When the music started blaring, kids barged one another aside to snatch free sodas at Coca-Cola‘s bayside fan centre. To get in, visitors queued for hours on Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Boulevard.
Two blocks back from the water there were only a couple dozen spectators at an August 13 show of dance, drumming and capoeira in a plaza. That’s bad news for Afoxe Filhos de Gandhi, the city’s oldest group promoting Afro-Brazilian culture, which had hoped to profit enough from the event to repair the roof of a former slave market that is its headquarters.
The revamping of Rio’s downtown port area in advance of the world’s biggest sporting event costs billions of dollars and was meant to showcase gleaming new office towers, museums and a host of historical sites to lure tourists, residents and companies.
Last weekend alone 350,000 visitors flocked to the waterfront Boulevard to see the Olympic flame, eat at food trucks, and watch live musicians playing in the shadows of a massive cruise liner where US basketball players reside. Less than two blocks back from the bay, the Valongo Quay, a recently-excavated site where more slaves made landfall than any other port in the Americas, was empty.
Maria Vittoria Branchini, 16, whose Italian family watched the Olympics opening ceremony live on the Boulevard, said they never would’ve found Valongo without a guided tour. The group of nine was led by Rayane Rosignoli, who said there’s a need to talk more about “the B-side of Brazil’s history,” which includes favelas and slavery. The opening ceremony didn’t gloss over Brazil’s stained past, with slaves marching to a soundtrack that featured a whip’s lash.
On the Boulevard there also aren’t signs pointing to a … read full story