Two people have died since the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, yet the death toll has been kept very low, despite the international sporting event’s proximity to the local gangs and drug dealers in the favelas. Police shot a mugger; a woman was tragically shot in the head as she tried to flee armed robbers; and a stray bullet tore through the tent of the media center. It’s tragic, but not a bloodbath. With 85,000 police and army units guarding the event, the gangs know it’s time to keep a low profile. At the end of the day, it’s about making money. And that’s best served by not getting into shootouts with the cops. Still, the Associated Press–prior to the start of the Games–captured the grim reality of life in these gang-infested territories. Felipe Dana, the photojournalist who wrote about this life, added that this moratorium will end once the Games end and the troops are withdrawn:
Bullet-riddled bodies lie in pools of blood, and gun-toting teens in flip-flops navigate the maze of alleys working as guards, lookouts and distributors for drug lords operating just a few miles (kilometers) from where hundreds of thousands and tourists and athletes will be for the Aug. 5-21 Olympic Games.
“In these communities you can see what real life is like. This is our reality,” said a drug trafficker who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition that his identity and location not be revealed.
Holding an AK-47, the masked drug boss said dealers win the hearts and minds of locals by paying for food and medicine, providing a lifeline for many living in crushing poverty.
Elsewhere, a man was dragged from his house and shot dead, his bloody body left at the front door. A teenage boy was executed with his hands bound on a street that divides the territories of two rival gangs. A woman who was a candidate for a local council seat was shot to death at a bar near her house.
…the reality is that during the Olympics, Rio will probably be very safe _ at least for the foreign visitors. There will be soldiers and lots of elite forces everywhere. Plus many of the traffickers told me they won’t be looking for conflict. They said they would lay low unless police invade their areas. It’s a bad time to pick a fight, and they are aware of that. So unless something extraordinary happens, violence shouldn’t be a big problem during the games.
But the real problem for all Rio residents, and especially all the people who live in slums, will come after Olympics. The troops will go home and innocent people will again find themselves caught in the crossfire.
Now, that doesn’t mean there are problems. For starters, thieves are as bad as horseflies, with Olympic athletes getting mugged. An Australian paralympian was mugged in the city, while a New Zealand athlete alleges that the police kidnapped him.
Now that the Games have started, those participating on some of the aquatic venues must be saying endless novenas that their eyes don’t burn out of their sockets, or their oars don’t melt given the abjectly horrific conditions in the water around Rio. To make a long story short, it’s filthy. It’s loaded with fecal matter, and it’s pretty much toxic. Oh, and did I forget mention the superbacteria that infests the water? Yep–Brazilian health officials are issuing a warning: keep your mouths closed (via NYT):
Health experts in Brazil have a word of advice for the Olympic marathon swimmers, sailors and windsurfers competing in Rio de Janeiro’s picture-postcard waters next month: Keep your mouth closed.
Despite the government’s promises seven years ago to stem the waste that fouls Rio’s expansive Guanabara Bay and the city’s fabled ocean beaches, officials acknowledge that their efforts to treat raw sewage and scoop up household garbage have fallen far short.
In fact, environmentalists and scientists say Rio’s waters are much more contaminated than previously thought.
Recent tests by government and independent scientists revealed a veritable petri dish of pathogens in many of the city’s waters, from rotaviruses that can cause diarrhea and vomiting to drug-resistant “superbacteria” that can be fatal to people with weakened immune systems.
On a positive note, Team USA is performing with excellence and collecting medals like crazy.