24 September 2010

Two weeks away = massive update

Two weeks away from the daily tumult of Rio has left me with a pile of newspapers and magazines to read, some articles to write, and a need to catch the English-language world up on what has been happening in relation to the city, the World Cup and the Olympics.

To reiterate the general point of all of my commentary and critique of these events: there is no way to separate the production of mega-events and the production of urban space.

In Rio de Janeiro, the demands of the World Cup and Olympics have become the de-facto city plan. From transportation, to security, to stadiums, to hotels, to communications, airports, etc. the complex socio-spatial-economic-political exigencies of these events are pushing from the top down, restructuring space and society. The end goal is to accelerate flows of capital, information, people, goods, and more capital – imagining, imposing, and leaving behind a matrix of power relationships that articulate in urban space. These complex restructurings are happening in a compressed time frame – it’s as if no one in Rio de Janeiro government has thought of the year 2017, much less 2028, or 2042 when we will still be living with the impacts of the interventions that are taking place now.

In reading through the last two weeks of OGlobo to catch up on what I’ve missed, I understand that one of the critiques of this kind of analysis will be that I am reading too much into a single news source that is unabashed in its approval of all things mega-event. I also recognize that by focusing on these top down interventions that I am probably reinforcing their power by drawing attention to them in lieu of highlighting the bottom-up forces arrayed in opposition to the projects.Oh well, critique away. I'll get to the resistance soon enough. 

Olympic Update:
In my post entitled The Olympic Shell Game, I outlined the plans of the COB and Brazilian government to erect a parallel governmental structure to construct and conduct the Olympic Games. This parallel government was given life by President da Silva through two Medidas Provisórias (Provisional Measures) that if approved by the Brazilian Senate would have the force of law. In a tiny column on 23.9.10 (p.23), Luiz Magalhães reported that the senate failed to vote on the measures which cannot be taken up again in the same legislative year in which they were submitted.

This appears to be a big, big problem for the Rio 2016 OCOG, but a potential opportunity for civil society to stick their noses in where they belong. What this means is that there is currently no organizing structure to carry off the games beyond the cabal headed by Carlos Nuzman. The closed, opaque, and autocratic head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB), is also the head of Rio 2016, the first time in Olympic history that the same person has occupied both positions. This absurd concentration of power in one person has already revealed its true nature and received a very public rebuke. Here’s what happened:

Rio 2016 sent out a call for proposals for architectural plans for the Autódromo Nelson Piquet, the epicenter of the 2016 Olympics (and site of the Vila Autodrómo, whose struggle against forcible removal by the city government I covered here). The problem was that they only gave an opening of 16 days for firms to submit proposals for a project with a budget of R$ 216.4 million. The Institute of Brazilian Architects (IAB) raised a stink, and after some major coverage in OGlobo and pressure from the city government (and probably the IOC), Rio 2016 cancelled the call for proposals.

In reaction to this absurd episode (which was not accidental, but likely an attempt to steer the contract to one of Nuzman’s “friends” who had no doubt been preparing a proposal behind the scenes for some time), the mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes is preparing a document requiring all Olympic projects to be cleared through four separate organs of  city government (Urbanism, Environment, Transportation, and Architecture and Urbanism). Can you say engarrafamento burocrático? Rio 2016 did the right thing by canceling the call for proposals. This is the first instance of a major reaction by the press and the IAB and the democratically elected government against Rio 2016. Let’s hope there were some lessons learned. 

So even though the Senate did not vote on the MPs creating the APO and BRASIL 2016, we can see that the foxes are going to have the keys to the hen house. The minister of sport, Orlando Silva, who was going to assume the presidency of the APO named Ricardo Leyser as the president of BRASIL 2016. Leyser, for those unfamiliar with the scandals of the 2007 Pan American Games, is still under investigation for his role in diverting hundreds of millions of R$ and generally botching the financing.Silva was in charge of the games themselves and Nuzman was head of the Organizing Committee. Same people, same roles, more money, different result? I don't think so. 

