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  • Rio Olympic Legacy As Complicated As City Itself


    (ATR) The IOC should call Humberto Marcolini.

    View out of the metro window connecting Barra to Zona Sul (ATR)
    Marcolini, 38, lives in the neighborhood of Jardim Oceanico, in Rio’s upscale Barra da Tijuca neighborhood. The commercial manager told Around the Rings the biggest change in his life post-Rio 2016 is the new metro line that ends in his neighborhood. He also believes that Rio is “more complete," given the renovated port area and the perception that the city is not only for beaches and samba.

    “I think the tourism has professionalized itself a bit more,” Marcolini said. “Now the trails in the parks are more organized, with maps, guides, etc.”

    Still, the sour taste of Olympic broken promises lingers just blocks from his house. Rio promised that the Olympics would spearhead environmental cleanups in the Tijuca lagoons, which bordered the Olympic Park. Those cleanups never materialized, leaving the lagoons just as polluted as they were pre-Games.

    Marcolini’s views show that Rio after the Olympics is a transformed city with greater public investment but others say it is a city where nothing is changed and citizens are now worse off. 

    Olympic legacy has always been a nebulous concept. It’s the subject of great debate in the Olympic Movement, as well as entire higher education departments. It constitutes multiple aspects from sporting to economic to political legacy.

    Rio’s legacy, six months from the close of the 2016 Paralympics, has not produced results that organizers expected when winning the Games in 2009. The Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca is only open to the public on weekends, and events held there are few and far between. The Brazilian sports ministry assumed control of four venues after no private company would bid on a 25 year lease on the complex.

    Local reports described temporary venues such as the Future Arena and the Aquatics Center, which have not been dismantled, as abandoned. The Deodoro Olympic Park remains closed to the public as the city searches for an operator, depriving a poor area of the city of much needed green space.

    Flamengo took control of the Maracana for select matches (Getty Images)
    Finally, no venue highlighted the boom-and-bust nature of post-Games Rio than the Maracana. A dispute between the organizing committee and the consortium in charge of the stadium left the “temple of football” derelict and looted. The dispute continued from October 2016 to January, where utilities providers Light shut the power off in the stadium, causing the pitch to degrade. The dispute was resolved after the consortium paid off two months of unpaid bills, and a judge ordered Rio 2016 to complete repairs on the stadium. Local club Flamengo, hoping to use the stadium for a Copa Libertadores match, fixed the stadium up on short notice to get it football-ready.

    Yesterday, at the end of the eighth IOC Coordination Commission in PyeongChang, South Korea, IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi spoke highly of the “transformation” Rio has undergone. He spoke of the “question of time” of how to judge Rio’s, eventual, successful legacy.

    “If you project yourself back into the London situation, the transformation of the park, it took many years,” Dubi told reporters. “Every single [Rio] venue has a designed use for the future… so you see its ongoing work and it takes a few more months, this summer, until the park is fully open.”

    A day later Dubi tempered his remarks painting a positive legacy of the Games, saying that organizers “have to be fair with Rio.”

    “What they have achieved in a very complicated political, economic, and social context was incredible at the time of the Games and will continue,” Dubi adds. “The legacy has materialized already and has transformed the life of citizens.”

    An IOC spokesperson confirmed to ATR that President Thomas Bach recently held a meeting in Lausanne to discuss Rio 2016 legacy, but not with the current Rio city administration. Bach received former Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, who is now living in the United States with his family. ATR attempted to reach Paes through a spokesperson, but was unsuccessful.

    A jovial Paes showcasing an Olympic legacy project before the Games (ATR)
    “The IOC works with a number of stakeholders after a Games on legacy and this has included former officials from the Organizing Committees and the cities,” the IOC spokesperson said. “Eduardo Paes has agreed to share his experiences as the Mayor of a host city and how the Games helped the city of Rio de Janeiro to develop with future hosts.”

    A spokesperson for current Rio mayor Marcelo Crivella confirmed to ATR that the IOC has not reached out to the current administration to discuss legacy. Since assuming office, Crivella has implemented a platform emphasizing government austerity, and distanced himself from the Olympics during his campaign.

    The spokesperson could not confirm a July opening date for the Olympic Park saying “the reopening of the park will depend on the completion of the ongoing dismantling steps, followed by the adaptations necessary for the operation of the facilities in the legacy mode.”

    The administration does have a plan to address the Olympic legacy. Following through on the plan will take time, especially given the bankruptcy of the State of Rio and the ever growing number of politicians engulfed in Brazil’s ongoing Lava Jato investigation. Earlier this week arrests were made in Rio as part of a Lava Jato subsidiary investigation over bribes paid out by Odebrecht in connection with building the Line 4 Metro, according to outlet G1.

