Rio De Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro pulled off last year’s Olympics, keeping crime at bay and fending off dire forecasts of corruption, environmental degradation and cost overruns.

Six months after South America’s first Games, the floodgates have burst.

Rio organizers still owe creditors about $40 million. Four of the new arenas in the main Olympic Park have failed to find private-sector management, and ownership has passed to the federal government. Another new arena will be run by the cash-strapped city with Brazil stuck in its deepest recession in decades.

The historic Maracana stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremony, has been vandalized as stadium operators, Rio state government and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills. The electric utility reacted by cutting off all power to the city landmark.

There are few players for a new $20 million Olympic golf course and little money for upkeep. Deodoro, the second-largest cluster of Olympic venues, is closed and searching for a management company.

The state of Rio de Janeiro is months late paying teachers, hospital workers and pensions. The state also reports record-breaking crime in 2016 in almost all categories, from homicides to robbery.

“During the Olympics, the city was really trying hard to keep things together,” said Oliver Stuenkel, a Brazilian who teaches international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Brazilian university. “But the minute the Olympics were over, the whole thing disintegrated.”

Better image, or worse?

The Olympics — and to a lesser extent the 2014 World Cup — showcased the reality of Rio, a city romanticized for its sprawling beaches, annual Carnival celebration and sensual lifestyle.

It also exposed the city’s crime, environmental contamination and corruption.

Some building projects connected to the Olympics and World Cup have been tied to a probe that has led to the jailing of dozens of politicians and businessmen for receiving kickbacks in Brazil’s largest corruption scandal.

Three politicians who were instrumental in landing and organizing the Olympics — former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former Rio governor Sergio Cabral and former Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes — have been under investigation. Cabral, an early promoter of the Olympics and World Cup, has been jailed on corruption charges.

“The Olympics gave people a better sense of the difficulties Brazil faces,” Stuenkel said. “Maybe not a better or worse image, but more rounded.”

Unpaid bills

Sidney Levy, the chief executive officer of the Rio organizing committee, tried to run the Games with only private money — and almost succeeded. His $3 billion operating budget — the budget for running the Games, not building the infrastructure — was frugal by Olympic standards. At the last minute, he had to ask for an $80 million bailout from the city of Rio and federal government to run the Paralympics.

Eventually, he got only $30 million, and the shortfall has left organizers owing creditors millions.

Today, Levy says he’s nearly a forgotten man.

“I could call the president of the country, and the call was taken,” Levy said. “But try it today. I could call the IOC and everybody. But now people have other things to handle. We are no longer a priority.”

Levy said organizers probably lost about $200 million in income during the run-up to the Games as sponsors backed out of expensive deals when the recession kicked in.

Levy said he has not asked the IOC to help pay debts, but he acknowledged the Olympic body came up with millions in advance money several times during the run-up to the Games.

“The whole thing was too painful,” Levy said. “We never really enjoyed the Games, themselves; 2016 was just extremely hard. It’s like we were climbing Everest, and ice is falling on your lips, and you are not seeing.”

White elephants

The Olympic Park is a ghost town — sleek sports arenas without events, deserted before they were even broken in, and well-tended flower gardens, free from pedestrian wear-and-tear.

“The arenas are beautiful,” Wagner Tolvai said, walking inside the park with his girlfriend, Patricia Silva. “But it’s all abandoned; everything has stopped. Nobody is here.”

He likened the $800 million park to a new shopping mall “without stores, or customers.” The park is only open on weekends, and there’s not much to do but walk, pedal a bike or look for shade.

Four permanent arenas are being run by the federal government. Among them is the Olympic tennis center, which was used earlier this month for a one-day beach volleyball tournament. This, in a city with endless sand and beaches.

Two temporary venues for swimming and handball have yet to be dismantled.

The exterior of the swimming venue is falling apart, and many translucent tapestries that covered the outside of the building are frayed or falling to the ground.

The warmup pool, which was covered during the Games, is filled with muddy, stagnant water.

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