Summer Olympics 2016

Changing Rio

Rio de Janeiro in an Olympic year. A city in turmoil. A first image dwells on the prefab slabs of concrete for new underground lines. It’s not enough to build only sports-related installations – the entire city has to be fitted out with new routes above and below the surface. It’s not a question of just transporting visitors and athletes to the Games, but above all of bringing together the 12 million inhabitants of this megalopolis. Having been abandoned, the harbour district has been brought back to life and the harbour itself redeveloped to transform Rio into a cultural and financial centre. The city needs to shine with all the power and beauty which made it famous before 1960, when it was still the capital of Brazil. In the favelas, a broad policy known as “pacification” has been implemented to put an end to the image of the “Cidade Partida”, a city divided into rich and poor. For a long time Rio has been the symbol of social injustice. Will it emerge the big winner of the Olympic Games, a modern and harmonious city? Or will we remember a great event but without anything really changing? The Swiss photographer Michael von Graffenried used the justification of this turmoil to focus his gaze on the megalopolis. The fascinating result is this series of panoramic photographs of the two sides of Rio de Janeiro at crunch time.

Link to the book

Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprinter

“... I think there’s no more I can do to prove I'm a great athlete. But I think that if I want to be at the level of Pelé, Ali and all those guys, I need to defend my titles at least once more and do something that nobody has done before. This is my focus and that is what I will do in Brazil ...”

Thomas Bach, IOC president 

“... There is strong support for the Olympic Games in Brazil and we have expectations of working with the new government to carry out a successful Olympics in Rio ...”

Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil

“I will be very sad because I think we did a very good job. (...) I would love to participate in the Games because I helped build them. From the moment we accepted the list of responsibilities, I was present as chief of staff.”

Alvaro Dias,  politician

“The Olympics have already been held in Japan, Britain and other places. Japan even said it was able to hold them. And if there isn’t a plan B, it’s not our problem. The problem for Brazil is to preserve our resources, public money, and set priorities. We can’t afford to hold a party to which the people were not invited.”

The Guardian

“With 100 days to go until the Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro enters the final straight looking more like a classic banana republic than a modern emerging economy about to take its seat among the world leaders.”

Pau Gasol, Spanish basketballer player

“I am considering not going to Rio de Janeiro because of the Zika virus.”

André Regli, Swiss ambassador to Brazil

“... The Olympics will provide an oxygen load to the Brazilian people in this difficult economic situation ...”

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former Brazilian president, speaking in 2009

“... Our time has come! It has come! Among the ten largest economies in the world, Brazil is the only country that has not hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games ...”

Edouardo Paes, mayor of Rio de Janeiro

“... The Olympics always means an opportunity to transform the city ...”

Christophe Vauthey, Swiss deputy consul general

“... The cornerstone of the Olympic project was the urban transformation that Rio de Janeiro had not had for decades ...”

John Coates, IOC vice-president

“... It’s the worst preparation I've ever experienced ... We have become very concerned. They are not ready in many, many ways ... In Athens, we were dealing with one government and some city responsibilities. In Rio, there are three levels of government [federal, state and city] ...”


Michael von Graffenried,


Thomas Kern
Felipe Schärer Diem