We recently reported on the 22,000 families that have been displaced by the Rio 2016 Olympics so far. Now, it is time to put a name and face to that astonishing number, and bring perspective to the harsh reality of forced evictions and gentrification currently taking place in the shadows of sporting glory.
Pedro Berto, a resident of Vila Autódromo – a decades-old community – has literally seen his home and neighborhood destroyed and demolished in the process of constructing Rio’s Olympic Park. And while most residents moved into new properties (often their only real option), Berto decided to stay in the rubble and try to salvage the remnants of the life he had made for himself in his old community.
“Everyday I leave my house without knowing if it will still be standing the next day,” he told the BBC. “It is as if everything has just been hit by an airstrike…I’m basically a prisoner. I’m not part of Vila Autódromo anymore.” Berto is required to display Olympic accreditation to simply gain access to his home.
As we’ve stated previously, “the devastation inflicted on the poorest and historically marginalized communities is not simply an adverse side effect, but goes to the very essence of why cities battle to host the Games.” How will we make our mark? What can we do to alleviate this suffering? It’s hard to tell, but it feels like individual and collective action must be taken on whatever scale we have access to. The silence must be broken, for Berto and for the tens of thousands of other families forced from their homes in the buildup to the Games.