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  • 18 Jul
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Etoo gave Jose Mourinhos team a decisive lead from Oscars back pass in the 34th. RIO DE JANEIRO -- As the sun set on Copacabana Beach, joggers, dog walkers and stroller pushers slowed down their pace or stopped to gawk at a massive, metal-grid installation that sprouted like a modern art installation out of the golden sand.About a dozen yellow-hatted construction workers hung from the massive framework, going at it with hammers and wrenches that looked diminutive from the sidewalk. Once finished and wrapped in a colorful shroud, the structure would become the arena for Olympic beach volleyball competitions. But a handful of days before the opening ceremony, the airy, geometric skeleton confounded onlookers.So, what is it? asked one elderly walker in a fuchsia spandex top. Her friend, in a tiger-print shirt and black leggings, shrugged, unsure.As they talked, a bolt the size of a plum sprang loose, arced over the sand and plunked onto the ground nearby. The women scowled and yelled their complaints. Two stories above, one of the workers shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands, palms up, signaling something between Im sorry and Get over it, lady.The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which open Friday, are the first held in South America. The bid that won the International Olympic Committees approval in 2009 was called Green Games for a Blue Planet. It promised a sustainable event that would highlight Rios natural assets, and address long-standing environmental deficits.To locals, known as cariocas, the Games were promoted by elected officials, from the president to the mayor, as an engine for change that would overhaul their citys aging infrastructure and turn the city into a window through which the world would see an up-and-coming Brazil where a booming economy and political stability were being harnessed to tackle inequality and poverty, and that would launch the nation to a new international echelon.Now, however, conditions in Brazil have changed radically, and locals are largely skeptical of the events legacy. Many are downright pessimistic: Nearly two out of three Brazilians believe the Games will bring more harm than good, according to a July 14 Datafolha poll, and half disapprove of hosting the Olympics.The enthusiasm that is usually evident around mass celebrations like Carnival and New Years Eve has been noticeably absent, even as thousands of athletes and half a million visitors descend on Rio. Much like the two ladies watching the construction of the volleyball arena, most?cariocas?seem to regard the Olympics as a curiosity at best, and an expensive extravaganza that can whack them on the head and do real damage at worst.A couple of beach shacks away from the emerging volleyball arena, Emerson Santos da Cruz, 65, sits at a red plastic table and chair in his bathing suit, sipping a beer and explaining why he cant get excited about the Games. The Olympics, like the World Cup two years ago, will be a glitzy international party, he said.For a couple of weeks, well be the hosts, and therell be champagne for everyone, he said. Then they go home, and we get stuck with the bill. What are we doing? We cant even pay for our own beer!His hopes for the Olympics are simple: He wants a nice event that will leave Brazil looking good, unlike the World Cup, which left Brazil with a massive bill for stadiums that were wildly over budget and a humiliating 7-1 loss for the host squad against Germany in the semifinals.Now that its done, I just hope nothing collapses, he said. We can at least come out of it looking like a serious country.Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, drove home again Monday the message that the Games had improved Rio: History will talk about a Rio de Janeiro before the Olympic Games and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games.But he also admitted the road to the Rio Games had been long and testing and the preparations challenging.To some degree, this tension is not unusual. The opening of the worlds most extravagant -- and increasingly controversial -- sporting event often finds host cities riddled with last-minute jitters as they put finishing touches on venues and plans. The arrival of the international media with their barrage of questions about readiness only heightens the drama: Beijing had too much air pollution; London lacked security personnel; and Sochi had too few hotel rooms, plus that strange yellow water pouring from taps.With Rio 2016, however, the anxiety has reached new levels, extending from venue and infrastructure completion to serious political, economic and social turmoil. Brazil has been battered on almost every front. It is mired in a deep recession and is facing a shrinking economy for the second year in a row. The president, Dilma Rousseff, is facing impeachment; her trial before the Senate will happen by the end of August. In a parallel investigation, prosecutors and federal police