RIO DE JANEIRO — Ney­mar kissed the ball, de­liv­ered a gold medal and then wept with other Brazil­ians. Look no fur­ther if you’re search­ing for an iconic im­age of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “It’s the only medal that re­ally mat­tered,” Sal­vador Gaeta said re­cently while cy­cling in the de­serted Olympic Park. “Every Brazil­ian will re­mem­ber it.” Other mem­o­ries have faded at home since the Olympics opened a year ago. A few ex­pec­ta­tions were met, but many fell short of those promised by IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach and or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee head Car­los Nuz­man. Bach boasted at the clos­ing cer­e­mony of “a Rio de Janeiro be­fore, and a much bet­ter Rio de Janeiro af­ter the Olympic Games.” Nuz­man called Rio the next Barcelona, one of the cities clearly trans­formed by the Games. Save for mi­nor cos­metic changes, a city frac­tured by moun­tains and sear­ing in­equal­ity re­mains as it was. Vi­o­lent crime mostly con­cealed dur­ing the Olympics is soar­ing, tied to Brazil’s deep­est eco­nomic down­turn in 100 years and un­paid po­lice of­fi­cers leav­ing in droves. Brazil’s mil­i­tary has been called in to quell Rio’s un­teth­ered vi­o­lence. Rio barely man­aged to keep it to­gether for the Olympics, needed a gov­ern­ment bailout to hold the Par­a­lympics and then col­lapsed un­der a grind­ing re­ces­sion and sprawl­ing cor­rup­tion scan­dals. The games took place mostly in the south and west of the city, which re­mains white and wealthy. The rest is still a hodge­podge of di­lap­i­dated fac­to­ries and hill­side slums of cin­der blocks, tin roofs and open troughs of raw sewage. A look at the fall­out since the Olympics opened on Aug. 5:


The Olympics left be­hind a new sub­way line ex­ten­sion, high-speed bus ser­vice and an ur­ban jewel: a ren­o­vated port area filled with food stands, mu­si­cians and safe street life in a city rife with crime. These prob­a­bly would not have been built with­out the pres­tige of the Olympics. But the Games also im­posed dead­lines and drove up the price. A state au­di­tor’s re­port said the 9.7 bil­lion real ($3 bil­lion) sub­way was over­billed by 25 per cent. Igor Sil­ve­rio lives nearby the port in a favela — or shan­ty­town — and came the other day to kick around a soc­cer ball with his two young boys. The area in his youth was known for de­cay and drunk­en­ness. “For sure it’s bet­ter,” he said. But, he added, he “ex­pected more from the Olympics.” “From my point of view, the Olympics only ben­e­fited the for­eign­ers. Lo­cal peo­ple them­selves didn’t get much. The se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion isn’t good, the hos­pi­tals. I think these are in­vest­ments that didn’t ben­e­fit many lo­cal peo­ple.” He said he skipped the Olympics be­cause they were “too ex­pen­sive” and lo­cated far away in the sub­urbs.


The Olympics left a half-dozen va­cant sports are­nas in the Olympic Park and 3,600 empty apart­ments in the boarded-up Olympic Vil­lage. Deodoro, a ma­jor com­plex of venues in the im­pov­er­ished north, is shut­tered be­hind iron gates. Stand­ing across the street, Jose Mauri­cio Pehna de Souza was asked if Rio ben­e­fited from the Olympics. “I don’t think so, not us in Brazil,” he said. A $20-mil­lion golf course is strug­gling to find play­ers and fi­nanc­ing. A few dozen were on the course on a re­cent, sunny Satur­day. The club­house is mostly un­fur­nished, and it costs non-Brazil­ians 560 re­als ($180) for 18 holes and a cart. Or­ga­niz­ers and the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee say Rio needs time to de­velop these venues, and faults Brazil’s deep re­ces­sion for most of the prob­lems. A pros­e­cu­tor sev­eral months ago dis­puted this, say­ing the Olympic Park “lacked plan­ning how to use white ele­phant” sports venues. Many were built as part of real es­tate deals that have yet to pan out. The park of­fers few ameni­ties: no res­tau­rants, no shade and noth­ing much to do ex­cept gawk at de­serted are­nas. City hall of­fi­cials and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment say they’re plan­ning an event for Aug. 5 to “fill all the are­nas” for the day.


Rio or­ga­niz­ers promised to clean up pol­luted Gua­n­abara Bay in their win­ning bid in 2009. Dur­ing the Olympics, of­fi­cials used stop-gap mea­sures to keep float­ing so­fas, logs and dead an­i­mals from crash­ing into boats dur­ing the sail­ing events. Since the Olympics, the bank­rupt state of Rio de Janeiro has ceased ma­jor ef­forts to clean the bay, its un­wel­come stench of­ten drift­ing along the high­way from the in­ter­na­tional air­port. “I think it’s got­ten worse,” Brazil’s gold-medal sailor Ka­hena Kunze said in a re­cent in­ter­view. “There was al­ways float­ing trash, but I see more and more. It’s no use hid­ing the trash be­cause it comes back. I fig­ured it would get worse be­cause I haven’t seen any­thing con­crete be­ing done.” Avenida Brasil, the main north-south artery through the city, is a snarl of un­fin­ished roads and ex­press bus lanes, viaducts to nowhere and de­tours through kilo­me­tres of traf­fic cones. Some of the politi­cians be­hind the Olympics have been ac­cused of graft, and or­ga­niz­ers still owe cred­i­tors about $30 mil­lion to 40 mil­lion. For­mer Pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva, who wept when Rio was awarded the Games, was con­victed last month on cor­rup­tion charges and faces a 9½-year prison term. He is ap­peal­ing. For­mer Rio de Janeiro Mayor Ed­uardo Paes, the lo­cal mov­ing force be­hind the Olympics, is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for al­legedly ac­cept­ing at least 15 mil­lion re­als ($5 mil­lion) in pay­ments to fa­cil­i­tate con­struc­tion projects tied to the Games. He denies wrong­do­ing.


The Olympic Park stands along a pol­luted wa­ter­way, tinted green by al­gae, in the Barra da Ti­juca neigh­bour­hood.


A VLT train passes in the re­vi­tal­ized port dis­trict that has been her­alded by or­ga­niz­ers as one of Rio’s Olympic legacy suc­cesses.

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