With 5 Weeks To Go Until The Olympics, How Prepared Is Rio?
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
If you were to Google Rio Olympics right now, you would not see a whole lot about the actual games. You'd probably see news stories with words like horror, catastrophe and perfect storm. And this week, things got even worse when mutilated body parts were discovered on the beach near and Olympic sport venue. Things are bad in Brazil, but how bad are they? To find out, we called NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Rio. Hi there, Lulu.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Hi.
MCEVERS: So it seems like there's not a lot of good news coming out of Rio these days. What's going on?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, you know, as you mentioned, there were the body parts. But we've also seen policemen and firemen who were on strike holding up a sign at the international airport saying, welcome to hell because cops here don't even have enough money for gas for their patrol cars. Robberies are up 40 percent in the state because of the security vacuum. So you can imagine the optics of that. Last month, we had the governor declaring a state of catastrophe, saying that there was no money for even basic services like hospitals.
You know, Kelly, I could go on, but I think you get the point. I'm not even mentioning, you know, the Zika virus, the political crisis, which has the suspended President Dilma Rousseff undergoing an impeachment trial. You know, it's bad.
MCEVERS: I mean, for other Olympics, in places like Beijing and Athens, there's always a lot of bad press, right, in the run-up. And then, everything ends up going smoothly in the end. Do you get the sense that that's what's going to happen this time?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I've been very conscious of that, you know, because indeed we have seen this trajectory of the press just says all these terrible things. And the games go off without a hitch, and then everyone says it was all exaggerated. I think it just depends on what you define as success.
You know, the problem for these Olympics is that they have really been facing unprecedented headwinds. The economy is unraveling here. And that is a terrible thing in any country, but, you know, here in Brazil, there are really high levels of poverty. You see kids here on the streets sleeping rough. So you have these Olympic organizers promising that these would be the "legacy games," quote, unquote. And, you know, basically that means - let's say the games go great. Nothing goes wrong. Everyone's happy. Is that enough of a legacy in a country like Brazil, which is going through such a hard time?
And that's the question, I think, that everyone's asking themselves, you know? And when you look at who will benefit from the games, who's making money, you see that a lot of the new infrastructure that was built for these Olympics has been funneled into already-wealthy areas. You're seeing that thousands of poor people who live in favelas have been displaced to make way for Olympic infrastructure. So, you know, it has a lot of people here asking themselves, is it really worth it?
MCEVERS: What are the organizers of the Olympics saying? I mean, how are they answering all this criticism?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, as you can imagine, Kelly, they're saying that everything's going to be fine. They say that all of the venues are going to be up and running and that there won't be any problem during the games. They also speak to the fact that they do believe they have left an Olympic legacy for this city. They talk about areas that have been refurbished. They talk about new transportation lines that will ease some of the congestion of the city. So they have really been trying to give this narrative that somehow these Olympics will be beneficial for Rio de Janeiro.
But when you talk to people here on the streets, you know, they really don't feel it. I'll give you one example. I was talking to one mother who has a microcephalic baby that was linked to her getting a Zika infection. And she said, you know, we're not getting the care that we need. You know, Zika will still be here after these games have come and gone. What about us? What about the people that are going to be affected by this in the future? What will these Olympics have left for that? And that's, you know, a question on many people's minds.
MCEVERS: That's NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Thank you very much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
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