One Year On: Pictures Show Abandoned Rio Olympic Park's Failed Legacy
On the evening of August 21, 2016, the world watched as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, brought the curtain down after hosting another memorable Olympic Games.
For Team GB, it was the most successful games ever. Sixty-seven medals, 27 of which were gold, helped to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Sadly, it's only memories that will remain, because the legacy of those Olympics is somewhat limited for the hosting nation. The purpose-built stadia are currently lying in a state of disrepair, only 365 days after they were last used competitively.
LADbible spoke to two members of Team GB who were at those games: swimmer Dan Wallace, who won silver in the men's 4x200m relay, and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, who was part of the men's 4x100m relay final.
The strangest part for both, like many of us, was just how quickly the last 12 months have gone by.
"It's been a pretty mad year since Rio but it was such a mad event for us all to be part of. It's crazy that it was a year ago," Dan explained to LADbible.
Harry agreed: "As I've gotten older I've made a point of embracing every moment. I've got fond memories of Rio, being there and competing. But it's madness that it's been a year."
Dan Wallace, alongside James Guy, Duncan Scott and Stephen Milne, finished as runner-up to the American 4x200m relay team, but the pool that hosted the race is now empty and deserted.
The swimming pool. Credit: PA
"It's really sad," Dan said. "The facilities they had for us were top class - when we were there they were amazing and full of energy. It's upsetting that they've not the capability to keep up the same energy - a lot of them are run down and deserted now. It's a real shame.
"Four years ago, we were lucky enough to host the Olympics in London, and if you look back now those facilities are still up and running.
"They did put on a great show for us in the swimming pool, but these days it's just a hole in the ground."
The athletes village. Credit: PA
Harry raced alongside fellow Brits Richard Kilty, James Ellington and Adam Gemili, ultimately losing out to a Jamaican team that included the legendary Usain Bolt. They came fifth overall, but it's the memories of the stadium that still stand strong in his mind.
He told LADbible: "Being in that Olympic Stadium, it was surreal. There was so much energy in the stadium. I was in Lane One, and before the race started I was looking behind me at the crowds; it's amazing how you can pinpoint certain people. Everyone waiting to watch Bolt, I could see it on their faces."
The impact of the games extended beyond the athletes themselves, of course. Bel Seixas is an Australian native who moved to Brazil three years ago and continues to live in Rio today. She now works at Caminhos, a Portuguese language school helping those tho have immigrated to Brazil to learn the language.
"It was amazing to be in Rio at the time," she told LADbible. "There was such a vibe. Before the Olympics there were so many concerns as to whether the stadia would be built in time, but everyone pulled together.
"Rio is a dynamic city and everyone was excited. People were intrigued by Rio, and came together to see a beautiful city, a beautiful country, and be part of it."
Harry said: "There won't be a legacy, but there would have been a lot of inspired athletes. Watching that pole vault final when the Brazilian (Thiago Braz Da Silva) beat Renaud Lavillenie... that was a massive moment for them, winning that gold, and I'm sure that would have inspired the next generation.
"But looking at the facilities elsewhere, nothing has come from the stadium [with] the potential of training facilities. There may be a few talented youngsters with nowhere to go."
Credit: Olympic Channel
It's made even worse when you look at previous Olympics in Beijing (2008) and London (2012), even stretching to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (2014), where the main stadia are still in use.
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Most of the arenas are run by the Brazilian Sports Ministry because no private company or local authority can afford, or wants to take on the huge running costs.
One official, who worked on the games, told the BBC: "I never once had a conversation about legacy, at any point or in any discussion I had working on the games.
"This is the games where we were scrambling to put the event on, on a day-by-day basis. There was no time to think about what was going to happen the day after the game finished."
Bel Seixas said it was saddening that the stadiums could not be maintained.
"Everything could have been put to great use," she added. "Brazil has so many different issues with corruption and people in high levels that these buildings are not a priority.
"Some of these places could have been used for anything. I see pictures of the stadiums on Facebook, and it's frustrating to know that people were pulled out of those areas and replaced to build the infrastructure, yet these buildings are now going to rot."
Elsewhere, the Velodrome track is warping through water damage and the water park, for the canoe slalom, was meant to become a public pool. It remains empty.
When London won the bid to host the 2012 games it used one word: legacy. Inspiring the next generation of athletes.
Dan said: "I've raced in the Olympic pool since 2012 and it's a facility we still get to use and race in the pool that the great Olympians use.
"We've just had the world athletic championships, and the facilities they are using there are the same as 2012, we obviously invest a lot of money in those complexes, and it's just a shame that Brazil couldn't do that.
"Whoever hosts the next Olympics, they need to look at the situation in Brazil and learn from that. However much money they put in, they [must] have the flexibility to keep those up and running."
Harry, who raced in the 2017 World Athletics Championships at the London Stadium, added: "When you look at London 2012, one of the main ways they won the bid was talking about the youth and the legacy that came with it - Dina Asher-Smith was a kit carrier for Usain Bolt on his 200m final. They are now in the team that are going to run five years later.
"It's sad to see the state of disrepair. Heartbreaking isn't the word; it's disappointing, because you'd like to think you could go back and make new memories. I couldn't do 2012, but here I am with another opportunity."
Both athletes have a clear message for Tokyo in 2020, and then Paris and Los Angeles for 2024 and 2028 respectively.
Dan explained to LADbible: "Whoever hosts the next few games, it's not just about the two-week period of the games, it's about setting up the future and using those facilities and using the two-week period of the championships to inspire the next generation to allow them to use the same complexes that we got to use.
"You know, they are building world class complexes, it's a real shame if they aren't kept up and running.
"London did a great job of delivering that legacy, and it does happen a lot, whether Olympics or Commonwealth Games we inspire the next generation and they are then in a position, eight years later, they get to do the same."
Harry added: "Obviously we had the squabble with West Ham taking the stadium [the east London football team moved into the stadium in 2016], but they are making use of it, and they are allowing us to use the stadium as well. The stadium is used on a regular basis for some kind of sport."
Brazil won't carry forward the legacy, but it will carry the memories for the athletes.
There were some minor improvements to public transport, public spaces and infrastructure as a result of the games, but as a sporting legacy, there remains nothing.
"The Rio crowd was amazing, the Brazilian fans are top class world class facilities packed out every night, I've been to a few world-level meets where the crowds have been amazing, but the Brazilian crowd stood out from the rest," explained Dan.
"It's the best games we've had, which was special to be part of, and we didn't realise that until we got off the plane after the games, but I think everyone involved felt pretty honoured to be part of that team."
Harry, similarly, said: "For Great Britain, it was our highest medal tally, it will always be a place we look back on with fond memories. Whether you got a medal or not, to be part of that was a great feeling."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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