There’s a pretty big question in Rio that doesn’t have an answer just yet. How do the countless Olympic guests expected to stay in the luxury hotels lining the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema get from there to the Olympic Park without being stuck in hours of Rio’s least popular asset: its traffic?
The city thought it had a ready answer: an extension to its subway system, the Metro, known as Line 4, that would go from the beach areas, under all the car-clogged roads, almost all the way to the Olympic Park.
But with Brazil reeling from unprecedented political and economic turmoil, the plan hit a snag; it was meant to be ready in July, but organizers announced recently the timing would be a little tighter than expected.
It is now due to open on August 1 — just four days before the Games begin.
Today, the subway station nearest the Olympic Park is a hive of activity, packed with workers doing what organizers say are tests on the equipment, but clearly also some construction too.
Rodrigo Vieira, secretary of transportation for the state of Rio, is on hand to check on progress. Over the noise of construction work, he told us: “We are completely sure that everything will be done by August 1.
“Of course the schedule is tight, but we have 8,000 people working during the days and nights. Everything is on schedule.”
Across the city, the sound of jackhammers is at times overwhelming, as the city moves as fast as it can to fix the last bolts and apply the final coats of polish, ahead of the Opening Ceremony on August 5.
The highways all the way to the Olympic Park are lined with last-minute construction; it’s a dash to the finish line you often see ahead of huge sporting events, but one that has left some a little more disconcerted than usual, given the upheaval Brazil is going through at the moment.
Cabinet resignations, a bid to impeach former President Dilma Rousseff, an outbreak of Zika virus, a financial crisis — most countries could be forgiven for giving up even halfway through a list like that, but Brazil is fighting on.
When we visited the edge of the Olympic Park with just 66 days to go to the Games, another struggle was in evidence.
It was being led by Maria da Penha and Sandra Daniel. They are residents of a collection of homes called Vila Autodromo and for months they have steadfastly refused to get out of the way of the Olympic juggernaut.
When we visited the community in February, it was a few houses stronger. Now it is mostly rubble. The community of hold-outs has shrunk — some enticed away by new homes elsewhere.
But Sandra and Maria are staying put, waiting for new homes that the state is rushing to build, just a few meters away from their original houses.
Is Maria concerned the government might try to move her on before the Games? “I’m not afraid, as I don’t think they can,” she says. “Especially because it is very close to the Olympics. And if that happens we will start a protest right in the middle of the Olympics.”
It is a curious scene: a community living some five meters away from the edge of the Olympic Park, having new, tidier homes built, and refusing to leave, citing old property rights.
Even here the schedule is tight: they expect their new homes to be ready just 12 days before the Games begin.
The edge of the Olympic Park is a strange work in progress itself. When we were last here in February, the area was sealed.
Now you can simply walk in along its watery edge, where stagnant pools of lake water provide little comfort for those worried about the mosquito-born Zika virus.
We try to reach the home of Pedro Berto; in February he was holding out in his home on the water’s edge. Now it has been demolished — Pedro himself agreeing to move away.
One of the workers in the Park tells us security are often in fixed places, but they aren’t much in evidence when we were there. One guard sat idly by.
It is a bizarre moment: walking straight into what should be a secure zone weeks from now.
But Maria is relaxed that the safety measures seem somewhat laid-back. “It should be like that in every country, to walk freely”, she says.
“We were born to walk freely. I don’t know why they came up with so much security. A man does not make another man safe. Security comes from god.”