The Americas

Six months after the Rio Olympics, decaying arenas and mounting debt

Six months after South America's first games, Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Park is a ghost town.

"The arenas are beautiful," Wagner Tolvai said, walking inside the park with his girlfriend Patricia Silva. "But it's all abandoned, everything has stopped. Nobody is here."

He likened the 2.5 billion real ($800 million) park to a new shopping mall "without stores, or customers."

The park is only open on weekends, and there's not much to do but walk, pedal a bike, or look for shade.

Four permanent arenas are being run by the federal government. Among them is the Olympic tennis center, which was used earlier this month for a one-day beach volleyball tournament. This in a city with endless sand and beaches.

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Two temporary venues for swimming and handball have yet to be dismantled. The exterior of the swimming venue is falling apart and many translucent tapestries that covered the outside of the building are frayed or falling to the ground.

The warmup pool, which was covered during the games, is filled with muddy, stagnant water.

Away from the park, the famous Maracana stadium has drawn the most attention. It was renovated for the 2014 World Cup at a cost of about $500 million. It was largely abandoned after the Olympics and Paralympics, and then hit by vandals who ripped out thousands of seats and stole televisions.

"The Maracana is the biggest symbol of the way the games were managed," said Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist at Rio de Janeiro State University.

Up the road from the Olympic Park, the $1 billion Athletes Village — it housed about 10,000 athletes — is fenced off and empty. The developer says it has sold only 260 of the 3,604 apartments. Now Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella is arranging low-cost loans for public employees to buy the units.

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Organizers still owe creditors about $40 million.

Rio de Janeiro pulled off last year's Olympics, keeping crime at bay and fending off dire forecasts of corruption, environmental degradation and cost overruns.

"During the Olympics, the city was really trying hard to keep things together," said Oliver Stuenkel, a Brazilian who teaches international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Brazilian university. "But the minute the Olympics were over, the whole thing disintegrated."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.