Architecture Lab

Defying Brazil’s Grand Design for Olympics

The authorities think progress is demolishing our community just so they can host the Olympics for a few weeks
Defying Brazil’s Grand Design for Olympics

The Muzema favela. Residents of some favelas, facing eviction to make way for the events in multiple cities, are pulling together and standing their ground, in stark contrast to the preparations for the 2008 Olympics in China, where authorities easily cleared hundreds of thousands of families in Beijing for the games. // Credit: Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Gearing up for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held here, officials celebrated plans for a futuristic “Olympic Park,” replete with a waterside park and athlete villages, promoting it as “a new piece of the city.”
There was just one problem: the 4,000 people who already live in that part of Rio de Janeiro, in a decades-old squatter settlement that the city wants to tear down. Refusing to go quietly and taking their fight to the courts and the streets, they have been a thorn in the side of the government for months.


For many Brazilians, holding the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics on Brazilian soil is the ultimate expression of the nation’s elevation on the world stage, and the events are perfect symbols of its newfound economic prowess and international standing.

But some of the strengths that have enabled Brazil’s democratic rise as a regional power — the vigorous expansion of its middle class, the independence of its news media and the growing expectations of its populace — are bedeviling the preparations for both events.

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