Despite problems, Olympic city of Rio still something to see

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Postcards from Rio, both a marvel and a mess
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Postcards from Rio, both a marvel and a mess
Christ the Redeemer is seen from the Vista Chinesa (Chinese View) during sunrise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A bonde (tram) is seen in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Christ the Redeemer is seen atop the Corcovado mountain and the Botafogo beach during sunset in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Sugarloaf Mountain is seen from the sea-line of Praia Vermalha beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Christ the Redeemer is seen behind Morro da Coroa (Coroa slum) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) is seen during sunrise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An aerial view shows the Pedra da Gavea mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A bonde (tram) is seen on the Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches), an old aqueduct from the colonial era, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An aerial view shows people on Barra da Tijuca beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An aerial view shows people on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An aerial view shows the Christ the Redeemer atop the Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Cable cars overlook the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Sugarloaf Mountain is seen from the Santa Teresa neighbourhood during sunrise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An aerial view shows Christ the Redeemer atop the Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Sugarloaf Mountain is seen from the Vista Chinesa (Chinese View) during sunrise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The Rio de Janeiro skyline is pictured during sunset from Niteroi, Brazil, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Christ the Redeemer is seen atop the Corcovado mountain and the Botafogo beach during sunset in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A bonde (tram) is seen in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Morro Dois Irmao (Two Brothers Hill) is pictured from Pedra Bonita mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman is pictured at the Vista Chinesa (Chinese View) during sunrise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes SEARCH "RIO POSTCARDS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - You have seen the postcards.

And you have probably read the headlines.

Rio de Janeiro is a marvel and a mess all at once.

When it hosts the first-ever Olympics in South America, starting on Aug. 5, visitors will see a city whose stunning topography - stark, verdant mountains loom over packed and playful beaches - competes only with the drama of daily life here.

SEE ALSO: Poll: Most Brazilians expect Rio Olympics to hurt Brazil

Despite drug gangs, violent crime, gaping inequality and heavy pollution, the natural splendor ofRio makes even locals joke that no matter how hard they try, they somehow never manage to ruin the place.

From above, atop the Pão de Açucar outcropping or the jungle aeries of the lush Tijuca park, sharp contrasts take shape between sclerotic city streets and forests where monkeys, toucans and boa constrictors wander.

Down below, demographic differences are just as stark.

Upscale apartment blocks and opulent mansions abut hillside slums and urban blight. Tony restaurants and luxury shopping centers buzz with clientele even amid a recession that means nearby hospitals and schools are so short of financing they sometimes have to close.

Of course, Olympic visitors may not see much more of Rio than the spectacle of the Games. And the city, a sprawling metropolis of more than 12 million people, is impossible to take in all at once.

But for anyone willing to make the effort, Rio remains a sight to behold.

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