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Not Everybody Wins at the Games

Most of the media reports on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were about sunny beaches and gold medals. Not many reporters had anything negative to say when it came to the Games, after all it is meant to be a joyful event. Unfortunately it was not joyful for everybody involved. In more recent media reports, a darker truth of unfairness and destruction is emerging. Rio Olympics’ official construction contractor Cyrela is accused of treating workers like slaves, ruining the water supply and destroying forested areas.

Destroying a Sacred Space

The area in which the Barra Media Village 3 was construction allegedly became a victim of the construction activities. The ground on which the village was built is part of a ‘quilombo’ which is a 19th century community of escaped slaves. In the 1980s the community was allowed to acquire the piece of land but it was never officially recognized, and so Cyrela was able to buy the land in 2013. It is also rumoured that the contract was won under dubious circumstances. Despite the fact that the ground is regarded as sacred and contains human bones and artefacts, construction started and residents had to accept it. But this is not where the problems stopped.

Abusing Workers and Locals

In November 2015 the government was forced to launch a rescue mission for 11 workers who were employed by sub-contractors of Cyrela. According to a report by the BBC, the workers were housed in a small two bedroom house riddled with rats, mould and a blocked toilet. Besides workers suffering undue distress and poor conditions during construction, the original inhabitants claim that their lives were also severely impacted by the project. The water was diverted and redirected to the building site and not at all available to residents throughout the day.

A Stark Contrast

During the proceedings disparity became obvious. While International Committee members were enjoying premier seats and dinners worth US$450 a day, the average Brazilian on minimum wage earns a paltry US$228 for a month’s work – just over half the cost of a single dinner. Rio residents spoke bitterly about a lack of so-called ‘unity’ that the organisers were touting. Despite being a stone’s throw away from the Olympics, they were not able to buy a ticket to the Games. So much for ‘World Peace and Environment’-the theme of the event.