Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Olympic Dream?

The most notable fact about the Rio Olympics is that many Brazilians can't even afford tickets to the events. In 2014, Rio's mayor promised to give away 1.2 million tickets for free to students and the poor: To date, the city has set aside 47,000 tickets — only 4% of his promise. Many Brazilians who actually built the Olympic facilities don't have enough money to attend any the events. "I can't afford tickets for the Olympics because they are too expensive for me," construction worker Dennis Claudinho told Reuters.

One recent survey from polling firm Datafolha found that half of Brazilians were opposed to hosting the games, and 63% of them think the costs of hosting — such as the massive wave of evictions from Brazil's "favelas" or shantytowns — outweigh the benefits. Brazilians are also frustrated about the amount of money being spent on the games while important city services are being neglected, as the country grapples with a terrible recession. Millions of Brazilians have lost their jobs, and a new austerity program has led to drastic cuts to government services in education and healthcare.  Most improvements to Rio infrastructure have been restricted to a wealthy suburb, Barra da Tijuca, and many of the new facilities, such as the Olympic Village, are slated to be converted into luxury housing.

The opening Olympic torch relay was challenged by hundreds of demonstrators angry at the high cost of hosting the Games. Riot police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. 

“Urban segregation in Rio de Janeiro was aggravated with the preparation to receive the sports mega events,” anthropologist Luciane O. Rocha, a researcher at the Nucleo de Estudos da Cidadania Conflito e ViolĂȘncia Urbana of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, told The Root. “While the investments in housing and the majority of the spatial structure for the games were constructed in privileged areas, to the poorest areas were destined only violent actions from the policy and the army.”

Lucas Rodrigues Alves, a university student in Rio, wrote in a letter to the Guardian, “I see the millions and billions spent on overpriced Olympics construction, which should be spent on education, health and projects for people of the favelas to have opportunities to grow and participate in the development of the whole city. Rio does not need the Olympics. We need basic things that, unfortunately, are not in the interests of the politicians, who live in Leblon and Ipanema, facing the beach.”

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