have levied corruption charges against leading political figures and the men at the helm of Brazils largest construction companies, including those directly involved in Rios Olympic projects.In addition to the federal inquiry, Rio City Council member Jefferson Moura has called for an investigation into the citys contracts for venues or projects billed as Olympic legacies. Most of them had extra funding added after the contracts were signed. The city of Rio also has borrowed $1.3 billion from BNDES, Brazils development bank, to meet its obligations -- money that will have to be paid back after the Games.Despite the expense, problems and delays combined to give the event an air of improvisation and uncertainty: plugged-up toilets and gas leaks in the athletes quarters; rogue waves that devoured the sand around the media center perched on Copacabana Beach, threatening its stability; the inauguration of a new Metro extension just days before the opening ceremony, not to mention the rock-throwing protesters who muddled up the torch relay.Bad news, some of it downright gruesome, also dogged Rio and dampened excitement for the Games. The spread of the Zika virus grabbed headlines and scared some visitors and athletes away, including top internationally ranked golfers and tennis players. Body parts washed up in Copacabana Beach, not far from the beach volleyball venue; farther along the coast, a wave crashed into a newly built bike path and sent two people tumbling to their deaths. Sailors training on Guanabara Bay watched their boats turn brown in an oil slick.Complete coverage: 2016 Rio Olympics (opening ceremony on Friday, 6 p.m. ET)We have to know how much money was spent, and whether the spending was justified, Moura said. The Olympics were a great opportunity for the city, but it did not produce the results we had hoped for the city.Brazils reversal of fortuneWhen Rio won the right to host the Olympics in 2009, the party in Copacabana lasted all night. Brazil was an international darling, an up-and-coming economy whose time had come.Finally the world has recognized that this is Brazils time and turn, said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, crying as he heard the IOCs decision. Brazil deserves the Olympics.If the 2016 Olympics would be a chance to show off the country as a new global power, Rios appeal as the site of the Games was obvious. Its scenery is dramatic, with features that demand attention: there are jutting granite peaks, tropical vegetation that drapes languidly over the mountains, and great bodies of water that invite the eye to wander and rest.This gorgeous setting, declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 2012, looks great on television. The fort at the southern end of Copacabana will be the starting point for road cycling, open-water swimming and triathlon. A short walk from Ipanema Beach is the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, which will be the stage for rowing and canoe sprints. Sailing in Guanabara Bay will have as a backdrop the striking views of Sugarloaf Mountains granite facade, dropping precipitously into the ocean.Cariocas are great hosts, used to staging internationally renowned Carnival bashes in which a single band can drag a million revelers through the streets, dancing, drinking and generally having a ball. Foreigners have been succumbing to this seductive combination of natural beauty, sunshine and good times for much of the citys history.The city, in turn, would capitalize on the momentum generated by the Games and transform itself for the benefit of its citizens. Indeed, the bid book was chock-full of promises tailored to address the sprawling metropolis greatest needs: to create more and better low-income housing; to improve transportation in a city strangled by traffic; to plant millions of trees.The people of Rio will see long-term needs addressed, with improved infrastructure and opportunities, the Olympic proposal promised.Rios young, telegenic mayor, Eduardo Paes, enthusiastically embraced the vision, repeating it like a mantra in TED talks, interviews, conferences with other mayors: the crucible of the Olympics would forge a more equal, more just, more integrated city.It was a tall order. In the Brazil of 2009, however, anything seemed possible. President Lula was a charmer with a working-class background who wrapped up his second term that year with an 87 percent approval rating, after helping sweep his chosen successor, Rousseff, into office. The economy was booming; inequality was dwindling; national self-esteem was soaring; and a vast oil discovery off of Rio de Janeiros coast seemed a guarantee that money and optimism would flow for years to come. Rios bid capitalized on this confidence, declaring that the Games would reinforce Brazils status as a major and growing economy.Seven years later, the reversal in Brazils fortune is astonishing.The governor, Luiz Fernando Pezao, who had declared Rio was in a health system emergency in December, went on sick leave soon afterward. His 81-year-old vice governor, Francisco