In the hills that hug Maracana Stadium, many Brazilians saw the flash and glitz of the opening ceremony for the Olympics from rooftops with exposed wiring and water pipes, amid trash-filled streets separated from the spectacle by a highway and train tracks.
Mangueira is but one of the thousand favelas in Rio de Janeiro, a slum marred by gang violence and poverty that sits squarely in the shadow of the pageantry of South America’s first Olympic Games. In this neighborhood of tattered homes, the next two weeks are a visceral reminder of the lines dividing the city’s haves and have-nots, and the opening gala just down the road punctuated those differences with every crackle and pop.
“The poor, we don’t really get to experience the Olympics. We are close in distance, but far away,” said Luiz Alberto Araujo, a 30-year-old doorman who works in the posh Ipanema beach but lives in the slums. “We still have fun, but this party is for foreigners, for the rich.”
Araujo watched the gala from the rooftop of a lime green house high on a hill in Mangueira, occasionally staring in silence at the stadium where, inside, athletes and fans cheered a supermodel strolling across a stage and Grammy-winning musicians performing samba.
Even from afar, the party was a momentary distraction for many of Mangueira’s 40,000 or so souls, offering a brief respite from the country’s persistent economic and political woes.
But they warned: Don’t confuse temporary joy with lasting satisfaction.
“I like having my family over. Of course, it would be a lot better to be right there,” Sandra Prado, a teacher, said as she pointed toward the Maracana. “But those prices are impossible for us.”