Rio de Janeiro - The
Rio de Janeiro Olympics was a world class party, but a year later,
there's no end in sight to the painful hangover gripping Latin America's
Brazilians have got used to public officials' incompetence and
corruption. After all, the country has spent the last three years mired
in a historic graft probe reaching to the top of politics and business.
But even hardened Brazil watchers are cringing as details emerge of
the thieving that marked the run-up to the first ever Summer Games held
in South America.
While ordinary Brazilians were suffering through the country's
deepest recession on record, Rio state and city's leaders treated the
Olympic buildup as a personal cash machine. It was a corruption
"trampoline," as prosecutor Fabiana Schneider puts it.
At the head of the feeding frenzy was state governor Sergio Cabral,
sentenced in June to 14 years prison for taking kickbacks from
construction companies working in the city.
Although he left office in 2014, the Games were awarded in 2009,
meaning he had a steering hand in numerous projects, including
refurbishment of the iconic Maracana football stadium, where the opening
and closing ceremonies were held in 2016.
Prosecutors say Brazil's Olympics leadership planned what amounted to
major robbery from the start, by bribing the International Olympic
Committee to choose Rio over Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo.
On September 5, Brazilian police, accompanied by French
investigators, took Brazilian Olympic Committee chief Carlos Nuzman in
for questioning and searched his house.
He has not been charged but is suspected of having been part of a
plot by a Brazilian businessman to buy the influential vote of
Senegalese IOC member Lamine Diack, Schneider said.
The Games -
showcasing moving ceremonies, the exploits of Jamaican sprinter Usain
Bolt and US swimming superman Michael Phelps and Brazilian fans'
enthusiasm - went smoothly.
But as soon as the athletes packed their bags and cameras stopped
rolling, barely hidden problems erupted around Brazil's second city.
Eduardo Paes, Rio's mayor during the Olympics, said he had made the
city, boosted by the temporary deployment of 50 000 troops, "the safest
place in the world."
That doesn't apply anymore.
Muggings have rocketed in richer neighborhoods, parts of the favelas
are like war zones and stray bullets fired from high powered rifles mean
that no one is safe. The federal government has brought the army back
to help outgunned police.
And despite promising there would be no white elephants, authorities
have struggled to find uses for the specially built facilities.
Parts of the Olympic Park are sporadically open to public events, but
much of the complex is eerily vacant. In late July, the
state-of-the-art velodrome with its wooden track caught fire and was
The Arena of the Future, where handball games were played, was
planned to be dismantled and used to build three schools in poor
neighborhoods. However, budget shortages mean that project has yet to
get off the ground.
Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio organising committee, insists that the legacy "is just taking time to put in place."
A metro line extension and a new rapid bus network are among the tangible benefits for ordinary Rio residents from the Games.
However, with hotel occupancy plummeting, unemployment soaring and
ever more homeless in the streets, the widespread feeling is of an
economy that failed to benefit from the party.
According to the National Business Confederation, 5 000 people got
tourism jobs as a result of the Games. But just in the first five months
of this year the sector shed 9 000 jobs.