Dornelles, assumed office and immediately declared a state of public calamity.Rio was approaching a total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management, he said in an official statement that requested federal funds to meet basic obligations.To a population feeling the pinch of recession, the chaos seems increasingly tied to the strained budgets and misplaced priorities of government officials who placed sporting events above daily needs. Rio had hosted the 2007 Pan American Games; Brazil had welcomed the 2014 World Cup, and it was getting ready to host the Olympics. The sports-related cost of the Games has ballooned by 50 percent to $4.6 billion; the total cost, including infrastructure and services, could reach $20 billion, according to David Goldblatt, author of The Games: A Global History of the Olympics. Meanwhile, university professors and retirees went without pay and hospitals were shuttered for lack of funds.Even public safety, which had been one of the IOCs biggest concerns when awarding the Olympics to Rio, has suffered in the crisis. In 2009, security was the most-used buzzword in an Olympic bid that suggested that the city was making significant strides toward reducing its high level of violent crime and that it would have the situation in hand by 2016.Instead, after years in which rates for homicides and petty crime dropped, those numbers have shot up significantly. In the first six months of 2016, street theft went up by 34 percent, car thefts by 25 percent and violent deaths by 17 percent, when compared to the same period last year, according to state police statistics.Whats worse, theres little hope of implementing new programs that could help.These numbers probably will not affect Olympic athletes and visitors significantly. With the help of the $850million federal bailout, Rio state paid law enforcement workers their late wages and unleashed its biggest security operation in history, stationing 85,000 police officers and military personnel around the citys tourist sites and upscale beaches. In the days before the Olympics, military personnel in camouflage and with heavy weaponry mingled with the usual street performers, coconut vendors and tour-package hawkers along Ipanema and Copacabana.To some, this was a welcome sight.If it were up to me, it would always be like this, said Norma do Amaral Gon?alves, a lifelong resident of Copacabana strolling with her Maltese, Biba. If they know safety is a problem here, they should give us a solution.This is what keeps me up at nightThe most ambitious goals of Rios Olympic proposal concerned its devastated waterways. The Games, proponents argued, would provide leverage to remedy the serious destructtion that unplanned development had wrought in this city of more than 6 million people.dddddddddddd.The biggest challenge was cleaning up Guanabara Bay, a body of water surrounded over decades by urban growth. Over time, it had become a toilet into which most of the citys sewage drained, untreated.If Olympic action matched rhetoric, Guanabara Bay would provide a gorgeous setting for sailing, rowing and canoeing competitions. It would also be a boon to health and quality of life of?cariocas?who live in the 15 municipalities around the bay. But as Rio de Janeiro spiraled deeper into crisis, Guanabara Bay was the largest, and smelliest, reminder of all that had gone wrong.The bid promised 80 percent of sewage flowing into it would be collected and treated by 2016. That this isnt so is patently obvious to biologist Mario Moscatelli, who has been working to restore Rios bodies of water for more than 20 years. And the problem, he said, is far greater than a lack of funds.Since the first program to clean up Guanabara Bay was launched in the mid-1990s, generous funding from the Inter-American Development Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the state of Rio has financed boondoggles such as sewage treatment plants that were never connected to a collecting system, and led to little improvement. The failed Olympic promises are just the top layer in the pile of refuse surrounding the bay, Moscatelli said, kicking at the trash and pointing to the opposite margin, where the largest and most functional of these plants, Alegria, chugged along at half of its capacity.A whole lot of public money was spent here, he said. But to what end? There is no maintenance, no follow-through, no long-term planning.Rio states environmental secretary, Andre Correa, agrees. One of his first public statements after taking office in early 2015 was to declare that the Olympic pledge to treat most of the sewage flowing into the bay would not be fulfilled, and more: He had no idea where the figures used in the document came from.That objective was poorly defined, poorly worded, he said. Nowadays, no one assumes responsibility for setting that as a goal.At this point, setting a target is not even possible, he said; no one knows exactly how much of the states sewage is treated. There are a lot of different numbers out there, but I cant vouch for any of