The Lived Effects of the Rio Olympics

Recently, The Guardian has been running an excellent series on the lived experiences of the Olympics from a usually-ignored perspective: that of those living in favelas. Much of the concern over the upcoming Rio Olympics has fallen on Zika (despite August being low season for mosquitos in Rio, and a majority of the documented Zika cases occurring thousands of miles in Northeast), which isn’t surprising – the world tends to focus on the on-the-ground issues that they think will directly affect themselves. However, those more familiar with Brazil know the bigger issue around the Olympics is not Zika, but the longer-term inequalities in Rio and the burden for the Olympics that unduly falls on the poor, not just economically but socially, be it through forced relocation, allocation of funding to expensive construction projects instead of social care, further improvements in parts of the city that are already well off while ignoring the areas that need investment, or other issues. This ongoing inequality surrounding the Olymipcs is admittedly just another entry in a more than century-long history of “improvements” to Rio that dislocate and disenfranchise the urban (typically nonwhite) poor.

That is why the pieces in The Guardian are so important, so illuminating, and so necessary. Be it in discussing the ways in which the deaths (and thus, lives) of the poor are ignored while those of the wealthy are top stories, the sense of brutal violence as a daily reality, or  the ways the favelas are physical and symbolic examples of the ongoing racial, social, and economic segregation that Brazilians often ignore or even deny, the journals cover a wide array of topics: the way the lives of the urban poor are devalued, the ways police continue to operate with impunity when perpetuating violence against marginalized populations, the multifarious negative effects the Olympics have had on the residents of Rio, the ongoing social and economic inequalities in Brazil, the effects of the economic crisis on everyday Brazilians, the popular reaction to the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the role of technologies (like What’s App) to communicate danger, and even the mundane (such as video games) alongside the extreme violence. In total, the pieces simultaneously demonstrate the complexities of favela life even while tapping into the ongoing and very real struggles of Brazil’s marginalized, offering invaluable insights into a wide variety of processes, experiences, and events from voices too often overlooked and disregarded.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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