During the opening ceremony at last summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the thousands of athletes who streamed into Maracana Stadium each carried a seed packet in their hand. They deposited the seeds into a large, slotted mirror, and it was explained that this would later form the basis for the Athletes’ Forest, a key element of a park that would be created in Deodoro, an area of the city that hosted a cluster of Olympic venues.
Such a nice idea, that. Deodoro is not a wealthy area, and the opportunity to create a legacy greenspace was often cited as an important benefit of the Games. Having trees that would tie directly to the memories of the athletes themselves was just a bonus.
Ten months later, the elements of that opening scene are an awkward microcosm of Rio 2016. Deodoro remains a cluster of now-unused venues, not a park. The seeds are presumably sitting in a facility somewhere, if they haven’t been claimed by creditors. And Maracana Stadium has been looted and vandalized when operators couldn’t pay to maintain it. The power was turned off and security contractors went home.
The Olympic legacy of Rio is fast becoming one of regret.