Mr. Bach is delusional. But he is correct about one thing: People will talk about Rio as a city “before” and “after” the Olympics. It just won’t be the conversation of his fantasies conjured inside his Olympic-sized bubble. Now the real story starts in Rio. Now that the 2016 Summer Games have been completed, with the most-discussed dramas being empty seats and the lies of an over-privileged swimmer, the real story begins: the story of how badly the Olympics will end up warping the city itself.
For months, Rio has been the subject of international fascination in the Western media: this idea of a magical city on the coast on the precipice of an Olympic-sized catastrophe, with the whole world watching. Journalists looked agape at the 2016 Olympic hosts wrestling with the impeachment/coup of their president, the country’s worst economic crisis in decades, a massive outbreak of the Zika virus, water judged to be loaded with more toxins than a Jersey swamp, and shocking levels of police violence. The media assumed that the narrative would end just this side of Armageddon.
Founded in 1565 by the Portuguese, the city was initially the seat of the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro, a domain of the Portuguese Empire. Later, in 1763, it became the capital of the State of Brazil, a state of the Portuguese Empire. In 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Court transferred itself from Portugal to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the chosen seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal, who subsequently, in 1815, under the leadership of her son, the Prince Regent, and future King João VI of Portugal, raised Brazil to the dignity of a kingdom, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and Algarves. Rio stayed the capital of the pluricontinental Lusitanian monarchy until 1822, when the War of Brazilian Independence began. This is one of the few instances in history that the capital of a colonising country officially shifted to a city in one of its colonies. Rio de Janeiro subsequently served as the capital of the independent monarchy, the Empire of Brazil, until 1889, and then the capital of a republican Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to Brasília.
Rio de Janeiro has the second largest municipal GDP in the country, and 30th largest in the world in 2008, estimated at about R$343 billion (IBGE, 2008) (nearly US$201 billion). It is headquarters to Brazilian oil, mining, and telecommunications companies, including two of the country’s major corporations—Petrobras and Vale—and Latin America’s largest telemedia conglomerate, Grupo Globo. The home of many universities and institutes, it is the second-largest center of research and development in Brazil, accounting for 17% of national scientific output according to 2005 data.
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