Five years later: revisiting the broken promises of the Rio 2016 Olympics | Olympic Games News

Last month, Tokyo handed the Olympic flame back to Paris after the climax of the revamped 2020 Olympics.

The spectators were people in Rio – which hosted the Games in 2016 – still awaiting the fulfillment of several promises from more than five years ago.

Rio 2016 was not only to increase the number of tourists and improve the image of the country outside Brazil, but also to leave a legacy on public safety, create new employment opportunities, an integrated public transport system and urban projects. , from which the population could benefit long term.

The Rio 2016 Games Legacy Public Policy Plan stated that “legacy is a set of infrastructure works (including sport) and public policies in the areas of mobility, environment , urbanization, education and culture which are underway and have been accelerated. or made possible by the fact that the city of Rio de Janeiro hosted the Games in 2016 ”.

There were 27 projects in the legacy plan – established in 2014 by municipal, state and federal governments – with little connection to the Games but which would be facilitated, such as extending transmission lines.

The idea was to leave aside the functional facilities and “no white elephants”, as Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio at the time, had promised during the preparations for the Games.

Major projects in Rio included the Olympic Boulevard (the area between the port and the city center), metro line 4, the Olympic Park and the rapid bus (BRT).

But none of these projects came to fruition.

An aerial view from 2017 shows the velodrome, with its roof partially burnt down after a fire at the Olympic Park, previously used for the Rio 2016 Olympics [Ricardo Moraes/Reuters]

Work on the Gavea section of the metro – which would link the southern zone to the western zone – has not advanced since 2015.

The Olympic Park hosted a few sporting events and even Rock in Rio, the initial project to build four schools from the dismantling of the Arena of the Future – where handball competitions were held – was not delivered and the site is still standing. .

While the Brazilian Olympic Committee has used some of the facilities as training bases for national team athletes, none has become a permanent training center.

The Cidade Olímpica Museum, inaugurated in 2016 at Engenhao Stadium, presents the history of the Olympic Games. Through the use of technology, visitors can fly over Rio using virtual reality to visit sites.

But the museum was closed in 2019. The municipal science and technology department, responsible for the place, did not give a reason but said it was already out of service during the previous administration but a reopening is expected later. This year.

A city council administrator told Al Jazeera that “the former mayor of Rio, for the past four years, has left everything behind.”

The Rio 2016 organizing committee and several of its representatives did not respond to repeated requests from Al Jazeera for an interview.

The Olympic Legacy Governance Authority (AGLO), responsible for overseeing and promoting activities in sports structures that remained after the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, was dissolved by President Jair Bolsonaro in 2019.

This means that there is no specific organization in charge of monitoring inheritance.

The Olympic Public Authority (APO) officially said that the total amount spent on Rio 2016 was just over 39 billion Brazilian reals (around 7.4 billion dollars today).

In addition to this amount, more money was set aside, including compensation offered to residents of Vila Autodromo who were taken from their homes to make way for the construction of the Olympic Park.

Residents were evicted from Vila Autodromo, Rio [Courtesy of Luiz Claudio Silva]

The municipal government, in 2013, started evicting around 650 families who lived in the Vila because, according to the administration, they were blocking the access road to the park.

Residents of the makeshift community were offered two options: financial compensation or a move to a condominium not too far from where they were.

Sandra Maria Souza was one of 20 families who fiercely resisted and did not accept any of the offers.

She arrived in the favela in 1991 and raised her four children there. The acupuncturist remembers that when she found out that Rio de Janeiro was hosting the Olympics, she hoped the event would provide an opportunity to improve the quality of public spaces, but it had never crossed her path. mind that she would be so negatively affected.

She describes the government’s attitude as harsh – “Physical violence, threats and psychological pressure”.

When the eviction process began, Souza described the living conditions in the community as “sub-human” because, she said, the government in Rio suspended basic services such as mail delivery. , garbage collection and street lighting.

Houses were demolished in Vila Autodromo in Rio [Courtesy of Luiz Claudio Silva]

This was in addition to other problems: The rubble of demolished houses had remained, there was a rat infestation due to the accumulation of trash, and stray cats and dogs were abandoned by families who had opted. for resettlement.

She had to move so that all the remaining families were based on the same street where the new residences were built. However, she added that the administration had also promised to rebuild the children’s playground, cultural center and other common facilities which were destroyed while ensuring the regularization of the current houses.

The agreement was not honored.

In May 2016, Souza, together with his neighbors, founded the Museum of Evictions in Vila, in order to safeguard the memory of what was once the region and to fight other forced evictions around the world.

Seven rubble sculptures are on display, each representing a significant place that had been removed.

In Souza, the heritage left by Rio 2016 is a pity.

“The destruction of lives is my legacy,” she said.

“No concrete goals”

Renata Latuf de Oliveira Sanchez wrote her doctoral thesis entitled Designing the Urban: The Legacy of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Barra da Tijuca.

She also sees the Games in Brazil leaving more problems than solutions. The problem, she told Al Jazeera, was that it lacked planning on the part of policymakers.

“It was all done without a common long-term legacy plan,” Sanchez said. “The plan should set concrete goals for five, 10, 20 or even 50 years. Otherwise, other projects and supposed priorities end up taking over and the existing building is left behind by those who take power later.

Paes, re-elected mayor of Rio last year, meanwhile defended the work done for the Olympics.

“Regarding mobility, we have achieved a real transformation by building three BRT lines and expanding the metro,” says the town hall.

“Rio left an intangible legacy similar to that of Barcelona 1992.”

Souza, however, disagrees. User of public transport, she claims that the BRTs were a pretext to eliminate various bus lines, very useful to the population.

“To get to some places we only took one bus, now there are times when we have to take three, which increases the cost of the ticket and the travel time.”

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the Union Court of Auditors reported suspicions of overcharging for construction work during Rio 2016, as well as the lack of solid plans to manage the facilities.

The president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) for 22 years, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, was arrested in 2017 for corruption and criminal organization after allegedly buying the votes of the administrators of the International Olympic Committee for the choice of Rio as the venue for the Games.

Preservation of the environment was also an aspect that was lacking in implementation.

Among the commitments that were not kept were the cleaning of the lagoon and Guanabara Bay, where the sailing competitions were held.

The sewage and waste that drains into the bay should have been reduced by 80% by 2016. The commitment was made by the government of Sergio Cabral during the campaign to choose Rio as the host city.

It is estimated by the National Water and Wastewater Company (CEDAE) that less than 40 percent of wastewater is currently treated.

However, all was not unfavorable. Flood control for those living near the Maracana has finally been launched.

In addition, English was taught to around 10,000 taxi drivers and 70,000 volunteers through free online language courses.

But just before the Tokyo Games started earlier this year, Mayor Paes decided to renew his broken promises.

On July 22, he said plans for the original legacy would resume after some adaptations.

The four sports schools that will be built at the Arena of the Future should be inaugurated in early 2023 and other places for sports practice should be available to the community, as well as an offer of free activities and lessons.

But the plan comes at a price. Only the dismantling of the arena and the aquatic center will cost an additional 78 million real dollars (15 million dollars).

Sanchez says there was a lack of promotion, investment and partnership in initiatives associated with Rio 2016. But despite this, she believes the situation may change.

“There is still time to change mindsets, but continued organization, investment and planning are needed despite the change of government with each election. “

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