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Artists divided over Rio Olympic Games

Doubts hang over city's ability to provide public services during event as Brazil's financial troubles deepen

As Brazil’s second largest city prepares to host the Olympic Games, which open this week, Rio de Janeiro's economic woes have forced the federal government to provide additional funding for the games. The country’s uncertain situation is reflected in the reactions of artists from Brazil and abroad, who have come out both in support of and against the games.

“It is rather unfortunate that the Olympics are happening now,” said Adriana Varejão, a local artist who was commissioned by the Olympic committee to cover the outer walls of its aquatics facilities with a photographic reproduction of her mural Celacanto Provoca Maremoto (coelacanth causes tsunami, 2004-08). Speaking to The Art Newspaper in June, Varejão said there is still "a positive side" to the event. “Athletes are coming from all over the world for this, and I want to welcome them to my city with this work.”

The Japanese artist Mariko Mori is also optimistic. “I believe that art could embrace the positivity and the creative force in building a bright future.” Her installation, a ring suspended above a waterfall, just over an hour’s drive from Rio de Janeiro, changes colour from gold to blue.

Those critical of the games have staged an exhibition to highlight how much Rio has suffered to host them. Permanências e Destruições (permanence and destruction), organised by João Paulo Quintella, has works installed in an abandoned tower designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Sculptures there address the environmental disaster caused by the rapid development of the area where the games are being held.