So close but a world apart - Olympic opening from a favela

Things would become dangerous if Thiago wasn't around. But Thiago is there.

Thiago is pretty tall, pretty strong and wears a singlet as he waits at a metro stadion near the iconic Maracana stadium. The 26-year-old also organizes the motorcycle taxis to bring you into a favela named Mangueira.

It is not the best idea for a gringo - meaning a white foreigner - to walk into a favela in Rio de Janeiro on his or her own at night because the risk of getting mugged is rather high, to say the least.

But people like Thiago allow the gringo a glimpse into this world, one that he would probably leave with empty pockets without his services.

Thiago, his girlfriend Jaqueline and a few friends have gathered on the rooftop of a small house in Mangueira.

They have a breathtaking view over the Maracana - where at the same time 50,000 have gathered for the glittering opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics right over to the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Germany won the World Cup title at the Maracana two years ago after thrashing Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals. Now Brazilian interim president Michel Temer is mercilessly jeered as he officially opens the first Games in South America.

While the stadium is roughly only two kilometres away, for Thiago, Jacqueline and the others it is in a different world they will never reach.

Anyone who lives in Mangueira can certainly not afford a ticket for the 12-billion dollar Games.

A mugging job may do the trick but Jacqueline tries to play down the danger.

"It is not really dangerous for strangers," she says. Mangueira is very quiet and known for its openness," she says.

But she does admit that "a gringo should not come in here on his own" because then it could become "perigoso" (dangerous) after all.

Jacqueline has dark dreadlocks, is pretty loud and rather stout. She only stops talking when she takes a sip from her beer.

Anyone in the company of Jacqueline, Thiago and their friends doesn't really think about danger. Jokes are cracked, there is a lot of laughter, beers, a few songs are sung and astonishment expressed when yet another firework has been launched from the Maracana.

"Are you serious," Jacqueline exclaims after another firework display. "Wow, damn, unbelievable."

The group gathers for a final time on the roof after the Olympic cauldron is lit and the sky sparkles in red, blue and green over the Maracana.

Then everything dissolves into grey smoke and it is time to go.

Things appear a bit tense when Thiago can't organize a motorcycle taxi for the way back to the metro and the distance has to be covered by foot.

But Thiago is there for the trek back through the narrow and winding streets of Mangueiro. "Tudo bem," all good.

Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 12:38

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