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Reuters/Pilar Olivares
“The Olympics will benefit only a few people.”
NOT MY PARTY

“I can’t afford tickets for the Olympics”: Ordinary Brazilians on the 2016 Rio games in their backyard

By Ana Campoy

Party city Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is preparing to host what will arguably be its biggest party yet, the 2016 Summer Olympics. Many of its residents won’t be attending. They can’t afford it.

That’s just one of the many ironies of the games that promised to vastly improve life (pdf) for cariocas, as Rio residents are called. While tens of thousands of poor cariocas were evicted (link in Portuguese) from their homes to make way for Olympic projects, a handful of companies made big profits.

As Olympic projects made some companies money, Brazil sunk into its worst political and economic crisis, pounding the state of Rio de Janeiro, where the city of the same name sits, particularly hard. The state has had to suspend workers’ salaries, and ratchet back public services.

You can’t blame locals for not feeling festive. Here’s what some of them had to say a few days before the Olympics opening ceremony, on Aug. 5.

Pricey tickets

Reuters/Pilar Olivares
Wilson Alexandre, an artist from the Vidigal favela, did not buy any tickets to the Olympics because they are too expensive. While he says many will enjoy the Olympics the world over, he can’t ignore the evictions of poorer cariocas in preparation for the games.
Reuters/Pilar Olivares
Dennis Claudinho, a 27-year-old construction worker who helped build the Olympic venues can’t afford the tickets either, but he’s feeling more optimistic. He thinks improvements to Rio’s public transit system will benefit cariocas.

Cariocas are in bad shape

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“Those in a position to rent out rooms in their houses can earn extra income, as well as those who work in the tourism industry. But most people are abandoned in precarious health and education services,” says student and acrobat Guilherme Barbosa.

 

Reuters/Pilar Olivares
Given Brazil’s overall situation, it’s no time to be hosting a big party, according to Jose de Jesus Damaceno, a 75-year-old fisherman. “The city is in crisis and there is no opportunity for anyone,” he said. “The government should take more care of the population before spending money on an event like this.”

A moment of joy

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Other cariocas are mostly concerned about putting on a good face. “I am glad about the Olympics and I think the problems of the country, such as corruption and violence, will go unnoticed during the event,” said Maria Callou, a 35-year-old fashion designer. “We are hospitable people and we know how to bring joy and happiness to tourists.”

 

Reuters/Pilar Olivares
Others see the games as respite from the ongoing crisis. “We are going through so many difficult times that the Olympics will bring a moment of joy and fraternization,” said Jorge Salomao, a 70-year-old poet.