Olympic road construction leads to displacement of Rio favela residents

As preparations get underway for Rio de Janeiro’s hosting of the 2016 Summer Olympics, construction has commenced on the city’s new rapid bus transit system.…

Olympics bus route to displace 900 families from Rio favela. (Photo by Toby Smith for SES/Getty Images)

As preparations get underway for Rio de Janeiro’s hosting of the 2016 Summer Olympics, construction has commenced on the city’s new rapid bus transit system.

With a deadline that now stands less than two years away, up to 900 families from the Vila União favela stand to be displaced by the end of the month in order to make room for the new road’s construction.

SEE ALSO: Brazil’s newfound recession: 4 numbers that explain what’s happening

The new rapid bus transit system is one of the keystones of the various infrastructure projects, which are taking place throughout the city leading up to the summer games. As Donna Bowater of Al Jazeera America explains:

“The authorities expect up to 70,000 passengers a day will use the new $660 million system to travel between Barra da Tijuca, where the athletes’ village will be, and the Deodoro zone, the site for several Olympic sports. The TransOlímpica route will pass through the parallel Tudorbethan streets, currently lined with crooked, overhanging homes and jury-rigged webs of cable.”

However, for all its benefits, the accompanying relocation of so many residents raises questions as to the project’s merits and viability. Amnesty International reports that nearly 20,000 families have been relocated since construction began on Olympic facilities.

Rio residents displaced by Olympic spirit

Families will be displaced in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Bowater goes on to report that most residents will receive compensative payment or alternative housing options by explaining that, “The families who live there have been offered compensation payments or a new apartment in nearby Colônia Juliano Moreira, built under the government’s Minha Casa, Minha Vida (“my home, my life”) program. The $46 million apartment blocks are due to be inaugurated in September and will take in families until early next year.”

Consequently, most residents have welcomed the move as an improvement from their current living conditions, but the obligatory nature of the relocation has left some residents disgruntled with the forced housing removal. In an interview with Al Jazeera America, the president of the favela’s resident association explained that, “It’s sad. This is a peaceful, safe community. We don’t have trafficking or crime, but the works have to happen. The TransOlímpica has to pass through here. I’m doing everything I can to make sure the community is satisfied.”

Many Brazilians remain optimistic that the infrastructure projects will provide ample job opportunities to local residents and result in a positive long-term legacy for the Olympics. However, the massive relocations and uncertainty as to the long-term benefits—or detriments—of hosting the Olympics have so far left a tinge of doubt in the nation’s mind.

SEE ALSO: Protests in Brazil are gaining steam