02 September 2010

Deus nos livre disso...

The Maracanã is closing this weekend and conspiracy theories abound. The Morumbi (São Paulo F.C.) is officially out of the World Cup, with Corinthians and Palmeiras entering into a race to build a stadium capable of hosting the opening game. Invisible hands are hard at work behind the scenes. In Salvador, the 59 year-old Fonte Nova in Salvador died by implosion. Many consider this the assassination of public memory.  The original architect of the recently demolished Vivaldão (Manaus) can’t figure out why Brazilian architectural works are being replaced with German fortresses.  The CBF announced the timeline for building their new offices and training center in Barra de Tijuca on land acquired under dubious circumstances and that despite being in a fragile environmental area does not need environmental permitting. The centennial celebration for Corinthians, attended by Lula, ended with a woman crushed to death under the wheels of the team bus. Just another week of total obscurity, corruption, collusion, graft, incompetence, megalomania, death, mystery, and evasion of democracy in the preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

The Maracanã já era. I throw up my hands in disgust and defeat. Where are the protests? Why aren’t the torcidas organizadas of Fluminense and Flamengo raising huge banners reading “CBF vai tomar no c*” or “FIFA vai se fuder” or “O Maracanã é nosso”? The project will be hundreds of millions of reales over budget and will leave an antiseptic space of global consumerism to be managed by a private firm for the next 35 years. This is nothing less than the destruction and privatization of public space and culture bankrolled by the public with the total acquiescence, obsequious fealty, and lock-step assuredness of aloof, arrogant public authorities. The entire contracting process has been cloaked in obscurity the details of which are not so much shocking as typical. It is impossible to tell what the actual project is going to involve as there is no recent public information and the project proposed in 2009 was rejected by FIFA in March. Now we wait and see (not participate or contribute) what overblown spectacle the Consorico Rio 2014 S/A will produce with R$705.589.143,72 in public coin (with a programmed over-budgeting of 50% and tax exemption for all imported materials). The Maracanã saga shows the absolute power of the CBF (and by extension FIFA) over state and local governments. I am understating the absurdities.

The São Paulo stadium saga is turning into a Dan Brown novel about the Three Stooges edited by Camus. Three years after Brazil was selected as World Cup hosts its largest city with the most international connections does not have a stadium project in the works. In addition to being a long-standing necessity for the club, the Corinthians stadium project is part pipe dream, part political strategy, and wholly problematic.  For instance, the project is not designed to host a World Cup match, there’s an underground Petrobras pipeline running explosive gas through the site, the price is too low for the project, and Odebrecht (yet again) won the project under obscure circumstances. That a woman was killed by the team bus following the announcement party may be a sign of things to come. On the same day, Palmeiras announced their plans to build a stadium capable of hosting World Cup games in São Paulo. The race is on!

Goodbye Fonte Nova. (Videos of demolition)

Goodbye Vilvadão. (Video of demolition prep, and longer overflight video) 

Hello new CBF command center, museum, hotel, gymnasium, and training ground.

A safadeza reunindo em 2009
Oh wait…what happened to the plans from just last year shown in this video? I’m so confused. First, the city and the CBF are involved in an obscure land transaction. The president of FIFA flies to Rio to put a shovel in the ground in September of 2009. Then, it takes nearly a year to “legalize” the deal. There is supposedly a museum project going into the Maracanã, why is there going to be another museum in Barra? The Brazilian national team trains in Teresopolis because it’s cooler, now they are going to train in hot and humid Barra, leaving the mountain retreat for the women’s seleção? Does IBAMA (Brazilian environmental regulatory agency) even have an office in Rio de Janeiro? Why wouldn’t a massive installation on the side of a lake need environmental clearance? Obviously, poor people are solely to blame for the horrible smells coming off the lake, not the pharmaceutical companies, increased traffic, the high consumption lifestyles of high rise condos, or the installation of three football fields, a hotel, parking lots, etc. for the CBF. 

There's not much indignation about all of this in Brazil, nor does there seem to be much public discussion. Tim Vickery's recent piece for the BBC touched on some of these points and generated a useful discussion. The questions being asked are, in general, absolutely wrong. The questions should not be focused around "can Brazil deliver on the World Cup and Olympics?" But rather, how to use the opportunity of these events to reconfigure the top-down developmental models that they engender? How to use mega-events to attend to a well-defined and publicly debated list of priorities? As it is, the demands of the mega-events are the priority and any post-event benefits that attend to long-term social needs is a bonus. 

FIFA and the IOC have tremendous power to shape government policy at all levels and it is only through active planning, participation, and resistance (that is to say a transparent democracy) that mega-events can be anything but a disaster for their hosts. Unfortunately, the mistakes of Montreal, Atlanta, Sydney, Japan/Korea, Athens, Beijing, and South Africa are being amplified and accelerated in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. As the unaccountable public bill reaches unimaginable heights, FIFA and the IOC are anticipating record profits. This is the story of a disaster foretold, but there is certainly going to be a hell of a party!


dahl said...

Dear Christopher,

I have a question to pose to you, since you are an expert in this issue.

What is the final budget for Rios´s Olympics in 2016? What about WM in football before that?

It is very difficult to find the final numbers. I hope you know... Greetings from Mexico.

Dr. Christopher Gaffney said...

the final numbers will not be available until well after the event, and even then they will be very difficult to obtain. I will be writing about this in the coming weeks, but we can anticipate costs in the range of R$60 billion. CG

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