Pacified Or Passed By: Did The 2016 Olympics Sink or Save Rio?

Pacified Or Passed By: Did The 2016 Olympics Sink or Save Rio?

By Team Agorafy August 26, 2016

Rio’s winning bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games was kind of like going to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, getting drunk and deciding to get a face tattoo. What seemed like a great idea at the time seems a bit less so later when you have to explain that choice to grandma.

When Rio’s host bid was accepted seven years ago, the country was enjoying the kind of economic boom never witnessed before. The World Cup two years ago, and the Olympics were meant to be resplendent jewels in Brazil’s economic crown, their entrée to feast at the table of the global elite. But when the country plunged in deep, dark recession and with rising crime, unpaid teachers and pollution, paying for an Olympic Games seemed like a foolish prank that couldn’t be backed out of.

Related: Blame It On Rio: Olympic City Is Airbnb’s Most Expensive Place to Stay

To put it in context, every city that’s hosted an Olympics over the last three decades has lost money. The question they all had to ask themselves was ‘is the prestige of hosting the games worth the cost?’ Clearly, as the detractors before events in Rio showed, many thought not.

Opening ceremony of 2016 Rio Olympics at Maracana stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, on August 05, 2016. Photo: Reuters

It’s impossible not to get caught up in the emotion of the Olympics when they start. But, you can never really know how successful the Games have been until a few years after the event. While the money made or lost is one of the metrics used to determine success, one of the most important measures is how the Olympic structures are utilized after the Games are over. In other words, was all that money put to a use that actually benefits the city? That’s said, there are some immediately tangible benefits from Rio.

•   Transportation has improved dramatically. New express buses, a subway line and light rail have slashed commute times and improved infrastructure with officials claiming that 63 percent of residents now have access to transportation, up from 18 percent.

•   There are new libraries, health clinics and 400 schools in impoverished neighborhoods.

•   The old port Porto Maravilhas has been revitalized from a no go area to the rebranded Boulevard Olimpico—a hip meeting place.

•   Very importantly, though the Games cost $12 billion, much of the investment to build the Olympic Village, the golf course and to renovate the port came from private funding.

•   75,000 units of affordable housing have been constructed.

But, it’s not all good news. Some of the downsides, are in fact, related to the upsides. Under the heading of “You can’t please everyone,” detractors would point to the following:

•   By using non-governmental funds for much of the construction and development costs, there have been sweet deals for real estate developers.

•   The promise to clean up Rio’s polluted bay went unfilled

•   While 75,000 new affordable housing units were built, equally as many were destroyed to clear out “unsightly areas”. If the displaced inhabitants were rehoused in modern facilities, then it could be seen as a net positive. But that process may have displaced thousands of people. Currently, there is no easily available data as to how that worked out.

•   Barra da Tijuca, an upscale area was chosen as the site of the Olympic Village over poorer communities that desperately needed new housing.

•   The golf course required filling in protected wetlands and will only serve the wealthy.

The benchmark for a great utilization of Olympic facilities has to be London. Staging the games in the poor neighborhood of Stratford did wonders for the local community, housing and infrastructure. By choosing more affluent neighborhoods in Rio, the problems of many of the favelas still persist. After hosting so many magical moments over the last few weeks it would be a tragedy if the 12 pristine structures built for Rio 2016 went the way of Athens and Bejing and became venues for tumbleweed and algae to run riot. Only time will tell.

Team Agorafy



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