Olympic Games: The grounded reality of Rio from the sky


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Aerial photos show where everyday people play sports in Rio de Janeiro

Sport is the great equalizer in a city of considerable inequality

CNN —  

The Rio Olympics have been beset with problems before a single race has even been run.

Brazil is in the midst of its worst recession since the 1930s; a nationwide corruption scandal threatens to engulf President Dilma Rousseff; and the Zika virus poses a potential public-health emergency.

As the opening ceremony draws ever closer, it seems as though everyone has had their say on whether the Games should go ahead – but a couple of Italian photographers offer a perspective that has not yet been considered.

“Everything you see could be the stereotype and the very opposite, just depending on the look you have on the city,” said Edoardo Delille, who took these aerial photos of Rio with colleague Gabriele Galimberti. “That’s the reason we decided to use a drone, which gave our camera a zenith point of view.”

Photographers Edoardo Delille, right, and Gabriele Galimberti
Photographers Edoardo Delille, right, and Gabriele Galimberti

But this is not just Rio de Janeiro from above.

These images give glimpses of the everyday Rio that the Olympic stadia will overshadow.

They are a reminder of the evicted residents, new-found millionaires, and lasting reality once the great Olympic carnival has rolled by.

We see the sprawl of suburbia, encroaching modernity, and asphalt superhighways alongside small playgrounds.

The great equalizer

For many in Rio, life is sport.

And sport, at least while played, is the great equalizer in a city of considerable inequality.

“In the same outdoor sports field, you can find all of the social classes,” Delille said.

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“It’s people from the poorest favelas playing close to the rich people of Leblon, the richest neighborhood in the city.”

For a compilation of images taken from the skies, the final shots are distinctly grounded. A corrugated iron roof slowly rusts; a brick wall crumbles.

The portrayal is a far cry from the splendor of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium or the scope of London’s Olympic Village.

These are weathered facilities – the spaces the average Brazilian uses and will continue to use.


When Rousseff lit the Olympic torch in Brasilia, she declared, “This will be the most successful Olympic games in history.”

But what was initially seen as a blessing for Brazil has arrived at an inopportune time.

“At the time of shooting two months ago, we felt that political, economic and social problems were really serious in the city,” Delille said. “Everyone felt the crisis.”

He, for one, finds room for optimism.

“I hope the Olympics are going to have a lasting positive impact on the community,” he said. “I think they could immediately bring money and new energy.

“I’m not so sure about the future, but I think the Brazilian people will reinvent themselves again and they will find a positive solution. For the moment, they just enjoy every kind of sport. The show must go on!”

Edoardo Delille and Gabriele Galimberti are Italian photographers. They are part of the visual collective Riverboom represented by Institute.