Olympics may shine but plenty to lament in recession-hit Rio

Wed Jul 20, 2016 11:17am EDT
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Across a busy street from the Maracanã stadium, host of two World Cup finals and next month the stage for the opening of the first-ever Olympics in South America, squats the massive concrete complex of the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

But the university, a pioneer in offering scholarships for low-income and minority students, has not enjoyed the same government largesse as the emblematic stadium, recipient since 2010 of more than 1.2 billion reais ($370 million) in state funds for World Cup and Olympic remodeling.

Even as producers test lights at the Maracanã for showtime Aug. 5, garbage mounts at the campus where 23,000 student have not attended classes since March because of missed payments to professors, contractors and university staff.

A nearby university hospital, a regional center for transplants and cancer treatments, has been so short of funds that doctors have this year regularly had to cut back on treatment because they lacked syringes, latex gloves, chemotherapy medicines and antibiotics.

"It has never been so precarious," says Edmar Santos, the hospital's director, explaining that cutbacks in the state budget mean the facility some days treats fewer than half the patients it normally would.

Two weeks before the Games begin, a recession and fiscal crisis are biting deep into the lives of more than 12 million people who live in and around this coastal city, stoking resentment over the some 40 billion reais ($12 billion) spent on Olympic projects.

State pensioners and employees, including teachers, health workers and police, have been getting paid late or not at all.

Many residents are unhappy that so-called Olympic legacy projects, including a new subway line and bus corridors, do little to help most of the population, instead further benefiting upscale districts.   Continued...

A man walks at the campus of Rio de Janeiro's State University (UERJ) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes