Amid the ongoing debate over whether or not hosting the Olympics is a plus for any city, major international sporting events like the 2014 World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Summer Games have highlighted Rio de Janeiro’s economic inequality.
Affordable housing is one of the most pressing problems, as people have been pushed out of their homes to make way for new hotels to house spectators from around the globe. Now, the Associated Press reports that about 100 people are squatting at an Art Deco residential building in Rio that Eike Batista, the formerly wealthiest man in Brazil, was supposed to transform into a luxury hotel ahead of the 2016 Olympics. The squatters are demanding that officials place them in public housing.
According to the AP, with the trouble property empty since 2012, “residents of the surrounding middle-class neighborhood complain it has attracted vandals, contributing to a surge in muggings nearby.”
When protesters crowded the streets of Brazil’s major cities during the World Cup, one summed up the general sentiment when he told the AP, “I’m totally against the Cup. We’re in a country where the money doesn’t go to the community, and meanwhile we see all these millions spent on stadiums.”
The lead up to the Olympics is looking quite similar. The AP reports:
Veronica Castro, one of the squatters at the Flamengo building, questioned the government’s spending priorities, particularly for the high-profile sporting events.
“That’s the only thing that occurs to them to spend money on,” said Castro, a mother of four. “They don’t provide affordable housing, health care, education or security.”
Rio’s local Olympics committee recently said it would look to Airbnb to help house people who visit for the games.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.