Only one year ago, Brazil was alive with the sights and sounds of the Olympic games. The Maracanã Stadium held enthusiastic spectators as the games closed out, saying goodbye to more than 11,000 athletes who came from 205 different countries to participate in the Games. The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics was the first ever time that the Games were held in South America.
On August 20th, 2016, Brazil celebrated their victory against Germany in the soccer match that went into a penalty shootout, winning 5-4. It was a particularly joyous occasion for fans across Brazil, a nation who historically loves soccer. It was the first time that the team won Olympic gold.
Now that the fans and the athletes are long gone, the scene in Rio is not the colorful celebration it once was. In fact, it's far from it. The buildings lie abandoned. The country is in debt. Buildings like the Aquatics Stadium stand dormant. The Games, which were supposed to revive the economic crisis and establish Brazil as a leader in athletics, are over. And many thought that they were doomed from the start.
One of the most staggering symbols of neglect is the Maracanã Stadium. Forget the pyrotechnics of the opening and closing ceremonies — the lights are all shut off. The stadium accrued an energy bill of $939,937 that it cannot pay back. The Rio Organizing Committee itself still owes $40 million to creditors.
The stadium opened in 1950 and was also the site of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals. Over 7,000 of the stadiums seats have been ripped out, and since the Games it's been plagued by vandalism. The construction company, Odebrecht, is hoping to hand over maintenance of the stadium to bidders, but legal battles and contract disputes with the government have left it lying dormant in the meantime.
The stadium was rebuilt for over $500 million dollars, only to be left in total disrepair only a year after its restoration. Several companies involved in the redevelopment added to the corruption, overcharging for their work and adding to the debt that Brazil cannot afford to repay. With many areas stripped clean from robberies, no lights, and plaster falling from ceilings to create yawning holes in the structure, it's unclear what the fate of the stadium will be.
There's no forgetting when the Olympic diving pool at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre literally turned green overnight. And for some time, researchers, athletes, and fans alike were completely baffled as to why. Even to this day, it's not 100 percent confirmed why the pool changed colors.
Divers complained the water was so murky that they couldn't see their partners. It's thought that algae blooms caused the sudden color switch, but a chemical imbalance in the water was also thought to be to blame. What is crystal clear now, however, is that the Barra Aquatic Centre, sister to the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre that was once designed to revitalize the area, is now in ruins.
The Aquatic Centre stands abandoned today, in similar states of disrepair as the other Olympic buildings across Brazil. The facility, which held the water polo and swimming events of the game, was built to be able to be disassembled and built into the infrastructure of surrounding areas to start revitalizing the cities, but funds ran out. Even before the Games began, swimmers complained of cloudy water inside the pool, and a panel on the outside of the building was damaged and ripped off by the wind. It sits unused since the Games ended.
Only a few months ago, the Olympic velodrome was relatively intact compared to the other buildings involved in the Rio de Janeiro Games. However, a stray Chinese lantern landed on the roof of the velodrome, and the fire spread quickly across the building which damaged a large amount of the structure, including the track. "Absurd! In addition to the balloon that burned the velodrome, other balloons fell in the Olympic Park," tweeted out Brazil's sports minister, Leonardo Picciani.
The stadium now remains burnt, and would need major funding to repair to functional use. A government statement banned the use of Chinese lanterns. "The Ministry of Sport deeply regrets the incident this morning at the Velodrome Park and at the same time criticises this criminal practice of releasing balloons." Although the use of the hand-made balloons is in fact illegal in Brazil because of their tendency to start fires, the lanterns are commonly released.
Just like the other venues, the Olympic Village is as much of a ghost town as the other abandoned buildings scattered throughout Rio. The village contains thousands of apartments that are unoccupied, 93 percent vacant. The athletes village was originally intended to be turned into luxury apartments, but those who could afford such a living space are few and far in-between.
Although the situation in Brazil is undeniably bleak, other venues across the world also lie in similar states of abandonment. Once the elaborate stadiums are built, the games are played, and the lights go dim, it's difficult to match the level of the Olympic Games once again, for any country. China and Athens are just a few examples of other countries with abandoned Olympic venues.
The Rio Media Center was demolished shortly after the Games drew to a close. Its leftover remains are a public health hazard, but are situated in downtown next to city hall and a convention center. The state of the Rio Media Center is not unlike others throughout the area.
Even before the 2016 Olympic games, Brazil faced a faltering infrastructure and overall poverty for their society. Amongst Zika virus, political turmoil, and an inability to get the economy moving, there's no estimated time or set plans to be able to repair the Olympic venues that have fallen into states of disrepair. A $20 million dollar golf course that was an attempt to attract people to the city is struggling to entice enough players to pay for its upkeep.
Overall, public transport is said to have improved, despite everything else. “Those are the only legacies that you could claim are positive ... everything else is very negative,” executive director of Catalytic Communities Theresa Williamson said. “People are overwhelmingly not well. Everybody you talk to is struggling in some sense.”