them, he said.The state-run water company, CEDAE, stated it has spent more than $550 million over three decades implementing and improving the sewerage systems that drain into Guanabara. Officially, 51 percent of the sewage generated within its area of coverage is treated, but this statement, and the companys performance, is under scrutiny. In April, federal police officers took samples from treatment stations in operation as they investigated the company for fraud and pollution. CEDAE said it was cooperating with the inquiry.Meanwhile, independent testing by The Associated Press last year found the water in Guanabara Bay was rife with disease-causing pathogens linked to human sewage, presenting a serious health risk for athletes who could be sprayed with or even fall into the water during competitions. Two unpublished scientific studies reported by Reuters found drug-resistant super bacteria in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Flamengo and Botafogo beaches.Instead of providing momentum to tackle one of Rios greatest environmental deficits, the Olympics added to the tale of mismanagement, waste and corruption spun around the bay over decades, and deepened the populations mistrust in public authorities, Correa said.What we have here is a case study in what should not be done, he said.Instead of a permanent solution, Rio got Olympic-size Band-Aids: Seventeen sets of ropes with plastic buoys, called eco-barriers, were strung along the mouths of rivers that carry most garbage. Each holds back about 158 tons of debris a month, according to Rio states environmental department. There are also 12 boats that skim the surface of the water, removing 40 tons of trash a month. These eco-barriers are expected to hold back 95 percent of Rios trash, but they can rupture, as three did in June 2014, unleashing 560 tons of floating trash into the bay.This is what keeps me up at night, he said. Weve got to hope for good weather.This system will keep the surface of the water clean enough for the competitions, but it did not convince longtime fisherman José Macedo, sitting on the bay shore after an unfruitful morning on the water.They put these things up now because everyones looking, he said of the eco-barriers. But you come back next year and take a look to see if any of it is left.Nightmares about floating trash aside, Correa says he believes hosting the Games has been good for Rio, bringing the pollution of the bay to the publics attention.The Olympics put the environment on the agenda, he said. I hope this becomes a permanent demand, independent of who is sitting in this seat.The social divideIf Rios winning Olympic bid rested on assurances regarding security and the environment, for the population, many of the gains would come from programs billed as social legacies. These projects were not directly connected to the Olympics but would be catalyzed by the push for urban renewal represented by the Games.One program in particular, dubbed?Morar Carioca, or Carioca Housing, in a loose translation, made a bold promise: to bring basic infrastructure to all of Rios favelas. Paes, during his 2012 re-election campaign, called the program the biggest social legacy of the Olympics. If carried out, this would radically improve the quality of life of the 1 in 5?cariocas?who live in these low-income, self-made communities.This program, like those focusing on the environment, also was not implemented; funding was simply never set aside for it, and city government offered no official explanation. Instead, pre-Olympic Rio was the site of the largest wave of favela removals in decades. Between 2009 and 2013, 20,299 families -- approximately 67,000 people -- had their homes destroyed and were sent to federal housing complexes, or given nominal amounts to rent another place, according to the municipal housing department.What Rio did see during these years was significant investment in the wealthy, west-side suburbs of Barra da Tijuca and Jacarepaguá, home to the largest Olympic cluster of venues.The landscape out west is unlike any in Rio: Its gated communities, malls and multilane highways draw comparisons to Miami and cater to residents who fled the citys congested arteries and perceived insecurity for a privileged life befitting their higher income. If Barra were its own country, its quality of life, as measured by the Human Development Index, would be on par with Norways.It is also the fastest-growing part of the city, a trend that was exacerbated when it was chosen to house the golf course, Olympic Park, the media center and the athletes village. The transformation was dramatic.To finance much of the construction, Rios mayor relied on public-private partnerships with Brazils largest, and most powerful, construction companies. He boasted often that investors would bear more than half of the $22 billion cost of building facilities, sparing the public purse. Developers would provide the land and the construction and, in exchange, would sell the real estate afterward at a profit. To sweeten the deal, the mayor often altered