RIO DE JANEIRO — Like most Brazilians, Evandro dos Santos’ devotion to soccer borders on the religious. Even when he wasn’t watching a game, he loved hearing the roar of the crowd in nearby Maracana stadium – this nation’s temple to the sport.
But Santos says he’ll never set foot in the place again.
Rio de Janeiro is giving the stadium’s neighborhood a $63.2 million facelift as it prepares to play host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Maracana will be the jewel crowning both events, with the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and the final World Cup match held within its storied blue and gray walls.
The shantytown where Santos has lived with his family for 19 years, known as Favela do Metro, does not fit in that picture. It’s being bulldozed; hundreds of families have been bought out as part of a “revitalization” process for the big events and the hordes of foreigners they will draw.
“They’re destroying our neighborhood for a game,” Santos said, standing in the convenience store and bar he runs in the front of his family’s house.
All across Rio, people are being pushed out of their homes in dozens of communities like Metro to make way for new roads, Olympic venues and other projects.
Jorge Bittar, head of Rio’s housing authority, said Friday that about 15,000 families have been resettled in Rio the past three years. He said the majority of those were families displaced by landslides or floods as well as families moved out of areas at risk.
Documents show that in 2010 alone, the municipal housing authority made 6,927 payments for resettlement costs, rent supplements or buy-outs to people in 88 communities across Rio.
Nationwide, about 170,000 people are facing threats to their housing, or already have been removed, in the 12 cities that will host World Cup matches, according to the Coalition of Popular Committees for the World Cup and the Olympics, an advocacy group for residents of the affected shantytowns.