International Features: The Road From Rio

In 2013 BBC World Service, World News and the website celebrated a key milestone when their global news reached a weekly audience of 256m people and with technology advancing at unprecedented levels we can expect this reach to extend. But if our platform for reaching and connecting with the media is increasing how is it that some stories still go unheard?

Two out of three stories that appear news worthy are actually instigated by the government and not reporters. In theory, media promises insight and awareness into global issues, giving us a way to reach out and witness events across the world. In reality though those with their own political agendas control the majority of the media often resulting in selective news reports.

International Features is here to uncover and produce stories on events happening in the world that may not yet have been brought to your attention. We act as your bridge into the world of unreported news and the stories that don’t make the front pages but have just as much right to.

The Road from Rio                                                                                                                                                       The Olympics: Legacy or curse?

As the Olympic games come to a close and the last of the tourists return home, we take a look at the citizens of Rio and their ‘Olympic legacy’.

The Olympics for the people of Rio can only be described as a dream that slowly became a nightmare. Despite various human rights campaigners voicing their concerns about the Games and their impact on Brazil’s most vulnerable areas as far back as 2009, the games went ahead and now we have the aftershock.Immediately after the announcement of Rio hosting the Games various projects were introduced to revitalise the central and south zones where the majority of the Games took place. All to provide a wonderful image of Rio broadcasted on our TV’s.

In reality these Games will leave no legacy for the favelas and the people forcibly removed from their homes. When 13 million are underfed and over 15% of children under four live amongst sewage, we ask how can the government spend billions on Olympic infrastructure but not aid their own people

The government repeatedly allowed the infrastructure around tourism to take preference over the lives of the people. Having not learnt their lesson from the 2014 untitled-pnWorld Cup that was supposed to introduce success but instead failed to improve anything, the Games have been a similar case. A photograph shared via the web captured this divide between the images presented to the world and the reality behind these events. The image caused controversy due to its similarity to the cartoon from 2014, highlighting that those most in need are still ignored.

Before 2009 the state had begun to focus on upgrading and improving the favela’s, celebrating them as part of Rio’s culture. However as soon as the bid was secured this focus changed drastically and instead of continued investment to help the poor the government bowed down to the interests of commercialism.

It has been the poor who have suffered at the expense of making the city an aesthetically pleasing space for the elite. With areas being destroyed and people evicted from their homes, this is what Rio’s government saw as a ‘new plan’. At least 77,200 people have been removed from their homes since 2009. The city has a serious housing crisis, yet it has spent the past 3 years tearing down houses to make room for the Olympics. Instead of solving the housing problem they simply moved it elsewhere.

Ironically, the favelas were originally created because of the housing crisis! Workers unable to afford housing created these colourful communities yet despite many gaining legal status residents were forcibly moved. Home’s built by generations past were destroyed within minutes leaving over 800 families with no other option but to move elsewhere. In 2015 a resistance occurred at Vila Autódroma, a favela community at the edge of the Olympic park, resulting in a bloody confrontation between police and residents due to the fact that despite the favela not being on the park, it was in sight of it. Only 20 families of the original 600 remain there on the condition (from the government) that ‘nicer looking’ homes were built.

The remains of a fountain made with Olympic rings dedicated to Greek Olympic medal winners. IMAGE:APAPPHOTO/THANASSISSTAVRAKIS
The remains of a fountain in Athens made with Olympic rings dedicated to Olympic medal winners deserted.

Residents have been abused, families evicted and streets left covered in rubble, all in the name of the ‘Olympic legacy’ left for Rio. But at least this will be a lasting legacy, an infrastructure that will alter lives of generations to come right? Maybe not. In reality landscapes around the globe are littered with the rusting debris of former Olympic venues and traces of forgotten and costly games. And with the money required to build these infrastructures rising and the people getting poorer and poorer, we begin to question just how great the games are for these cities and just how lucky are you to be left with the ‘Olympic legacy’?