On June 17, with only arounf seven weeks to go before the start of the Olympic Games, the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has declared a “state of public calamity.”
A financial crisis is preventing the state from honoring its commitments to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the state governor told a press conference. The crisis is so severe, he said, it could eventually bring about “a total collapse in public security, health, education, mobility and environmental management.”
The authorities are now authorized to ration essential public services and the state is eligible for emergency funds from the federal government.
Recent visitors to Rio, asked how preparations for the Games are going tend to respond “not well”. The city reportedly looks like a huge construction site. Bricks and pipes are piled everywhere; a few workers lazily push wheelbarrows as if the Games were scheduled for 2017. Nobody knows what the construction sites will become, not even the people working on them:
“It’s for the Olympics” was the unanimous reply, followed by speculation about “tents for the judging panels of volleyball or soccer, I guess.”
Work on the beach volleyball arena at Copacabana Beach is at a standstill because the organizers failed to get the correct building licenses. Then the structure was damaged by waves. Only after that happened did workers erect a six-foot-high sand barrier to protect the site. The sand does not offer much protection against waves (we all learned as kids what happens to sand castles when the tide comes in) but it protects thugs; tourists are being mugged behind the embankment. A construction worker told me he’d seen a man stabbed there, and warned me to stay away. The robbers were so confident of plying their trade unmolested that they had left their backpacks and a beach chair nearby on the sand.
The unfinished beach volleyball court at Copacabana beach -doable in six weeks except the site looks abandoned according to European and American journalists.
At the Deodoro Olympic Park, which is apparently open to anyone who wants to wander in and have a nosey round, half-built grandstands were, according to people who did just that, stood abandoned in the middle of a Friday afternoon.
The few projects that have been completed don’t inspire much confidence either. In April, a newly built bike path along Rio’s seashore collapsed, killing two people.
Frequent shootouts near the Olympic arenas and on routes to them are also a concern: 76 people have been hit by stray bullets in Rio so far this year; 21 of them have died. On June 19, more than 20 men carrying assault rifles and hand grenades stormed the city’s largest public hospital to free an alleged drug kingpin in police custody, leaving one person dead and two hurt.
There’s a dearth of signs and tourist information on the streets and on public transportation to help visitors avoid the notorious Favelas, the slums where crime is rife and street gangs or drug barons are the only law. Few of the bus or tram stops displayed information about which lines go w here. Visitors could resort to asking street traders and passers-by for directions, but these people are from the Favelas. You’d better be alble to speak Portuguese and be handy with as knife or you’ll be fucked. Literally.
At this late stage it is difficult to see how the games can be a success, but you can bet the elites and corporate owned mainstream media channels will close ranks and paint a glossy picture. Those of us who watch on TV or read print media will see nothing of the rotting corpses in the side streets, alleyways and open sewers or the rats an stray dogs that feed on them. The power elites are already crapping themselves because so many of us are aware of their abject failure to manage anything except propaganda. A high profile failure such as this could finish them.
As Aristotle said: “The greatest inequalities come from efforts to make unequal things equal.
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