Legacy has become a watchword of hosting mega-events in recent years, used to justify massive spending and far-reaching urban transformations. However, academic studies of legacy outcomes suggest there is only limited evidence for the efficacy of using mega-events to deliver broader policy goals. The discourse of legacy promulgated by the International Olympic Committee promotes a fantastical vision of the possibilities created by mega-events while obfuscating critical analyses of legacy. This paper explores legacy talk among a wholly different group – activists who have protested against the Olympic, specifically in Rio de Janeiro – based on interviews conducted two years after the Games as part of a broader ethnographic study. The positive connotations of legacy, even among these Olympic critics, places a straitjacket on conversation, leading activists to discuss specific legacy projects, at the expense of highlighting the very real harms of megaevent development, such as evictions, gentrification and militarization. As such, there is a need to deepen understanding that legacy encompasses all that is left behind after mega-events, not only the positive impacts.