Razzmatazz masks real Rio

There’s a scene early on in the The Hunger Games where the heroine played by Jennifer Lawrence is plucked from her district on the periphery in terms of both location and life.

Brought on a train to the city to take part in the Games, as it winds its way across the land the standard of living gradually increases as they get closer to their destination.

Ultimately they arrive in district one, a place self-described as making “the luxury goods that decorate and beautify our great Capitol. Its excellent taste and craftsmanship keep Capitol residents bewigged and bedazzled year-round”.

Take a bus at these Olympics though and you’ll notice that the only difference is you’ve to get further from and not nearer to the fulcrum of Rio de Janeiro for the same transformation to occur.

From an oft-shady centre past miles and miles of favelas guarded from the highways by filthy canals and through a couple of tunnels, you arrive in the opulent suburb of Barra da Tijuca.

Inexplicably in terms of culture and regeneration, it is the main focal point of these Games.

For media arriving here, most have been kept local as have their visions and wider reporting of the place. It means the impression they’ll get is of wide, pathless streets lined by upscale malls, as if a desperate imitation of the United States.

But that’s not the Brazil that actually exists, it’s the Brazil those behind this place are desperate to exist. There’s only one problem though, as to have such a lifestyle, you need to build it on top of those who have an horrific existence.

Scratch at the surface and you see that. Those selling drinks and food around the stadia are from the lower classes and therefore tend to be black. Those buying drinks and food, frustrated by the inefficiency while thinking the servers should be thankful for the work, are not. 

Therefore just like the World Cup, this is the latest big bucks sporting event that’s been disgracefully whitened.

There’s a foreign theory that both the city and country here are somehow places where race doesn’t matter and where integration has occurred.

But the only reason tensions based on colour don’t exist as much as they should and need to is because there’s often an uncomfortable acceptance of this either being the way it is from those at the bottom to this being the way it ought to be from those at the top.

It’s led to a status quo that at best seems centuries out of date.

Yet the International Olympic Committee and Brazilian governance have not just done nothing about this, they’ve taken advantage of it, using sport as a veil to hide behind as they conduct their business.

Speaking to a volunteer over the weekend, she said what so many think in relation to the most expensive legacy project here, the gleaning new metro line that runs from the city to main hub of the Games.

“The people of Barra steer clear of the city so don’t need it but what the metro does is offer a way to import maids and gardeners by day and send them away by night.” 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg with these Games involving a massive transfer of wealth from public to private, from those desperately in need of a helping hand to those who only have grabbing hands.

But whereas there’s been a panic over doping, forced hysteria over mosquitoes, and a needless frenzy over whether the place would be ready, there’ve been few instances of pushing for answers and for a taking of responsibility over what’s happened here.

Right now we are all witnesses to a massive moral crime and quite a few legal ones, so what are we going to do about it?

So far at best there’s been an ignorance as people are bought over easily. Sure, it can be hard to step away from the party when Novak Djokovic is serving here and Michael Phelps is powering forward over there.

It can be harder still when the crowd are treated to quite a show, as was the case at Friday’s opening ceremony, and leave with a sense of adoration for it all.

But that is like thinking your millionaire boss is a great person for buying you dinner, when all the while he’s paying you less than a minimum wage.

In the face of the big story, we’re fobbed off by the little one. As these Olympics drag on, you can only hope there’s an understanding of the reality and that this is a waste of the majority’s money to briefly amuse the minority.

Yet knowing this and actively engaging in it, the IOC still force their non-profit ideal on everyone while charging what most can’t afford to attend corporate laden events in the name of amateur sport.

The words which Thomas Bach kept for the locals at the opening ceremony surmised the disconnect and the horrific sham of it all.

In a country where 13 million are underfed, where 58,000 were murdered last year alone, where homelessness is booming amongst huge unemployment and inflation, and where 15% of children under four live in areas where there is sewage running openly, he had a positive message about an expensive sporting tournament acting as a saviour.

“This is a moment all Brazilians can be proud of,” he said. Or at least all the Brazilians this caters for.

That’s not to say there isn’t much to enjoy and it should be enjoyed.

But it shouldn’t be believed for a moment nor should it stop you from believing the truth about all of this.

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