building codes in their benefit.To build the Olympic golf course, for example, the city reversed protection for environmentally sensitive land on the shores of Marapendi Lagoon and gave the company, Fiori Enterprises, the right to build 23 high-rises up to 22 stories tall. The athletes village, built by the firm Carvalho Hosken in partnership with Odebrecht, won the right to raise buildings that were 18 stories tall, up from the regulation 12 stories.This disproportionate investment set the city on a disastrous long-term course, said Sérgio Magalh?es, president of the Institute of Architects of Brazil. The Games were billed as an opportunity to improve quality of life in Rio as a whole. Instead, the event became expensive, and the cash-strapped government was less able to respond to the broader populations most basic needs, Magalh?es said.The result: Rio de Janeiro has become more unequal, he said.Nowhere is this imbalance more evident than along the Jacarepaguá Lagoon, one of four interconnected bodies of water that dot western Rios marshy ground.This is where Ilha Pura, or Pure Island, was built. The gated luxury estate boasts swimming pools, artificial lakes and manicured gardens; it will house athletes during the Olympics, but after the Games -- once the plumbing and electrical snafus have been sorted out -- the units will be sold to middle- and upper-class Brazilians, a spokeswoman for Odebrecht said.Walk along the lagoon for a few minutes toward the Olympic Park and youll find another community: the favela of Vila Autódromo. Originally a fishing village established in the 1960s, it grew as the west side grew, housing the construction workers, janitors, doormen and cleaners who worked in the wealthy high-rises around it. As Olympic projects rose nearby, raising the value of real estate in the region, the city increased pressure on residents to leave.Talking over the din of heavy machinery at work on the Olympic Park, Maria da Penha Macena, a retired house cleaner, gestures toward piles of debris: crumbling brick walls, exposed pipes and wiring, the stumps of blasted trees. Shes giving a tour of whats left of her neighborhood. As she walks, Penha warns of the exposed rebar that juts out of the ground.I lived here for most of my life, she said of the community that once held more than 600 families. Its unrecognizable now.Mayor Paes defended his actions, saying the community was in the way of necessary construction. He offered residents compensation for their homes and apartments in a federal housing project. But Penha and many others saw the governments actions as a real estate grab and an effort to clear poor families from rapidly valuing property. After years of resistance that turned her community into a symbol of the fight against forced removals of the poor, her home and what was left of the community were demolished in March.Of the 600 families who once lived here, there are 20 left, including Penha and her husband. They now live on site, in a plastic container, as she waits for the government to finish construction of a simple two-bedroom home on a postage-stamp-size plot on the grounds of her old community.After walking through the construction zone, she steps into a small Catholic chapel. Penha helped build it, alongside other residents. They dedicated it to St. Joseph the Worker. During the months when people here were under increasing pressure from city officials to leave, the community often held meetings under its high ceiling.To escape the heat of the day, Penha stepped inside. The small white house might not seem like much , but the ability to remain on the grounds of Vila Autódromo, she said, feels good; it feels like a victory.This is my history, my life, she said. I helped build this chapel. I was married in this community, baptized my cousins here. My mother-in-law lived here with us, and died here. My brother lived here. You cant just tell me to leave and say all of that means nothing.Compare Rio with RioIn his last news conference before the Games, Paes urged cariocas, and visitors, to judge Rio on its own terms. Dont expect perfection, he said; this is a city with problems, not Tokyo or Chicago.Compare Rio with Rio, he said.Nevertheless, he declared Rio to be a transformed city and dismissed charges that the promises at the core of the citys bid -- to leverage the Games to improve the environment and make Rio more equitable -- had failed.But to experts such as Jules Boykoff, author of Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics, the Games in Rio were an unvarnished and extreme example of the modern trend toward ever-larger, overpriced Games that benefit well-connected economic elites at the expense of the population at large.If you look at the promises in Rio, there is little we can point to that shows a legacy for the city going forward, he said during a visit here. Its amazing to look back on the promises and see how little has been done.Juliana Barbassa is an award-winning journalist and the author of Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink. ' ' '