Stark contrast between Brazil's beauty, poverty

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Tom Ecker, correspondent

Editor's note: Tom Ecker of Cedar Rapids is an Olympic historian.

 

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Today is sightseeing day in Rio. We began in the morning by taking the modern 60-passenger cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, a quarter of a mile above the city. The views from atop Sugarloaf are spectacular. This is truly a beautiful city.

Then we motored past both the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, where large crowds were enjoying the waves and the many colorful beachside shops. Among the shops was an official Olympic store, where tourists can buy all sorts of souvenirs with Olympic rings on them, as long as they are paid for with a Visa card. Another Olympic store was selling tickets to upcoming Olympic events.

Contrasting with the beauty of the “Marvelous City” of 6.5 million people are the hillside slum areas called favelas. There are almost 2 million people living in poverty in the favelas, which we only saw from a distance.

Watching the Olympics on Brazilian television can be quite a challenge. Although there are many local stations carrying the various Olympic events, all of the commentary on every channel is in Portuguese. And every channel always features a Brazilian athlete or team. You can see a few American competitions, but only if there are also Brazilians involved in the same event. Sometimes the TV features a split screen so two Brazilian teams can be seen at the same time.

The Brazilians can’t seem to get enough of themselves.

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