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The London Olympics finished last night with spectacular and largely problem-free games, but its easy to forget that the city had endured almost 7 years of controversy before the opening ceremony.Now everyone is beginning to look towards Brazil, which will host the 2016 Games in Rio (plus the 2014 World Cup). We’re beginning to wonder if the city’s preparations will prove even more controversial than London’s.
For one thing, check out the Op-Ed that appeared in the New York Times yesterday, pointing out that one of the city’s historic favela neighborhoods is threatened by Olympic Construction.
Last month, Unesco awarded World Heritage Site status to a substantial portion of the city, an area that includes some of its hillside favelas, where more than 1.4 million of the city’s 6 million residents live. No favela can claim greater historical importance than Rio’s first — Morro da Providência — yet Olympic construction projects are threatening its future.
The article’s author, Theresa Williamson of RioOnWatch.org, goes on to argue that the forced relocation of 30 per cent (or more) of Providência’s residents could prove a disastrous move for an evolving city:
If Rio succeeds in disfiguring and dismantling its most historic favela, the path will be open to further destruction throughout the city’s hundreds of others. The economic, social and psychological impacts of evictions are dire: families moved into isolated units where they lose access to the enormous economic and social benefits of community cooperation, proximity to work and existing social networks — not to mention generations’ worth of investments made in their homes.
The story shows how difficult the favelas may prove for Rio. The city has begun to offer land title documents to families that have lived in the slums for decades, cementing their ownership of the lands (few had any legal rights before). There has been a rise the installation of police stations in areas once firmly involved under the power of criminal gangs.
Another article from Reuters today points towards the curse of the “Brazil cost”, a series of high taxes and labour costs that could push budget far past the initial estimates of $14.4 billion. Construction on the main Olympic stadium hasn’t started yet, and officials have now admitted a planned high speed rail link between Rio and Sao Paulo will not be completed for the games. The Guardian also point out that the city faces an unusual tourism problem, with underdeveloped airports and only 20,000 tourist beds in the city at present.
Rio’s newspapers realise the strain they are under. According to Reuters, today’s O Globo, the biggest daily newspaper in Rio, features an image of a tattered flag over a memorial for the Pan American, an American multi-sport tournament held in 2007 that was widely considered disastrous.
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