Heard of Rocinha? Don't worry if you haven't because you soon will. Every single day. Rocinha is Rio de Janeiro's largest favela, a melting pot of the poor and needy perched on the hillside in unregulated housing. It's a world of youth gangs, violent crime and drug dealing. It's a no-go zone for outsiders. It's a . . . storyteller's dream.

As Brazil's second-largest and most famous city prepares to welcome the world to the XXXI Olympiad, it will find itself in the spotlight as much as Usain Bolt or LeBron James. We'll see plenty of shots of suntanned bods at Ipanema and Copacabana and Christ the Redeemer will begin to feel ubiquitous, but nothing stirs a news editor's soul quite like the favelas.

Welcome to the world of poverty porn, where the plight of the poor is packaged up for the entertainment of the not-poor.

There'll be an unseemly race to see who can get their cameras deepest into Rio's most dangerous neighbourhoods. There'll be furtive piece-to-cameras with flak-jacketed reporters.


All the while, Brazil's massive middle-class will be wondering why their country is portrayed as some lawless outpost - a Portuguese-speaking Mogadishu without the Black Hawks down.

This is a country with crime and social mobility problems. There is a massive discrepancy between the wealthy few and impoverished masses, but Brazil is far from alone here.

The murder rate is high. Rio's rate of 30-35 per 100,000 people does not compare
favourably to New Zealand's rate of around 1:100,000. Many of these murders are connected to the drugs trade.

Brazil is also in the world's top 10 largest economies and is fast becoming an exporting powerhouse in things legal, with a burgeoning middle-class, but in the next 12 months, you'll discover that is nowhere as sexy a storyline as poo in the harbour.

Cariocas, the name for locals, are going to discover that hosting the Olympics is a double-edged sword. Like the good folk of Delhi discovered when hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2010, it is easier to fit stories to stereotype rather than try to alter people's perceptions.

They might also find the sharpest edge of that sword only unveils itself years from now.
The 1976 Olympics nearly bankrupted Montreal and the stadium - nicknamed the Big O but re-nicknamed the Big Owe - was finally paid off in 2006.

Many of the facilities built for the 2004 Athens Olympics are already unused and dilapidated, and part of Greece's near-terminal debt problems can be pinned to that three-week event. Even London, which saw a previously down-at-heel section of the city regenerated for 2012, has suffered since.

But that is a problem for the future. Right now, Rio is trying to change the way we think about it in the present.