Rio de Janeiro” (Nov 2015, Portuguese version) | Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Rio de Janeiro Dossier (Nov 2015, English version)

[7] [8] “Remoções na Vila Autódromo expõem o lado B das Olimpíadas do Rio” (Ago 2015)

[9] “The Never-Ending Eviction” (Jan 2014)

[10] “Vida removida: a luta pela permanência na Vila Autódromo” (Jun 2016)

[11]  “Novo estádio Celio de Barros ficará pronto em 2017” (Set 2015)

[12] “Rio mayor Eduardo Paes: ‘The Olympics are a missed opportunity for Brazil’” (Jul 2016)

[13] “Hosting Olympics Bankrupts Another Place: Rio de Janeiro Declares Financial Disaster” (Jun 2016)

[14] “Sérgio Cabral, Ex-Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Arrested on Corruption Charges” (Nov 2017)