The Dark Side of the Rio Olympics

The Olympics is just a few years away and the government of this cidade maravilhosa (Rio’s nickname) is already doing a lot to spruce up the city in preparation for these events.

An Olympic Park is being built, which will be over 185 acres.  Additionally, the current train and bus systems will be improved, and six more subway stations will be added by 2015. There are so many changes underway that there is even a website dedicated to tracking these mudanças (changes).

The future Olympic Park

Unfortunately, this “sprucing up” is resulting in many negative changes as well. Although “negative” is an understatement. Many peoples’ homes are being torn down to make room for new roads and other infrastructure; in total, 7,185 families (or 170,000 of the city’s poorest residents) will be evicted from their homes and left with nowhere to go. Many claim that the billions of dollars being invested for these events will simply help the rich get richer and leave everyone else with absolutely nothing.

documentary team is in the midst of creating a film that will hopefully show this to the world, sooner than later.  Because what’s also incredibly unfortunate is that this major issue is not really even covered in international news; until a carioca (Rio) friend told me about what’s going on, I had no idea. International news only seem to talk about the positive changes that are taking place, as if to shield people from the harsh reality. It’s time that that changes; everyone needs to be aware of what is going on, so that maybe this cruel injustice can be curtailed. Fortunately at least, New York Times is in the loop.

The video below was created by the documentary team and gives an idea of the inhumane conditions that many cariocas are living in as a result of this “sprucing up.”

As the video clearly demonstrates, many Brazilians are not exactly thrilled about such life-altering renovations that are taking place to “better” the city of Rio.  As one carioca (resident of Rio) said:

é nojento…nao tem nada de bom pra falar disso, acho que o brasil nao tinha que receber esses eventos agora…a unica coisa boa é o turismo que vai aumenter nessa epoca…mas o que a gente reclama muito é: e depois da copa e das olimpiades? As pessoas vao estar sem nada.” (“It’s disgusting…I don’t have anything good to say about this, I don’t think that Brazil should be having these events now…the one good thing that will result from this is the tourism. But many people are complaining that after the World Cup and the Olympics, people will be left with nothing.”)

Depressing, huh? It’s as if these carioca residents do not have any rights whatsoever. What gives the government the right to just tear down these peoples’ homes, without even providing them with alternate accommodations?  And of course, it is only the poor that is affected by this insane wrongdoing. Because in Brazil, the poor are often treated very differently than everyone else.  Take, for instance, the highly unequal education system, which favors the wealthy and neglects the poor. Or the favelas, where it is no exaggeration to say that the residents are treated like dogs. The destruction caused by the Olympics is no different.

So how can we bring an end to such horrible madness? Perhaps if there is enough bad publicity about this worldwide, the government will stop.  So spread the word.

And on the bright side…

Preparation for the Olympics has also encouraged the government to try and reduce violence in the city’s slums, and in doing so, there have been numerous pacifying police units implemented in favelas throughout Rio.  While this can definitely not make up for all those who lost (and are losing) their homes, at least there are some positive changes resulting from the Olympics as well.


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