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Brazilians Hit with Hidden Cost of Rio Olympics

  • Jeff Swicord

The official estimated cost for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro ranges somewhere between $4.5 and more than $6 billion dollars, far lower than the Sochi and London games. Some of that money was spent on glossy infrastructure projects that were expected to be a lasting legacy of the games for the city. But the social cost associated with all that development will affect some of the citizens of Rio for the rest of their lives.

Daniel Campos built his house in the Curicica neighborhood north of the Olympic Park - piece by piece when he had the money.

In 2012 the police showed up at his door saying he had to leave. His house was considered in the way of the then-to-be-built Transolympic Highway which would carry athletes from the Olympic park to venues in the Deodoro area.

When he and his neighbors resisted, he says, the city allowed him to stay but opened the sewer covering in front of their houses.

“They said they were going to remove this covering that people had built to protect themselves from rats and cockroaches and the sewage because it was prohibitive to have that covering, and they were going to clean up the river. Until now they haven’t cleaned up the river,” said Campos.

The city installed dangerous walkways across the sewer to the houses in the neighborhood. Daniel has had to take in several cats to keep the sewer vermin out of his house.

The investment in infrastructure that includes highways, rail lines, hotels and the sporting venues is a positive outcome of the games. But that development has come at a social cost. It is estimated 20,000 people in Rio have been evicted from their homes for Olympic development.

Robert Muggah, the Research Director at the Instituto Igarape, an NGO, said the evictions will be a terrible legacy of the games.

“These were people that were literally told overnight to leave their property often with the use of force involved and with militia groups involved coercing people and forcing them to leave. And this obviously is a terrible legacy of the Olympics and will have implications long after the Olympic athletes pack up and go home,” said Muggah.

74-year-old Enida Sousa says the city wanted to put her in a shelter and knock her home down.

“I got really afraid when I heard we have to leave. And I was sad when I saw them taking out the neighbors' houses. And then it started getting dusty, and I wasn’t eating properly. And that is when I got sick,” said Sousa.

She claims she developed pneumonia from the dust. The construction vibrations damaged the structure of her house. City officials now say she can stay, but have refused to fix the damage to her house.