Rio risks empty Olympic legacy as real estate stalls

Tue Jul 19, 2016 8:28am EDT
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By Stephen Eisenhammer

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - "Pure Island: a neighborhood born ready-made," reads the glitzy brochure for the 31 tower blocks built for $880 million to house athletes for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next month.

After the Games, this is meant to become Rio's newest community, a bustling legacy of the 17-day sporting event.

But there's one thing missing - residents.

Developers say they have sold just 240 of the 3,600 apartments that go for between 750,000 and 3 million reais ($230,000 to $925,000).

Buyers are returning apartments, a sales source said, put off by Brazil's economic crisis and the scant appeal of being lonely occupants of a space stretching more than 100 soccer pitches in a still-remote region of Rio.

The largest athlete's village in the history of the Games is a visceral monument to now-faded optimism. Planned when Brazil was booming, its harnessing of private sector wealth was meant to set the gold standard for a sustainable Olympics.

Instead, the worst recession in generations pushed the luxury apartments out of reach.

"Pure Island", or "Ilha Pura" in Portuguese, is one of multiple projects, including the Olympic Park and the 8 billion reais regeneration of Rio's port area, funded in partnership with developers but now stalling.   Continued...

The aquatic venue is seen at the 2016 Rio Olympics site in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 15, 2016. Picture taken on June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes