What Olympics and Paralympics have done for Rio

Brazilian 5-a-side Football gold medalist Ricardinho carries the Brazilian flag into the Maracan Stadium during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Rio Olympics were the first Games in South America

It's been a long, emotional summer in Rio.

The confident, booming country that was awarded the right to host the Games back in 2009 is very different to the troubled, economically challenged Brazil that we see today.

For weeks Brazil and the host city of Rio de Janeiro have been engaged in an epic struggle to convince the world that it was the right choice to hold a first ever Games in South America in a country that, arguably, had more important priorities.

At times the so-called "marvellous city" has absolutely felt up to the challenge. New sporting venues have, by and large, staged great events and many of the things we thought might be problematic issues before the first opening ceremony on 5 August - like the Zika virus and security for visitors - the organisers took in their stride.

At other times, Rio has fallen short. Behind the scenes, Olympic officials talk about too much having been made ready at the last minute, a feeling of "crisis management" and of broken promises.

If the constant stench of untreated sewage in the lagoon that surrounds the Olympic Park wasn't enough to embarrass city and state officials over their hollow environmental pledges, then perhaps nothing can.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Rio mayor Eduardo Paes said the city's people had been enriched by the Games

Rio de Janeiro's controversial and sometimes outspoken mayor is Eduardo Paes. In many ways he is the political "face" of Rio 2016 and he certainly feels vindicated when challenged about the rights and wrongs of putting on these mega-events in what is a still developing, socially unequal country.

"It's arrogant to say these events don't belong in the developing world," Mr Paes said when we met this week at a new transport interchange in Rio - one of the many Olympic legacies the mayor insists would not have happened, had it not been for the impetus of holding the Games.

"We showed in Brazil that these Games have been for everyone with lots of legacies for the city," he said. "We still have a lot of problems here but people's lives are much better because of the Games so let's not be prejudiced about where we hold these events in future."

Aspiring Paralympian

The Paralympic Games, which finished this weekend, certainly felt more inclusive than their Olympic counterpart.

The prospect of swathes of empty venues forced organisers to slash Paralympic ticket prices, allowing thousands of Brazilians who'd been priced out of the Olympics to witness and be inspired by some top quality international sport.

Image caption Davi Texeira said he dreams of becoming a Paralympian

If the Olympic and Paralympic Games are all about inspiration and encouragement, then in Davi Texeira they could have a future champion.

The 11 year old, from Rio, is sports mad. He is already an accomplished surfer. We met him at a city centre skate park, where he's working on his dream to become a future Paralympian.

"Sport is my life because without sport I'm not Davi. I wouldn't be who I am today," he said, brimming with confidence.

Davi was born without fully developed limbs but he's not been discouraged, despite the haphazard nature of facilities for children like him in Brazil.

"Davi doesn't see any barriers - he does what he wants and has overcome a lot in his life already," said his mother Denise. "He loves the Olympics and knows it's a unique moment in his life."

But, she added, "as a mother it's a constant struggle to get improvements. Transport facilities here are pretty bad and getting around isn't easy, but things have improved in the run up to the Games".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The cost of staging the Games has left the city and state of Rio virtually broke

Davi lives in a country where 40% of disabled children don't go to school, where there's a huge gap in equality of opportunity depending on race or social background. That has to change, say campaigners, if Brazil is to build on Rio 2016.

The cost of staging the Games has left the city and state of Rio virtually broke. Providing 80,000 extra security personnel, for example, doesn't come cheap.

And while the tourists may leave happy, what happens in the rest of this notoriously violent city when budgets for policing programmes in Rio's favelas are cut?

In the past few weeks, Brazilians have found new Olympic and Paralympic heroes - Rafaela Silva, Daniel Diaz and Thiago Braz.

But, facing a difficult economic climate, there are tough funding decisions to come which could make or break the sporting ambitions of youngsters, like Davi Texeira, who've been inspired by what they've been part of this summer in their own city.

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