World News

Mixed feelings for Rio residents just days ahead of Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Just days before Rio de Janeiro hosts South America’s first Olympics, city residents expressed mixed feelings about the cost and security of the Games, while holding out hope they will bring joy to a nation facing economic and political crises.

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The conflicted thoughts mirror a recent survey by the Datafolha polling group showing that half of Brazilians were opposed to holding the Games, while 63 percent think the costs of hosting the event will outweigh the benefits.

In the midst of such division, Reuters sought out residents to ask them what they thought.

Taxi driver Abner Lelis welcomed what Mayor Eduardo Paes touts as one of the Games’ biggest legacies: improved transportation. “I spend almost the whole day driving and it is evident that traffic has improved,” he said.

Lelis was quick to warn tourists, however, that some of his colleagues take the long way around to destinations for bigger fares.

Student Aline Santos sees the Games in a negative light, “because many people have been evicted from their houses for the construction of Olympic” works.

For 70-year-old poet Jorge Salomao, the Games will help Brazilians forget, for a moment at least, that they are facing their worst recession since the 1930s and that suspended President Dilma Rousseff is on the cusp of being ousted by an impeachment trial expected to end right after the Olympics close on Aug. 21.

“We are going through so many difficult times that the Olympics will bring a moment of joy and fraternization in this city, the most beautiful city in the world,” he said.

But for Dennis Claudinho, a 27-year-old construction worker who has helped build Olympic venues, the Games are a bittersweet reality in this nation still grappling with intense inequality.

He said he was confident the transportation infrastructure built, including express bus lanes and the extension of the subway, would bring much-needed improvements for the grinding commutes millions of Rio residents endure.

Yet working amid the dust at the Olympic Park as final touches were put on venues this week, he said: “I can’t afford tickets for the Olympics because they are too expensive for me.”

Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Meredith Mazzilli