South America

Olympic fight with favela at flashpoint

Rio de Janeiro municipal guards and shock troops have overseen the demolishing of houses at a favela which borders the Olympic Park precinct.

The battle between a Rio de Janeiro favela and Olympic organisers has reached flashpoint, with officials demolishing houses in a move residents say is an embarrassment to Brazil.

Some residents at the Vila Autodromo favela, which borders Rio's Olympic Park, have been resisting forced evictions so Olympic organisers can build access roads to the Games precinct.

Rio deployed Municipal Guards and shock troops on Wednesday local time (Thursday AEDT) to oversee the demolition of homes and buildings which have been central to the favela's resistance, residents and a non-government organisation say.

Residents learnt on Monday three symbolic centres of the favela's resistance had been approved for demolition by a city judge.

The judge's order related to the community's resident's association building and houses belonging to Maria da Penha and Heloisa Helena, a Candomble priestess whose house doubles as a religious centre for Afro-Brazilian Candomble.

Da Penha and Helena have resisted being evicted but about 600 residents of Vila Autodromo have accepted resettlement packages and have had their houses demolished.

In the latest move, officials demolished the resident's association building and Helena's house, with da Penha's house expected to be demolished within 24 hours.

"I am embarrassed by this country," former resident Jane Nascimento said.

"My house has fallen but my fight has not ended."

Theresa Williamson, executive director of Catalytic Communities, a Rio-based non-government organisation, described the demolitions as a "barbaric act".

"This week is the culmination of six years of struggle and resistance in the community of Vila Autodromo against the social exclusion exacerbated by the Olympic Games," Williamson told AAP.

The demolitions were despite Rio's Mayor Eduardo Paes saying "only those who want to go will go" from the favela, she said.

"At dawn, dozens of Municipal Guard and shock troops entered the community and opened up space around the association (building)," Williamson said.

"In less than five minutes the building, with so much history, meaningful to so many, was a pile of rubble."

The favela's residents have legal title to the land after 99-year concession of use was awarded in the 1990s by the state government.

Residents maintain evictions and demolitions were not being made solely to make way for access roads to Olympic Park in the affluent Rio suburb of Barra da Tijuca.

They believe the land will be sold post-Olympics by multi-billionaire developer Carlos Carvalho, who has spent close to $A350 million on Olympic Park and the athletes' village - and also invested heavily in the election campaigns of Mayor Paes.

His company Carvalho Hosken owns six million square metres of land in Barra and its Olympic precinct.

"We know that everything happening here is not because of the Olympics," resident Sandra Maria said, vowing to continue fighting being evicted.

"When these buildings that Carlos Carvalho says he will build are constructed here, we will be here."

Carvalho has previously said a favela like Vila Autodromo isn't part of his picture of Barra de Tijuca as a suburb of "noble housing, not housing for the poor".

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