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Promise of a Green Olympics Replaced by an Olive Drab Crackdown


August 13, 2016
National Public Radio & Reuters & Our Planet Today

In the opening ceremony of Rio's Olympic Games, Brazil's shantytowns were showcased as a birthplace of Brazilan culture. That was showbiz. Brazil is one of the world's most unequal countries. In Rio, at least 25 percent of the population lives in poverty. The government promised that the $12.2 billion to be spent on the games would include the expansion of essential "green" infrastructure and other social improvements. Instead, the money was spent on police.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetorch/2016/08/11/487769536/in-rios-favelas-hoped-for-benefits-from-olympics-have-yet-to-materialize

In Rio's Favelas, Hoped-For Benefits
From Olympics Have Yet To Materialize

Lulu Garcia-Navarro / The Torch: NPR's Olympic Coverage

(August 11, 2016) -- In the opening ceremony of Rio's Olympic Games, Brazil's favelas, or shantytowns, were showcased as the birthplace of a lot of Brazil's culture. That was showbiz. In three of the most iconic communities, the reality of how these Olympics are affecting favela residents is more complicated.

Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world. In Rio, at least 25 percent of the population lives in impoverished communities. Take Santa Marta. Perched above Rio's expensive South Zone, it's the city's most internationally famous favela.

Michael Jackson filmed the video for "They Don't Care About Us" here and, in response, the community has gotten a lot of attention over the years. It's sponsored by a paint company, so all the ramshackle housing is covered in pastels. It was the first favela to get community police when Rio launched its "pacification" program.



These days, there is a bronze statue of Jackson, arms outstretched, in the middle of a small square surrounded by gift shops.

Santa Marta was expecting big things during the Olympics because it is both safe and famous. "Michael Jackson left a huge legacy for Santa Marta. I would even say he's my patron; I bring tourists up here many times a day," tour guide Salete Martins tells me.

I ask her about the impact of the Olympics.

Not so great, she says. "Tourism has been very weak. Many consulates told their citizens not to visit the favelas. I think people were too afraid and we are seeing very few tourists coming here. It's very disappointing," she says.

Tourism is a boost for the whole community, she explains. All the guides who take visitors up here are from Santa Marta, and funds from their cooperative are given to the residents association. One gift shop owner told me she has taken to heading down to Copacabana to hand out fliers to drum up interest.

Francisco Aragão owns a kiosk that sells drinks and snacks to Santa Marta visitors. As we walk by, he is watching the Olympics on the TV in his store. I ask him if he's enjoying the show.

No, he answers.

"Who is enjoying the games?" he asks. "Not the poor. It's only for the tourists. Brazil doesn't have the money for these games. Our hospitals are a mess. The government has put up a facade to hide the truth." He can't afford to buy Olympic tickets to see anything in person, so this is the closest he is getting to the games, he says.

It's not only in access to the games and revenue from tourism where the Olympics are coming up short for Rio's poorest citizens. Security, too, is dire in many favelas, despite the presence of 85,000 security forces in the city. The extra army and police are focused on securing the Olympic venues, while gun battles rage far from the cameras.

Yesterday, Lucia Cabral woke up to shooting in Alemao, her complex of favelas in Rio's North Zone, far away from the main Olympic venues. She lifts up her cellphone and lets me listen to her recording of the gun battle. She records the almost daily firefights to send out on a messaging app to members of her community. That way, they know it's not safe to take the kids to school or to make a run to the shops.

In Wednesday's shootout, a woman was wounded in a fight between drug traffickers and police. While Olympic organizers promised the safest games ever, Cabral, who works for Viva Rio, a nonprofit, says that clearly doesn't apply to the residents here.

In the past two weeks, five people have been shot in Alemao.

"I think during the Olympics, they just want to keep us trapped inside the favela. We are abandoned," she says.

Cabral saw the opening ceremony on TV. She liked the way it celebrated favela life. "But it doesn't help. A lovely show for a single day, but the rest of the time they are killing two or three kids a day. Our youth often doesn't make it to 15 years old," she says.

But there is one community that has gotten a huge boost from the games. The favela known as Cidade de Deus is a sprawling, gritty area that was the subject of the hit 2002 Brazilian film City of God. The streets are all named after biblical figures: Noah Street runs near Moses Avenue.

Inside a tin roof home with fading pink walls, Rafaela Silva's family is boisterous and exuberant. Silva won Brazil's first gold, for judo. Her story is already the stuff of legend here. She rose from poverty and suffered terrible racism because she is black. Now she is a national hero.

Her father, Luiz Carlos Silva, tells me that when Rafaela was growing up, he used to pretend he lived in another neighborhood, because employers wouldn't give jobs to people from the favelas. That has changed, but there is still stigma.

"This is a wonderful moment. Our whole family is thrilled," he says. But it's also great "for the community," he says. " 'Never forget your roots' is what I always told her. She was born in the City of God; she'll always be from the City of God."

Among those celebrating at the Silva family home is Sergio Leal, who runs a martial arts organization in Cidade de Deus. He says he is thrilled about Silva's win. But when I ask him if he thinks the Olympics brought good things to this neighborhood, only 5 miles away from the Olympic Park, he pauses.

"The Olympics themselves didn't do anything for City of God," he says. "Rafaela Silva, through her hard work and merit, did something. The light is Rafaela and not these games, because she sends a message to the people here that maybe if she could do it, I can, too."



