The Olympics and Their Impact on the City of Rio

The Aquatic Centre will be dismantled and provides the structure for two swimming pools

The Aquatic Centre will be dismantled and provides the structure for two swimming pools

Tomorrow is the official start of the Olympics, with the arrival of the Olympic torch. In Rio de Janeiro, the Olympic fever has been rising significantly already in the last weeks before. Athletes, volunteers and additional security personnel passing through the streets, special signs were mounted and the final construction works were in full swing. There is a certain nervousness in the air and the city is in the media spotlight. Last minute information for visitors about the country and city, how to behave in Rio in order not to be recognised as a “gringo”. Highly visible were also negative reports about unfinished buildings, or lack of quality, and criticism of the entire programming of structural measures, which benefits more the wealthy than the lower classes. 

It is true, that the Brazilian construction industry has not profiled with creativity and quality, instead shines with inertia and bureaucracy. One misses the quality and innovation that Brazil already had proved once during modernity. These reviews diminish the anticipation, more than before the Football World Cup 2014. However, the chance is great that this time the same thing happens as two years ago. With the first moments of the game of Brazil the party started and lasted for a month. Also now, the visitors come for the competition. In the television broadcasts you won’t notice the many deficiencies. The sport is the focus and the Brazilians are unbeatable when it comes to ensuring good party mood.

The question is what remains after that. The city has missed the moment, to catch up with necessary improvements. With the current economic and political crisis projects will enhance the city, well placed only once after the games back. Until the city prosper again on and catch up the missed opportunities, so it will take a while.

Thinking positively, we are delighted with the goals achieved, without considering the high bar of expectations. The economist and director of the University FGV Marcelo Neri pushes the progress in figures: 2008-2014 the wages of poor rose 5% to 29.3% on the indicator of people living below the poverty line, fell from 5.71% to 2:09%, increase in the average years of study of 7.91 to 8.67 (from 2008 to 2014). 97.97% of 5 - 9 years attend school, 44.16% of 0- 4 years haunting the hoard, half of them public, which the mothers allowed to work and to improve fixed income.

The flagship project with high-quality architecture is the urban renewal of the harbour area, Porto Maravilha. Its landmarks, the museum of the future by Santiago Calatrava and the Art Museum of Rio de Janeiro MAR of Bernardes & Jacobsen Architects, attract hundreds of visitors each day. The formerly abandoned square Praça Mauá and the historic center profiled are now largely animated, even in the weekends. In the north zone, the amusement park Madureira by Ruy Rezende architect represents a massive gain in quality of life for the local residents. The biggest skate park, bike paths and water basins for children are a paradise for the younger generations. The park was built on an area that has been released by the electricity company Light.

The impact of the Olympic Park and Athletes Villa on their quarters will be revealed only after the games. The idea to convert some of the arenas to schools or sports halls sounds promising. We look forward to their conversion and the moment when the Olympic Parks will be open to the public.

Until then, we’ll draw inspiration from the athletic performances. We stay tuned on what happens in architecture.

August 4th 2016

Barbara Iseli