The Other Side of the Olympics

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(google – Rio Airport)

The beauty, the pageantry, the test of human endurance and achieving athletic triumphs heretofore unknown: the Olympic Games. The glory of the human body and spirit. What could be wrong with that?

Location, location, location.

Why Rio? One in seven Rio denizens lives in cinderblock shacks or “favelas” stacked on top of one anotherViolence and street gangs run rampant.

Rio’s governor declared a “state of calamity” last month because the administration had run out of funds for public security and healthcare. Part of this was due to spending on the Olympic Games. Contracts for stadiums, transportation and port renovations have added to the already enormous wealth of Brazil’s elite families and their companies.

One of the most expensive Olympic projects is the $3 billion subway extension linking the wealthy suburb of Barra de Tijuca to the tony beach neighborhoods Leblon and Ipanema.  92-year-old billionaire Carlos Caravalho is one of the men who owns most of Barra’s land.  Once the games come to a close, all 31 of the Olympic Village’s 17-story towers will be converted into luxury condos.

In an interview with The Guardian last year, he [Carvalho] spoke of his dream to turn Barra into “a city of the elite, of good taste.” This is why he dubbed the Athletes’ Village development Ilha Pura, or pure island. “It needed to be noble housing,” Carvalho said, “not housing for the poor.” (The Atlantic, “The Broken Promise of the Rio Olympics,” Alex Cuadros, Aug. 1, 2016)

So pure does not equal poor.

Mayor Eduardo Paes, an Olympics enthusiast, belongs to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, representing the old establishment. He is the son of a highly respected attorney and a member of Rio’s elite.

Beyond the economic concerns surrounding the projects of the Summer Games, there is the substantial human cost. Under Paes, more than 20,000 families have been evicted from their homes. It’s the most extensive favela removal drive in Rio’s history—and a far cry from the mayor’s declared goal of social integration.  (The Atlantic, “The Broken Promise of the Rio Olympics,” Alex Cuadros, Aug. 1, 2016)

Paes admitted in an interview that the Olympics were used as an excuse to complete unrelated projects and that his goal is to make Barra the new hub of international business.

Nothing wrong with growing business, but it seems that average citizens were once again deceived. They were told the Olympics would benefit all of Rio, but this is indeed not the case. One could say the same thing if the homeless of New York City were told that Olympic Games held in the Big Apple would improve their quality of life. They might also be “relocated” or have their makeshift cardboard homes destroyed.

My intention is not to rain on anyone’s Olympic parade, but simply to shed some light on a perhaps not-so-well kept secret. The elites strike again!

Source: The Atlantic, “The Broken Promise of the Rio Olympics,” Alex Cuadros, Aug. 1, 2016.

Another article of interest:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/12/world/americas/brazil-rio-olympics-crime-poverty-favelas.html?smid=nytcore-iphone-share&smprod=nytcore-iphone&_r=0