Brazil Agency to Say Rio Olympics Will
Bring No Environmental Gains: Sources

Lisandra Paraguassu and Leonardo Goy / Reuters

BRASILIA (July 26, 2016) -- Brazil's top government finance and spending regulator is expected to report in the coming months that Rio de Janeiro will receive almost none of the environmental benefits promised by organizers of the 2016 Olympic Games, officials working on the report told Reuters.

The report is being prepared by Brazil's Federal Audit Court (TCU), a body responsible for auditing federal government spending that reports to Brazil's Congress.

"As for now, we have nothing relevant to report about what was done in the environmental area," said one of the officials.

The TCU is still looking for evidence of environmental improvements carried out as a result of the games that the city and its residents will be able to count as an environmental legacy, the source said.

Brazilian municipal, state and federal governments promised that the 40 billion reais ($12.2 billion) expected to be spent on the Olympics would include the construction or expansion of essential environmental infrastructure and other social improvements.

Those promises included reducing the flow of trash and raw sewage into the city's Guanabara Bay and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon as well as the construction of sewage infrastructure on lagoons and swamps adjacent to the Olympic Park and Village.

Water quality remains low with sailors, rowers, swimmers and other watersports competitors criticizing venues for high concentrations of bacterial and viral pathogens. Sailors also worry floating trash will slow or damage their boats.

There is little chance the TCU report will result in any punishment for organizers as most of the spending for the games, which run from Aug. 5 through Aug. 21, was channeled through Rio de Janeiro's state and municipal governments.

Last year, the TCU released a preliminary report on the Olympics that concluded the environmental projects promised for the games would not be finished before the games began.

"We're reviewing our work to show that even with the games about to begin there have been no significant advances in this area," the source said.

($1 = 3.2812 Brazilian reais)


Solar City Tower! Olympic Games Rio 2016
The Stunning Project that Was Never Built

Our Planet Today

(September 11, 2011) -- This is a description about Solar City Tower, a large project planned for the Olympic Games in Rio, the capital city of Brazil:

This vertical structure will be placed in Cotonduba Island. It will be both a observation Tower and a welcome sign for the visitors arriving by air and by Sea at Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympic Games 2016 will take place.

In the Solo City Tower is the Cafe amphitheater, auditorium, shops, etc. Elevator lifts will take the visitors to the top, where the view will be fantastic and bungee jumping will have a special platform.

The project is from Zurique, and utilizes solar energy during the day with its solar power panels, to pump the seawater as seen in the model. The movement of the water will be also utilized to turn the turbines and produce the power to work the system at nighttime. It will perhaps even become a symbol for the first zero-carbon-footprint Olympic Games.



UPDATE (The Facts According to Snopes.com): May 12, 2015

Origins: The text accompanying the images displayed above describes them as picturing a vertical structure to be built on Cotonduba Island, which would offer the aesthetic function of providing a striking welcoming signal to guests arriving in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics, as well as the practical functions of serving as an observation tower and storing solar energy (the latter to be used in part to pump water used to create the waterfall effect on the structure's exterior).

However, these pictures are just conceptual images; what they depict hasn't yet been built, may never be built, and hasn't yet been demonstrated to be technically feasible. They come from the web site of RAFAA, a Zurich-based architecture and design studio, which submitted them in 2009 as its proposal for a design competition. RAFAA described the concept behind its "Solar City Tower" design thusly:

The aim of this project is to ask how the classic concept of a landmark can be reconsidered. It is less about an expressive, iconic architectural form; rather, it is a return to content and actual, real challenges for the imminent post-oil-era. This project represents a message of a society facing the future; thus, it is the representation of an inner attitude.

Our project, standing in the tradition of "a building/city as a machine," shall provide energy both to the city of Rio de Janeiro and its citizens while using natural resources. We hope to attain an international Olympic message with a political appeal.

After hosting the United Nation’s Earth Summit in 1992, Rio de Janeiro will once again be the starting point for a global green movement and for a sustainable development of urban structures. It will perhaps even become a symbol for the first zero carbon footprint Olympic Games.

The project consists of a solar power plant that by day produces energy for the city respectively the Olympic village. Excessive energy will be pumped as seawater into a tower. By night, the water can be released again; with the help of turbines, it generates electricity for the night. The electricity produced can be used for the lighting of the tower or for the city.

On special occasions, this "machine building" turns into an impressive wonder of nature: an urban waterfall, a symbol for the forces of nature. At the same time, it will be the representation of a collective awareness of the city towards its great surrounding landscape. Via an urban plaza located 60 meters over sea level you gain access to the building. Through the amphitheater, you reach the entrance situated on the ground floor.

Both entrance area and amphitheatre can serve as a place for social gatherings and events. The public spaces are also accessible from this point on. The cafeteria and the shop are situated beneath the waterfall and offer a breathtaking view.

The public elevator takes the visitor to the observation decks and the urban balcony. The administration offices can be reached directly from the foyer. Its inner circulation is organised by an own entrance and the elevator.

The semi-public spaces are located in the back area of the building; thus, they can be used separately. A retractable platform for bungee jumping is located on level +90.5. Long distance observation can be done from the observation deck on level +98.0.

The urban balcony is situated at the top of the tower 105 meters above sea level. Here the visitor has a 360° view of the landscape and can experience the waterfall while walking over the glass skywalk.


Given that the 2016 Summer Olympics are little more than a year away, and RAFAA still says they have "no news at the moment" to report, it's exceedingly unlikely that visitors to Rio 2016 will be greeted by a Solar City Tower.

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