RIO DE JANEIRO – The eyes of the world are on Rio de Janeiro while the Olympics are in town, but it is difficult to shake the feeling that the city is not showing its true face.
Rio’s much-publicized problems — violent crime, rampant inequality, pollution — have shown signs of creeping through the cracks, but generally the city has mobilized to make sure that nothing harms its image in front of a global audience.
A security detail of 85,000 — double the number from four years ago in London — and a huge military presence have made the various Olympic venues feel extremely safe for visitors.
But the difference between life inside and outside the Olympic bubble is striking, with Rio feeling like International Olympic Committee-occupied territory with much of the city’s real character denied the chance to shine through.
Most of Rio 2016’s events are taking place at the Olympic Park, a sprawling expanse of arenas in the city’s upmarket Barra district. The area’s wide boulevards and modern shopping centers are a world apart from the tight streets and old-style buildings found in other parts of the city, and one can only wonder how the games are being received away from glare of the cameras.
Local fans have added their own flavor to Rio 2016, bringing the noise and color of a soccer crowd to the various Olympic events. That fervent energy has overstepped the mark into bad sportsmanship at times, but the atmosphere has also been intoxicating, with the men’s tennis semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro a personal highlight.
Ultimately Rio has many issues to deal with — issues which began before the Olympics and which will continue long after the IOC has packed up and left town.
Visiting the city at such a particular time has felt like the briefest of glimpses into something much deeper, and only time will tell how the 2016 Olympics will shape Rio’s future.
For now, at least, the world is still watching.
Artists’ playground: The Rio Olympics’ signature green decor has created opportunities possibly not anticipated by the games’ organizers.
Special effects creators have been busy doctoring footage from Rio 2016 using the events’ natural “green screen” backdrops, posting internet videos to make the tennis final between Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro appear as if it was being played underwater, or even on a floor of lava.
Other popular memes have featured Kiribati weightlifter David Katoatau, whose dance moves have drawn the world’s attention to the dangers faced by his tiny island country in the face of climate change.
Unfortunately for budding special effects producers, however, the athletics track now dominating coverage of the Olympics is not green but blue.
Pole-axed: Spare a thought for pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita.
The 28-year-old Kagawa Prefecture native’s performance in Saturday’s qualification round went viral when he appeared to knock the bar off with his penis, prompting an irate Ogita to take to Twitter to set the record straight
“I didn’t think the overseas media would take it this far,” tweeted Ogita, who insisted he knocked the bar off with his leg and arm and was merely the victim of an unfortunate camera angle.
“Fair enough if it was true, but I was surprised that they would make something up just to make fun of me. I’m in shock.”
Ogita later saw the funny side, however, tweeting: “P.S. When I look at it again, I can see the joke too. LOL.”
Quotable: “The basic rule for being on her bag is I am just supposed to shut up.”
The caddy of Indian golfer Aditi Ashok — father Gudlamani — explains his role.