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What is Rio's Olympic legacy? It depends on whom you talk to in Brazil

One year after the Rio Olympics, many of the city's favelas still lack running water or proper sewage removal. Mario Tama/Getty Images

RIO DE JANEIRO -- What is the Olympic legacy in Rio and Brazil one year after the 2016 Summer Games? It depends on whom you ask.

One side will say this: "The legacy we now have in Rio de Janeiro is an extremely negative one. There's a very unequal city, with distant communities, its poor were relegated to areas away from those with high real estate value, and there's a political discourse that [is not honest]."

Then, there's this argument: "We have a very important legacy for the city. Rio's transformation is remarkable. There's now a subway, a light rail, a tourist area, a port. Those legacies are part of history, and there will be very few cities in the world able to pull such a feat off."

Both statements were made by two very different people, and the contrast shows quite vividly what most cariocas think about the city's legacy from the Olympics. The first comment is from Giselle Taneka, a representative from the Popular Committee for the World Cup and the Olympics and a vocal critic of what the Games have meant for the city. The latter comes from none other than Carlos Arturo Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee.

But no matter the side one takes, there is an actual Olympic hangover in Rio, which faces a yearly debt of $14 million. Most facilities are abandoned and, a year after the Games, officials are still scrambling to find solutions.

"There's a project for using the Olympic Legacy, which has been in place for quite some time," says Paulo Márcio Mello, president of the Olympic Legacy Governmental Authority (AGLO). "It's already been developed and brought to the mayor's office before the federal government took over the management of four facilities in the Olympic Park area.

"Our main challenge is to occupy Olympic Park with a consistent calendar of events," he added. "We have hosted several events and there are some other ones already confirmed. Now, we need to keep adding events, sporting and otherwise, with the participation of the Rio people."

What Brazil didn't plan for is the large, 1.4 million square-meter space especially built for the Games: Olympic Park, located in the Barra de Tijuca section of Rio. What used to be a source of pride for Brazilians is now considered by some a large headache. Officials hoped private investors would take over Olympic Park and run it, but that didn't happen.

"The legacy of sporting facilities, its management, lies with its owners," Nuzman said. "So, they can use them in a positive way. The Brazilian Olympic Committee and the sporting federations are willing to start cooperating; however, they have no money for maintaining them. They do have one very important element, though: experience."

And the common citizen is the one who suffers the most. Out of every 100 jobs that vanished in Brazil during the past few months, 81 were located in Rio.

"I work at a hotel, and I see the struggles they're going through," says Adao Oliveira, a street vendor who had two jobs during the Olympics, one of them in a hotel. "Other hotels are going through the same thing. Unfortunately, there were too many hotels built and they didn't think of how many tourists would come up after the Games."

"We are seeing claims that private corporations are no longer providing services they should be providing due to the fact they are not being paid. There were too many investments in all the wrong places."

Giselle Taneka, a representative from the Popular Committee for the World Cup and Olympics

The problems won't stop there. As part of a recent investigation by ESPN Brazil, the abandoned parks and pools that are filled with feces from insects and capybaras come with a monthly $57,000 bill, and more than $950,000 was spent on electricity alone so far this year. Some of the cost went toward powering the air conditioning of the velodrome, essential for keeping a floor imported from Siberia in good shape (an optimum temperature between 18 and 26 degrees Celsius is needed).

Then, in a sad twist of events, there was a fire at the facility after a flying lantern dropped on the roof. Several weeks before the fire, the Rio de Janeiro local government handed over management to the federal government due to the high cost of maintenance ($3.4 million a year).

The debate gets worse when the legacy's consequences for the city are discussed. Every day, local newscasts carry stories of unfinished public transportation facilities and claims of corrupt local officers. All Rio 2016 expenses totaled more than $12 billion, with 43 percent spent on public investment, infrastructure and urban mobility works.

"The state government and the local prefecture used to tell us that the Olympics would be paid with private money, and we see that didn't happen," Tanaka said. "One of the most expensive examples is the Porto Maravilha, a port project which would presumably be made with public money. Now we are seeing claims that private corporations are no longer providing services they should be providing, due to the fact they are not being paid.

"There were too many investments in all the wrong places."

The Federal Attorney General's office is also keeping a close eye on the issue. Attorney Leandro Mitidier says there was never a concrete plan for the facilities.

"This bombastic Olympic Legacy announcement as a public-private partnership was simply wishful thinking," Mitidier says. "Private capital never appeared. Then, the mayor's office asks the federal government for help. It takes on an issue it was never ready for. No projects, no planning. ... There were no plans for the legacy. There were ideas but no planning. There was no Plan B. The whole plan was [supposed to be] a public-private partnership. And, if it didn't happen, there was no Plan B."