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This article derives from the ongoing ESRC funded project "Sex work in the context of sports mega events: Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. Authorities have spent billions to ready the city, and each time tourists flocked in, local businesses braced for a bumper season.
Nowhere is this clearer than in Centro, the downtown area of Rio, tucked in the shadow of the newly-constructed Olympic Boulevard. Once home to the historic red light district, Centro has since become the beating heart of big business, with towering office blocks bearing the names of major corporations such as Petrobras, BG, Total, Chevron, Electrobras, BNDES and Vale. And yet, a closer look at the shop fronts suggests the presence of another kind of commerce.
The Rose Without Thorn is nestled in a quiet lane, not far from the Saara — a street market that is usually crammed with pedestrians. As an illegal brothel operating within the financial district, it survived, even thrived, alongside the decade-long Olympic facelift. But the music, which ricochets down the narrow staircase entrance and into the street, hints at something more. Inside, working-class men perch on stools, often alone with chopp Brazilian draft beer in hand, while women move throughout the house in barely-there lingerie and high-heeled shoes.
Now 24, her work is the sole source of income for her and her two children. As Pedro the manager says: In Brazil, sex work has forever existed as a semi-legal, entrepreneurial pursuit for those in search of financial stability and social security.
As such, places such as Rose Without Thorn operate at the discretion of law enforcement and a local elite. As Rafael, a civil servant, explained: Inside the cubicle-sized office space on the third floor of the brothel, the bass of the funk music is muffled by chatter. At the time, Brazil was named as the first Latin American host of an internationally-recognised sporting mega-event, and it was on the brink of economic boom. The Lula oil field formerly, Tupi old field was found in , off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, and with it came the promise of economic prosperity.