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What The Rio Olympics Mean For Zika And Favelas

What The Rio Olympics Mean For Zika And Favelas

With the Rio Olympics kicking off Friday, anticipation is building up and news is crowding the internet. Among much discussion, we would like to take a look into what this event means for Rio de Janeiro’s "favelas" (slums) and for the spread of the Zika virus.

God’s Cities

About 1.4 million people live in Rio’s favelas. However, these previously feared areas of the city have become, in recent years, an attraction for tourists looking for more “authentic” experiences — like staying in the world-famous Ipanema.

Media have repeatedly portrayed favelas as highly dangerous places, where kids and adults own assault weapons and battle on the narrow streets. However, the situation is not quite cut and dry; as a tourist, one might feel safer in a favela than in one of the city’s more posh neighborhoods like Copacabana.

In a recent Vice article, Angela Almeida and John Surico shared their takeaways from a visit to the Rocinha, Brazil's largest favela. André Felix, a 25-year-old Rocinha native said the favela was receiving more tourists than ever, and thus, more attention than ever.

Related Link: Rio Olympics & 'The Perfect Storm': Will The Games Be Held Anyways?

So, how are favela inhabitants capitalizing on this trend? For starters, accommodation offerings are booming; but also, one can find terraces with city views, walking tours, restaurants, souvenir shops…

However, the influx in tourism has also led to a rise in the cost of living in some of the most central favelas, like the Rocinha. And, let’s not even go into the “pacification” initiatives that the government unfolded over the past few years — which were not at all peaceful.


Another big subject related to the Olympics is the Zika virus. However, in spite of the widespread concerns, the risk is actually low. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently stated the event actually posed little risk of new outbreaks.

Related Link: Florida May Consider Use Of Scientifically Engineered Mosquitoes To Battle Zika

While comforting, the CDC’s report does not say that athletes are not at risk of contacting Zika — in reality, some might. What the note states is that holding the Olympics does not carry a large risk of generating outbreaks in countries where there hasn't already been exposure. The institutions determined that only four countries are at considerable risk as a result of the games: Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea and Yemen.

Wondering what it would take for the CDC to decide the Olympics posed a threat to health, scientists have taken a keen interest in forming multiple hypotheses. To lead study author and CDC health scientist Ardath Grills and her team, the answer was pretty clear: A less global world. Anna Maria Barry-Jester explicated in a FiveThirtyEight article, “If people traveled less, only then would the additional risk of travel to Rio for the games be concerning.”

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Disclosure: Javier Hasse holds no interest in any of the securities or entities mentioned above.


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