A Games for All?

When I tell my kids about Rio 2016 I will no doubt tell them what an amazing games this was and what a privilege it was to experience this great city for a second time.

However, if I was to ask some of the people here in Curicica - the community we are staying in during this project - about what they would tell their children about the 2016 Olympic Games, I think they would come up with a different response.

I have mentioned already in one of the earlier blogs about how I was fed up with the constant negative press, especially in England, about the games. From the Zika virus to crime and gang activity.

So from the outset I want to stress this is not a blog designed to jump on the bandwagon.

Instead this is a blog from the grassroots. A blog which will hopefully give a voice to people who have not had the chance to express their views on Rio 2016. A blog which focuses on this wonderful community in Curicica and how the Olympics has impacted them.

Curicica is a real bustling place. It borders the notorious City of God favela although it does not share its reputation. It is up and coming in many ways yet there are parts where people are living in poverty.

As we walk through the poorer part of the community it is clear that basic needs are not being met. For example, when it rains heavily, the river - which is located behind the community and forms the border with the City of God - floods. People have to vacate their homes as they fill up with sewage and dirty water from the river.

We meet a lady called Andrea who invites us into her home. It consists of three small rooms. A living space, a bedroom with one bed (for three) and a tiny bathroom. Andrea shows us the back of the house which backs onto the river. It is clear people have tried to create their own flood barriers. It is also clear that they are not good enough.

The call from Andrea is to be provided with better housing. More investment in making houses for purpose. We ask her about the Olympics, what has it brought to the community? The community is still waiting for that question to be answered.

Andrea goes on to tell us how a child once had his head bitten by a rat which came into the house. That should give you an idea of the kind of conditions we are looking at and should give you an idea on the problems of how investment has been distributed in Rio.

I ask Paulo what the church is doing to help. He tells me the church donates as much as it can in the form of food and fresh clothes. Although many people from this part of the community do not go to church, Paulo makes sure that his church goes to them. Personally, I think that is exactly what church should be about. Actions, doing something, rather than words.

We then headed towards another part of Curicica, where one of the main Olympic highways is. For those of you who have listened or seen some our work during this project, you may have heard about us talking about travelling around Rio. We have done a lot of it.

One of the new systems which was brought in was the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit). It is basically a long bus which has its own lane and gets around the city quickly. There are many positives about it and it will be there for everyone to use once these games are over.

As always though there is another side, a side which Paulo and Felipe were about to show us during our walk around Curicica. We drive up to the underbelly of one of the new flyovers which have been built to cater for the Olympics and new transport system. Quite quickly you could see what had happened in the course of building this road.

A row of houses ran alongside the road but they looked strange. As though someone had just sliced straight through a street of homes with a knife. It turned out that is exactly what had become of this part of Curicica.

Hundreds of families were forced to move out as the government built one of their Olympic legacies. I asked whether these displaced families, who obviously did not have much choice in the matter, were re-homed? To a place quite far from here, was the answer. To a place nicknamed the ‘the big field’. Compensation payments were small.

You could still see piles of rubble where homes had been knocked down. You could also see a hospital and next to it a baby care unit. Those too, were also no longer around. They are yet to be replaced.

It is clear that this is a community which is still trying to seek answers as to what exactly these games will offer them and whether the legacy will be positive, negative or if there is actually any legacy at all?

Many of the people I have spoken to in Curicica are excited about the Olympics and are delighted to be welcoming people from different countries. I couldn’t help but think though that many people have been shortchanged. Money from the government in Rio has dried up and there is obviously going to be no quick fix.

I asked Paulo what the answer to these problems are?

He said: “At the moment we do not know what the future is going to hold in terms of after the Olympics. All we can do is continue to support the community, spread hope, and show the same love and care as we always have done.”

For a community that has welcomed us with open arms, I hope they get the positive answers they are looking for.

By Andy Bloss (article) and Tom Ellis (audio report).