Rio hides the poor from Olympic visitors

The Olympics are set to open in a bit over a month in Rio, and already there’s trouble. The drug-testing lab, for instance, has been suspended for violating international standards, and I have no idea what will happen if it’s not fixed before the games begin. But the stuff in the video below, presented by Vox, is even worse, and, if true—I’m not vouching for it completely—shows a nefarious pattern of simply hiding the poor of the city from the well-heeled visitors, as well as enriching Rio’s fat cats by taking land from the poor.

To be sure, the video does say that other infrastructure changes will benefit all residents. But watch the video, for this is not the kind of stuff you’re going to see during NBC’s Olympic coverage.


  1. GBJames
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink


  2. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Brazil has problems at so many levels that will make the task of running the Olympics very difficult.

    Travellers flying into Rio, yesterday, were greeted by off-duty police and firefighters holding banners declaring “Welcome to Hell!”

  3. Posted June 29, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    well, to be honest, anything you can say about Rio, you can certainly say about Washington, DC, only more so (DC has the highest gap of income inequality found almost anywhere in the USA -higher than any state’s).

  4. Posted June 29, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I have mixed feelings when watching this video. If it weren’t for the rich campaigning for the Olympics there would be zero benefit for the poor, and who wants to go on a vacation where they are constantly going to be subjected to the sight of people living in horrible conditions. Would if benefit the poor there more if I spend my tourist dollars in Disney world?

  5. Luana Maroja
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m from Rio. I studied at the federal university of Rio de Janeiro, in front of the favela da Mare and by the side of the airport. The pattern of hiding the poor and ugly is true, it happens in every international event (e.g. world cup). As an (older) example my university was built to be the largest in South America – largest hospital etc… The building in indeed huge, but only on the outside. In the inside it is empty space, just a 3rd of it functional, the rest unfinished, only a shell. Homeless people have moved in to the unfinished side making our campus very very dangerous. People that drove would get bullet holes in their cars when driving past Mare. They are also removing all the homeless people from the South Zone while the events last – they will be back when it is all over. I was in campus during the 1st bid for the olympics (late 90’s), they came over and painted our sports quads (volleyball etc) which were all ruined and never used. They did not even bother to sweep the leaves away – we got all these leaves covered in paint. But it looked good over a helicopter flight… Sad…

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    It is sad and true commentary on the human condition and it follows events like the Olympics everywhere it goes. Does not matter the country so we should not just look at this one.

    I am of the belief the Olympics has corrupted itself into a giant money game and the world needs to find a better way. Like government itself, if you want to corrupt it totally, just add enough money. We should know all about that here in the U.S.A.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 29, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      The Olympics panders. In many ways nothing, for example, Trump does, is dissimilar. If people want it, the Olympics (i.e., Trump) will deliver. Drama and saga of emotions.

      Center stage: the specticle…The play’s the thing.

      Left behind: Athletes or, in Trump’s case, political substance.

  7. Filippo
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Just as he went to Britain to lecture the Brits, may one expect Obama to venture to Brazil to lecture the business elite on their treatment of the poor?

  8. mfdempsey1946
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I have been living in Rio de Janeiro for about seven months — much too short a time for me to be anything close to an expert on “a cidade maravilhosa” (the wonderful city), as “cariocas” (native or long-term inhabitants of Rio) have traditionally called it.

    For months, ugly remarks about how Brazil in general — and Rio in particular — are nothing but putrid hellholes of crime, corruption, pollution, and street violence have been clogging the comment sections of every article dealing with the Olympics.

    Brazil is undeniably beset by massive problems.

    The recent impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff was not only the eviction of an unpopular chief executive. It was also a blatant effort, documented by the noted journalist Glenn Greenwald (also a resident of Brazil) as well as Brazilian commentators, to get rid of the country’s thirdy-odd-year-old democracy.

    Both major poltical parties are riddled with incredibly undisguised corruption. Major figures in the national and other governments continue to hold their posts despite mountains of evidence of their guilt.

    Plutocratic thievery of the kind revealed in this video is rampant. The wall alongside the road from Galeao Airport into the city proper is a recent example of this.

    The current interim government is trying to roll back the Bolsa Familia program established by the party of former president Lula da Silva, a program that lifted millions of people via grants out of the poverty into which most of them are not plunging back.

