Rio de Janeiro on building spree for Olympics, World Cup – but at what cost?
Brazil has lifted millions out of poverty in the past decade. But Rio's transformation in the lead-up to the Olympics and World Cup may be hurting those left behind.
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But Rio’s current transformation is under greater scrutiny because of the Olympics, which always generate protest over whether the games are benefiting big business over the needs of local residents.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Rio's dangerous favelas find peace
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In many ways, the games are helping Brazil garner investment that it needs for infrastructure projects. Mr. Bittar says the Olympics will ultimately make Rio a better place, “because it will [be] a more just city,” he says in an Email. “Also [with] the urbanization of our favelas, the city will be more equal, more enjoyable, and bring more dignity to residents, especially the poorest ones.”
Bruno Reis, the managing director of the risk forecasting company Exclusive Analysis in São Paulo, says the impact is still a question mark: Will the games contribute to the city’s development, like the Barcelona games, or do very little in the long-term, like in Athens?
“The real problem for Rio is infrastructure. You arrive at ports, it is terrible. The roads are bad. Rio de Janeiro is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, and they barely have hotels, and they are very expensive,” Mr. Reis says. “Rio will be much better because of all the federal and private investment,” Reis says.
“But I don’t see any real revolution in the favelas. It is still very far away from a resolution.”
'My dream is to stay here'
In fact many could be left worse off. Ms. Rolnik from the UN says that thousands face eviction in Rio but exact numbers are hard to quantify because of a lack of transparency. That makes it challenging to know if residents are being adequately resettled close to proper services, and if they’re receiving fair compensation. And she says there is “expulsion by demand,” because of rising prices across the city, from the chicest neighborhoods to the poorest favelas. She says prices are up by 165 percent in three years citywide.
At the top of Providencia, where a little chapel stands, about 70 percent of houses have been painted with the letters SMH, or slated for demolition, says Williamson, the favela resident advocate. Some residents welcome better housing, especially those with physical disabilities, who may have trouble getting to and from the formal city via steep staircases or informally built narrow passages. Others say they refuse to go.
Mr. Hora says that he believes the city does not want the favela to be visible from the city, and by tearing down homes at the mountaintop; city planners aim to leave only the chapel in view, beckoning tourists. “They are making this a place for visitors,” he says. “It is not for the residents.”
“My dream is to stay here,” says Doralice dos Santos, whose home was marked for demolition because it was deemed unstable. Many homes in favelas are built piecemeal, one room at a time, and sometimes with recycled materials. “But what can I do? I am just following orders.”