Rio Art Installation
Credit: JR ©

French street artist JR has turned three almost-Olympic athletes into actual larger-than-life scaffolding structures installed around Rio de Janeiro.

The artist’s massive renderings are of Youness Idress, a 27-year-old Sudanese high jumper who was unable to compete in the Olympic qualifications because of an injury; 31-year-old Brazilian diver Cleuson Lima do Rosario who, although on the 2004 Olympic diving team, was not chosen to compete; and 22-year-old French triathlon swimmer Leonie Periault, who is training to compete in the 2020 games.

The multi-dimensional structures are made from construction scaffolding and monochromatic canvas prints. The three projects, called “The Giants,” have been in progress for almost a year.

Idress project sits on the rooftop of a residential complex in Rio’s Flamengo neighborhood, while Rosario dives into the waters of Barra de Tijuca, and Periault swims through Botafogo Bay.

The work is part of JR’s “Inside Out Project,” which is popping up throughout Rio during the games. The project aims to include everyone associated with the Olympics: A photobooth truck is parking around the city and printing black-and-white posters of those who stop by. The subjects are then encouraged to take their posters and plaster them around town, as a collaborative work of art.

“Eighty years ago the Olympics happened in Berlin. Hitler wanted to use them to demonstrate the supremacy of the Aryan race. Today they will open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a ‘mixed race’ country,” JR wrote on Instagram. “Even though Brazil is going through political and economic turmoil and the necessity of the Games at this moment can spark controversy, the Olympic spirit will joyfully be welcomed by the people tonight.”