    The hospitals, the police, the infrastructure — all are in underfunded disarray. It’s like a woman’s banner during a street demonstration against the billions expended on the World Cup put it: “My child is sick. What stadium should I take him to?”

    And as for hiding the poor from the rest of the city and the Olympic visitors, this is impossible. The favelas (slums) are visible on the heights behind every area, including my own. So are the legions of homeless on the streets of even Copacabana, Ipanema, and other upscale neighborhoods.


    …Rio de Janeiro has been, at least for me during my limited Brazilian sojourn (one that I hope will continue for the rest of my life), truly a cidade maravilhosa.

    The people I have met, worked with, and spoken to have been almost unfailingly kind and welcoming, in a way that I have never experienced elsewhere. Despite speaking only some basic Portuguese, I have felt less like a foreigner here (the only non-US place I have ever tried to live) than anywhere else.

    If (as so many members of the sage commentariat on the internet seem to hope) the city does end up collapsing under the weight of its crushing problems and the greed that so much of its oligarchy exhibits (a problem not exactly rare in other locales, it should be remembered), this will be a truly disheartening tragedy — the kind that could make one wonder if it might not be better never to have been born.

    The entire Rio situation is dreadfully complex but by no means totally dreadful. As an American here told me, Brazilians’ laid-back attitude got them into this situation and will eventually get them out of it. I fervently hope so.

    • mfdempsey1946
      Posted June 29, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Typo that reverses the meaning — should be “now plunging back.”

    • W.Benson
      Posted June 29, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I have lived in Brazil for, hummm, 40+ years, and it has been pretty much the whole time beleaguered by corruption and on the verge of collapse, but always wonderful.

  9. Posted June 29, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    They had no certified lab for the World Cup and all the urine or blood samples were shipped out to Switzerland for testing. They would do something similar for the olympics if the lab is not certified in time for the games.

  10. Somer
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    I suspect in poor countries the olympics tends to benefit developers and the relatively well serviced rather than the poor. Moreover poorer countries tend to be more prone to corruption as a means of preserving existing wealthy groups and petty corruption for the poorer who can’t access security. So often hear about slums and poor areas being cleared ahead of Olympics
    An extreme case prior to South Koreas development when still under military govt – removing vagrants ahead of the Seoul Olympics

  11. Dominic
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    I refused to watch any of the London Olympics stuff as I think it is long since overblown & overgrown & hugely wasteful. They should never have allowed it to become professional.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 30, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      The London Olympics provided entertainment of a sort when the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, The Lord High Honorable Mitt Romney, deigned to grace London with his presence and give the Brits the white glove treatment about their management of the event, and had to bear up under their blistering response.

      I speculate that not a few Brits were reminded of this when Obama recently visited and lectured them.

  12. Lauren
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    This video reminded me of a very good movie about Rio de Janero (it’s not a religious movie!) that stereotyped the problems of the poor in Rio:

    The City of God

    Thank you for the first-hand accounts in the comments. Like so many places in the world, if you are a person of means, beauty is easy to find.

  13. MKray
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    This reminds me: a Polish colleague told me that in the run up to the 1980 Moscow olympics,
    it was impossible to by paint in Poland.

  14. Mike
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Perhaps when they have finished eviscerating FIFA ,they could turn their attention to the IOC, because the decision to grant the games to Rio ,has more than a whiff of filthy lucre about it.

  15. Posted June 30, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    When I was growing up, there was a sense that the Olympics were noble and a good thing, even if occasionally screwed around by political squabbles (1980, 1984). But later I came to the impression that things had gotten far worse – or I was more aware and actually paying attention. At some point it just seemed that matters had gone from political to economic gamesmanship. I suppose that was always true, though – I’m from Montreal, after all, and we know what *that’s* like. Also, when I was in elementary school, the 1988 Seoul and Calgary games happened; due to the latter we also did things related to the former. This would have been a great “teachable moment” – and yet I don’t remember any concrete details about Korea or its recent move away from the military government, much less that the military government was supported by our good friends, the US.

    Now, although I think it is great that people from all over can play sports with each other, the rest of the aspects of the Olympics which were good things (even if really never present) are gone.

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