On one side of the wall are the bright, new, welcoming Olympic facades for Rio 2016. On the other, a drug den guarded by armed traffickers.

As the first of 10,000 athletes start to arrive in Rio, they will pass the vivid murals, pasted onto a 3m-high barrier, stretching for 8km along the motorway out of the international airport.

But the colourful partition hides the inequality that polarises the Olympic city as it prepares to welcome the world.

Behind it lies Mare, a complex of 16 favela communities where life goes on under gang rule, except for when under-resourced police carry out increasingly frequent, bloody raids.


Organisers have spent more than R$200,000 ($84,300) covering the wall ahead of the Games, claiming it is a decoration and not a disguise.

But in Nova Holanda, one of the communities that sits alongside the motorway and where drug traffickers man a makeshift checkpoint at the entrance, there is no sign of the Olympic spirit.

"For us here, in my community, it hasn't helped us in anything.," said Gilmar Rodrigues Gomes, president of the residents' association in the neighbourhood, where traffickers loiter on street corners, carrying rifles and pistols.

Wedged between two parallel main roads, Nova Holanda - home to around 30,000 people - is visible from the motorway only through the occasional missed panel in the barrier.

The complex was occupied by the army during the World Cup and had been due to be "pacified" or occupied by community police, an initiative that has stalled amid Rio's financial crisis.

As workers pasted the Rio 2016 fascia to what locals have branded the "wall of shame", favela residents said the only thing that has changed is the increase in violent police operations.

Last week, residents told community network Mare Vive that they woke up to police raiding their homes in the latest operation, ostensibly to control drug trafficking.

"I was sleeping with my children, my husband was at work and they invaded my home," one mother said.

"He didn't have an ounce of respect... What are the police for if we're not even safe with them?"

Antonio Pedro, tourism secretary for Rio, insisted City Hall was putting up Olympic posters along the main tourist routes to animate the city and give it the "look" of an Olympic host.

But Gomes said: "There was no reason. They came and put it [the wall] up. They isolated us."