Olympics give faded Rio shot at rebirth

Sun Oct 4, 2009 8:23am EDT
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympics has raised the tantalizing prospect that Brazil's faded former capital, known for its beauty and high crime, will be rejuvenated into a modern, thriving city.

Blessed with jaw-dropping natural wonders and passionate people, the Carnival city is in line for a multibillion-dollar Olympic overhaul that supporters say will unclog its transport system, clean up the environment and boost public services.

Rio's slick Olympic campaign promised world-class sports facilities, a doubling of the beachside city's hotel capacity, and a rejuvenation of its dilapidated port area and the historic city center. After the International Olympic Committee awarded Rio the Games on Friday, newspapers and many residents voiced hope that the city could emulate Spain's Barcelona, which experienced a cultural and economic renaissance after it hosted the 1992 Olympics.

"It is something able to rival the arrival of the Portuguese royal family in 1808 in terms of the benefits it can bring for the economy, social life, security, politics, public administration and other areas," O Globo newspaper said in an editorial.

The arrival of the royal family as they fled Napoleon's invasions in Europe heralded Rio's transformation into a major city and the center of the Portuguese empire.

The city of 6 million has mostly been in decline since 1960, when the federal capital shifted to Brasilia, with its image increasingly stained by the poverty and drug violence of its slums and the brutality of its security forces.

It has shown signs of a revival in recent years, helped by Brazil's economic strength, but has remained overshadowed by financial capital Sao Paulo and has failed to shake off its reputation for decadence and high crime.


<p>An aerial view of Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos</p>