18 November 2009

Expo Estadio

Expo Estádio 2009
São Paulo, Brasil

The 2014 World Cup is four and a half years away and Brazilian officials have promised to build or renovate twelve stadiums to meet FIFA’s universalizing, consumerist, clientelist exigencies. For a country that is football mad but does not have one stadium capable of hosting a World Cup match (according to FIFA), the ExpoEstádio is happening at just the right moment, uniting sellers of stadium components with buyers and builders of stadiums.

The stadium buyers are the Brazilian public. Lula’s government has promised R$400 million for each stadium (400x12=R$4.8 billion). The builders of stadiums vary from privately held entities in Porto Alegre (Estádio Beira-Rio of Internacional F.C.) to municipalities (Belo Horizonte) to state governments (Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, etc). The ExpoEstádio gives us a glimpse of the form and function of stadiums in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

For me, the most interesting aspect of the Expo was seeing a stadium completely dismantled into is various elements and spread around an exhibition hall. No element was unrepresented, save for the vending of hotdogs and drinks by mobile vendors. On display were highway crash barriers, huge roadside information signs, traffic flow mechanisms, parking monitoring devices, reflective vests for parking attendants, ticketing mechanisms, turnstiles, metal detectors, metal roofing, plastic roofing, tubular roofing, retractable roofing, drainage systems, security systems, alarms, security cameras, personal identification technologies, synthetic grass, real grass, floodlights, sound systems, plastic seats, vinyl seats, vip seats with cup holders, two way mirrors, structural steel supports, laminate covers for things unheard of, recycling technologies, toilets, point of sale niceties, covered seating for teams and trainers, etc.

The experience of the Expo hall was akin to seeing one's stadium experience segmented into its physical and technological components. From the car or bus journey to the textrure of the seat, the sounds and sights, and the million invisible things that comprise the urban matrix. A bit frightening in some way.

As with most expos of this kind the information was a bit overwhelming and it was difficult to discern who the target audience was for all of these goods. After asking around I discovered that many of the people in attendance were associated with one or another project for the World Cup or were trying to get in on the stadium boom that is apparently coming to Brazil. Some lamented that it may be too late, others were clearly impressed by the four or five different companies that sell the same kind of plastic seat.

The Expo placed the modern stadium [read: E. Asian-Euro-North American] on display in a unique form, presenting a disaggregated toolbox of options for clubs, cities, and states to choose from. As these stadium projects start to leave paper in the coming months in preparation for the 2014 World Cup (albeit without the public audiences and necessary guarantees of transparency and open bidding for contracts) it will be instructive to see how the form and function of Brazilian stadiums change in relation to the rapid integration of the technologies and techniques on display at ExpoEstádio.

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