Rio’s Olympic Games

Games without Icons


The mediatic opening and closing ceremonies (including the usual fireworks, which in this case could be watched from favelas as well) did not manage to cover up what truly distinguished the Rio de Janeiro Games from previous Olympics: the absence of architectural icons. Under the scrutiny of a nation never before so disgruntled with the squander of politicians (including a President Dilma Rousseff facing impeachment), and with world opinion no longer believing in the ‘Brazilian miracle,’ the Rio Games took on a low profile. Only the alarm raised by the Zika virus and the cases of incompetent dealing with its spread generated news that was not purely sporting news. The situation of the country – immersed for some years now in a double economic and political crisis – made the Games less a celebration of Brazil’s emerging power than a clear confirmation of the limits of its growth and the difficulties of measuring up to the developed countries. So it was that there was no place for the urbanistic ambition that characterized London 2012, let alone for anything resembling the hyperbolic staging of Chinese might in Beijing 2008. Instead, moderation was the general tone of a project which architecturally offered nothing of interest beyond the use (time and again) of the lure of Maracaná Stadium. “We do not want the Rio de Janeiro Games to be remembered for its innovations, but for its athletes,” said the organizers. And true enough, the Games of Rio will never be ‘Los del Río’ (wordplay using the name of a Spanish pop duo); the Rio Olympics will probably just bring to mind names like Phelps, Bolt, or Biles.

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