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Post-Olympics Rio: Bills Due, Venues Empty

22 Feb, 2017

By: Michael Popke

We’ve all read and heard the stories about former Olympic venues — once basking in glory, pomp and circumstance — now left abandoned and decaying.

While organizers of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., made significant efforts to ensure the impact of the Games would be felt for years and generations to come, organizers of last summer’s Rio Games apparently weren’t looking that far ahead.

A recent Associated Press story picked up by many newspapers around the country, reports that Rio organizers still owe creditors about $40 million, and the site where most venues were located has become a ghost town. Additionally, four of the new arenas in the main Olympic Park have failed to find private-sector management and are now owned by the federal government.

But, wait — there’s more, according to the AP report:

• Historic Maracana stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies, has fallen prey to vandals and piled up more than $1 million in unpaid electricity bills. All power to the facility recently was cut off.

• A new $20 million Olympic golf course has few players and even less money for upkeep. Deodoro, the second-largest cluster of Olympic venues, is closed and searching for a management company.

• The state of Rio de Janeiro reports record-breaking crime in 2016 in almost all categories — from homicides to robbery.

• Three politicians who were instrumental in landing and organizing the Olympics are under investigation, and one has been jailed on corruption charges.

• The $1 billion Athletes Village is fenced off and empty.

“During the Olympics, the city was really trying hard to keep things together,” Oliver Stuenkel, a Brazilian who teaches international relations at Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation, told the AP’s Stephen Wade. “But the minute the Olympics were over, the whole thing disintegrated.”

“Before the games, organizers touted the venues as facilities that could easily be repurposed in sports-crazed Rio,” according to Reuters. “But little more than one beach volleyball tournament has been played at any of the venues — and even that drew criticism because it involved throwing sand on the Olympic tennis court.”

“I guess sand is better than nothing, but it’s pathetic not to be playing tennis there,” Fernando Meligeni, who competed in tennis during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, told the news service.

Maracana Stadium, which was renovated for the 2014 World Cup for $500 million, appears to have suffered most significantly from the neglect. Vandals ripped out thousands of seats, the turf has dried up and nobody seems to know who is responsible for the facility’s upkeep.

“Worms have damaged the now-threadbare playing surface, windows inside the stadium have been smashed, copper wire stolen from walls and ceilings,” The Guardian reports.

Of course, Rio is not an anomaly. Many Olympic sites around the world — from Berlin in 1936 to Sarajevo in 1984 to Athens in 2004 — have crumbled from neglect, vandalism or war.

To view photos of the already-deteriorating Rio venues, click here and here.

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