Rio has now shut its curtains to the world. The Olympic Games are officially over.
As the teams fly back to their respective countries, a resounding sigh of relief spreads over the Brazilian capital. While the games really did surpass initial expectations, they’ve come at a cost to the local community and its students in particular who are left hopeless, as they watch the world recede back home.
Gaurika Singh is the youngest member to participate in the Rio Olympics. At the age of 13 she competed in the Aquatics centre for the 100m women’s backstroke for Nepal. Naomy, a twelve year old girl living in Rio, was forcefully evicted from her house last month so that very pool could be built.
Trawling through the pages of Google results, and it’s the same story. 20,000 families have had to relocate, some to more than 30 miles from their original community.
It’s not just houses, either, that were destroyed to make way for the Olympics. When the bid was successfully announced in 2009, the government ordered 119 Favela communities to be razed specifically.
These very communities included schools and health services. As a result, Favelas were left ruled by violent drug gangs, with an increase on the already very high crime rate, and streets swamped in water that cultivated drug-resistant bacteria.
"People were being robbed and killed..."
Amongst the chaos of preparation, Brazil’s deepest recession ensued, with Rio’s governor declaring a “state of public calamity”. Just a month before the Olympics began, it appeared that there was no money left for healthcare, security, or education.
Students took to protesting in the streets over the amount of money that had been spent on the Olympics, and not on education. The system had seen teachers walk out of classes due to lack of funding and payment.
As a further result of the financial crisis, students at Rio de Janerio’s State and Federal Universities, some 85,000, have been left facing an uncertain future. The universities have had to shut down for four months over the Olympic period. The possibility of not even reopening is close to a reality.
Fernanda Diva, a 20 year old nano-technology student told abc news “"People were getting anxious, depression, doing suicide, because they couldn't support anymore the way the university make us to leave. I suffer from this.”
It’s not just the education system that’s taking the fall for the cost of the Olympics. University students are reporting the horrifying reality of increased daily street crime and gun violence.
“People were being robbed and killed and who wants to go to the university if they don't know if they're going to come back home?" Ms Diva continued.
While the Olympics brought devastation in its wake, there are some immediate benefits. Unfortunately, it’s the wealthy that will be likely to see them.
The Athletes’ village, which housed the competitors for the two weeks, will be transformed into luxury condos with tropical gardens, swimming pools and exceptional views.
It’s hard to believe the fact that 80,000 people were forced to move from their Favela houses for this to be built, let alone that they will never see the place again.
Additionally, the already wealthy community, Barra da Tijuca has seen almost the entire Olympic budget for themselves, according to media reports. Why on earth has education been ignored?
As the most expensive Games in history at a total of $12 billion, David Bogdanski, a biology student at the University of Sao Paulo, told the Huffington Post that “The Olympics should have taken place somewhere else, and the money should have been invested in education ... USP, for instance, where I study, has lots of problems: There is a lack of money, people are dissatisfied, and there is no solution in the near future.”
Rio is revitalized
One student also shows her optimism, "It's really good the Olympics being here at this point because you are giving us something to hope you know?”
Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes said in an interview ”No one ever said the Olympics were going to solve all of the city’s problems. But we used the Games as a good excuse to get a lot of things done, things that have been the dream of mayors for 50 years.”
So as Rio’s students wait with bated breath for the unknown to cease, there’s still hope yet. The Olympic Games will always cause friction, no matter where they are held. But what the long run cost of holding them in a developing country will be, nobody truly knows. Can Rio ever save itself?
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