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The Permeable Olympic Fortress

Mega-Event Security as Camouflage in Rio de Janeiro

Dennis Pauschinger


This article reconsiders sport mega-event security in the context of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The article essentially argues that the mega-event organizers used a security spectacle to camouflage Rio's politics of death in the many favelas and peripheral neighborhoods. Conceptually, this contribution centralizes different notions of spectacle and camouflage and situates both in the history of violent and racial policing of the poor in Brazil. Empirically, the piece explores, across three sections, how (1) the city was transformed into a spectacular fortress by adapting standardized mega-event security measures to the specific public security conditions in Rio; (2) the Olympic fortress was nonetheless selectively porous and permeable; and (3) the spectacle served to camouflage the otherwise deadly police deployments of socio-spatial patterns along lines of class and racial inequalities.