    As Rio begins the task to sort out its legacy, city officials admit “Rio de Janeiro, after the Olympics, has other demands to solve.” Given the pace of works in Brazil, who knows when the “question of time” Dubi references may be answered. Just ask Patrick Hickey.

    The Museum of Tomorrow is the showpiece of Rio's Olympic development (ATR)
    Venues are the not the only aspect of Rio’s legacy on which Dubi is bullish. He spoke to reporters about the changes every day Cariocas benefit from as added bonuses from the Games.

    “[Cariocas] have much better transportation system, they have much better sewage system, they have much better water quality,” Dubi said. “They have new infrastructure on tourism, including the arrival at the airport and the connection of the [bus-rapid transit] to the center of the city.”

    A day later Dubi doubled down on his claims telling reporters that “I would like to conclude on Rio with a very positive note that everybody acknowledged that the life of citizens of Rio has changed and has changed thanks to the game.”

    Rio de Janeiro is a city of 11 million people that encompasses a large territory of land. As diverse is its terrain is its populace that intersects in social classes, races, and ideologies. Cariocas couldn’t agree to ATR about the details of Dubi’s claims, but all agreed that he was largely incorrect. Their opinions are as nebulous as what Olympic legacy tries to be, and highlights the challenges cities face after the Games leave town.

    “Transportation [in Rio] is chaos!” Felipe Costa de Souza, 29, an administrative assistant from São João de Meriti, a city in Rio’s periphery, the Baixada Fluminense, said to ATR upon hearing Dubi’s words.

    “I’m a resident of the Fluminense, and I use mass transportation because I work in downtown Rio since before the Olympiads and I tell you nothing has changed!”

    For the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro built over 80 miles of BRT lanes, as well as a new subway line in a city that rarely sees infrastructure upgrades. Proponents of the investment say the city of Rio has connected its poorest residents to richer areas of the city, while opponents say all of the lines were at capacity upon opening, cut through existing neighborhoods, and in some instances supplanted established routes for more inconvenient ones. Some of the BRT lines associated with the Olympic project are yet to be completed.

    Cidade de Deus at night (Getty Images)
    Diogo Souza dos Santos, 31, is a paralegal who lives in Jacarepagua, the neighborhood closest to the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca. He says he uses the BRT every day, and is thankful, but remains frustrated that the self-serve payment machines have been broken for many months. Despite the annoyance, the biggest issue dos Santos has with Rio’s legacy claims is the improvements of sanitation.

    “There has been no improvement in the sewer system,” dos Santos said to ATR “It is possible to find several leaks in different neighborhoods [in the area].”

    Within Jacarepagua is the Cidade de Deus favela. There, DJ, local activist, and lifetime resident, Sérgio José Machado Leal, 44, says the Olympics will forever be associated with the Rafaela Silva, a Cidade de Deus resident who won judo gold in Rio. Leal says that the Olympics took over the agenda of the Paes administration, which led to the neglect of many favela communities, except for news of violence in them. No better example was when during heavy rainstorms this January, parts of Cidade de Deus flooded, as open sewers in the favela overflowed.

    Now, the new mayor “intends to invest in education, sanitation, health and education in less favored regions,” says Leal, all improvements the Olympics tend to take credit for. Dialogue has begun with local regional administrators, a sea change from previous municipal agendas.

    “It could have changed more in the sense of social projects for our young people, because the landscape has changed in a lot in the places where the games took place,” Leal said to ATR. “[Dubi] did not know Rio de Janeiro in all its fullness, only what he was allowed to know!”

    Rio 2016, but for whom? (ATR)
    As the Crivella administration continues its work to pull Rio out of the quagmire that is the current Brazilian recession, it will do so on its own. When asked if the municipality intends to engage in dialogue with the IOC going forward, a spokesperson said “no; it is not necessary.” The spokesperson said it is the job of the IOC to “follow up” on the processes going on with the Olympic Park.

    Still, the administration has not given up completely on sports. As the IOC was trumpeting the Games’ legacy, and citizens were groaning in response, the mayor of Rio who distanced himself from the Olympics to win office announced the city would be bidding for the 2020 American Masters Games.

    “These Pan-American Games for amateurs and athletes on average over 30 years will be a great opportunity to use public spaces and Olympic equipment for the city,” Crivella said when launching the bid. “In addition to contributing to the image and visibility of the city as a tourist and sports destination, this event is of great educational impact for the health of the people of Rio de Janeiro and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.”

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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