Plagued by violence, white elephant sports facilities and corruption scandals, Rio de Janeiro today is unrecognizable from the feel-good city greeting the world at the Olympics exactly a year ago.
Rio was the first South American city to hold the Summer Games and organizers were credited with staging a successful show – from the moving opening ceremony to the exploits of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and US swimming superman Michael Phelps.
But as soon as the athletes packed their bags and cameras stopped rolling, barely hidden problems erupted.
Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio during the Olympics, said he had made the city, boosted by the temporary deployment of 50,000 troops, “the safest place in the world.”
Last month, the army had to return, sending some 8,500 soldiers to support Rio’s cash-strapped police in their brutal fight against narco gangs ruling with near impunity in swaths of the city’s favelas.
Muggings have rocketed in richer neighborhoods, parts of the favelas are like war zones, and stray bullets fired from high powered rifles mean that no one is safe.
The last few weeks have seen gunfights spill several times onto the major highway passing the international airport, forcing drivers to stop and hide behind their cars.