by Barbara Walton
I’m Rio roving, covering other sides of the Olympics from a first time view.
I’m not in the sport venues but outside for a different angle.
In four days, I’ve hit the famous Copacabana Beach to see the sun rise, deserted before dawn when the showy day trippers are replaced by homeless men and women who sleep there with plastic bags of their possessions.
I have entered the notorious favela City of God… (remembering in 2002 when the film was released how shocked I was after leaving the screening) – climbed the steep side of another favela Pereira da Silva and photographed the really talented children that Briton Tom Ashe has organized into a brass band on their own Olympic performance marathon.
I’ve covered a government protest and seen the residents of Vila Autodromo next to the Olympic Park move their possessions from their demolished houses into new white dwellings provided to them as unwelcome replacements as the last houses are pushed over by a bulldozer.
The most challenging thing I’m facing is learning the frustrating task of timing. How to take photos on the street when its best to keep your camera in your bag and unseen because of safety concerns, and to figure out if it is safe to go where I want to. I am not used to having to think so carefully about these issues.
On the streets I take one set camera and two lenses. But based out of Copacabana, walking with cameras slung over your shoulder is asking for trouble… and has only been possible for me for a time on the Caroica’s (Rios residents Sunday) which is a huge party and festival day here when thousands of residents come to hit the beach, stroll, or socialize and show off all of their body shapes, run and bike, and take their children and their grandmothers along the boulevard.
“Be careful and remember it’s a dangerous city”, says colleague efe photographer Marcelo Sayao a long time resident of Rio from his years of experience, just as I start to get frustrated with the photos I may have got if my camera was more at hand and think I will just let my guard down and do what I want. Complacency is not good here but nor is paranoia about safety. We go to take a look at Guanabara Bay and the issue of sailing, and while it is cleared around the immediate competition area, on other shores the stench and litter strewn across the beach is appalling.
Throughout Rio I hear people lament – we had the Olympics and they could have done something real for the future like cleaning the waterways but it has not been. Or like solving some of the real social issues that abound. So much criticisms about displaced money circles these Olympics. It is a very big question to me how the days ahead develop.
Will Olympic spirit take over to make these a really fantastic Olympics?