To confirm the general sensation that there is a gross lack of communication, organization, and competency between the agencies responsible for pulling off Brazil’s mega-events, on 22.9.10, President da Silva launched a Medida Provisória para o Esporte de Alto Rendimento (MP for high performance sport), designed to push Brazil into the top ten in medal counts in 2016. This MP is going to direct 2% of the national lottery to the COB which will then direct it to the various federations (a distribution system that has come under scrutiny by the government on more than one occasion). Incredibly, neither the COB or the national sport federations had any idea what the legislation was or about or that it had even been put forward by the national government. One would think that the Ministry of Sport would have some knowledge of these things and that because all of these people are in bed together that the communication would be more fluid. Perhaps the plan for medals is that silence is golden and no plan is a good plan. 

Jogos Militares:

I haven’t covered the 2011 World Military Games much on this blog, but they’re happening in Rio next July. The Military Games will be concentrated in the western suburb of Deodoro, bringing together six thousand athletes from 110 countries in fifteen sports. The Brazilian delegation has a number of Olympic athletes who are “joining” the armed forces for a little while. Brazil is far form the only country to use this tactic. The Military Games are considered a test for Rio’s mega-event capacity.

On the 16th and 17th of September, OGlobo reported that the organizing committee of the Military Games is under investigation by the Ministério Publico Militar  as well as the Tribunal de Contas da União (TCU) for awarding contracts without competitive bidding, irregularities in the construction of Games housing, sidestepping laws requiring projects to be evaluated by IPHAN (Institution of National Historical  and Artistic Patrimony), and possible contractual fraud with military engineering institutions. It’s not so bad, the budget for the Military Games is only around R$1.2 billion. I’ll be heading out to Deodoro in the coming weeks to get a first hand look at the Military Games installations and will report back with more information.

World Cup 2014:
Finally, finally, someone released photos of the Novo Maracanã. The demolitions have begun, but the Prefeitura has not yet approved the project as a whole, due to a series of bureaucratic necessities. As with most mega-events, and as was the case with the 2005-2007 reforms, the Maracanã project has begun without a plan. It happens so frequently that it must be the plan. 

Here’s the origin of some of the confusion: The state Secretary of Sport and Leisure, Marcia Lins, is in charge of SUDERJ (Superintendecy of Sports),which is in charge of the Maracanã. EMOP (Empresa de Obras Públicas) is responsible for public works and for providing construction services, and the municipal Secretary of Urbanism has to authorize the project vis a vis their coordinator for the licensing of special projects. There is a private firm that won the construction bid (RIO 2014) that has to pass the architectural designs through IPHAN, the preifeitura’s agencies, and the state government. These agencies all have to answer to the CBF and the 2014 Organizing Committee, which are in turn answering to FIFA, who answers to no one but global circuits of capital. So who is in charge of the Novo Maracanã project? Who knows. How much will it cost? Is anyone paying attention?

Jerome Valcke, secretary-general of FIFA,  blessed the Cidade Maravilhosa with a visit. He was here to check out places to install FIFA’s 2014 headquarters. Starting in 2011, Valcke is going to be living in Rio. He’s one of the few that won’t have much trouble affording an apartment in a city that has seen real-estate prices double since the announcement of the Olympics. 

The World Cup is being used as the final date for investments, creating the sensation that the event is stimulating everything that has to do with Brazilian economic growth. Two article headlines from the past two weeks: “Cabral: R$137 billion for Rio until 2014” (17.9.10); “R$ 3 billion for innovations until the World Cup”(14.9.10). These kind of headlines are typically completely unrelated to the articles that follow and are part of OGlobo’s (and global media’s) larger project of attributing economic benefits to an event that is wholly funded by the public. The idea that these kinds of investments are going to benefit the public at large is the same empty promise as Regan’s trickle-down economics. This contradiction is evident within the paper itself, as to the side of the second headline is this: “Player arrested with false passport.” The continuing exploitation of young players by unscrupulous agents is the very base of the profits that drive the global political-economy of football.

What is happening economically is that mega-events are bringing sales events to Rio. Last year I reported on the Expo-estadio. This year, Rio is receiving Sports Events as well as SoccerEx. The goal of the events, as reported on 19.9.10, is to exploit glowing economic by institutions paid by the ministry of sport, that suggest that the 2016 Olympics are going to generate R$102 billion for Brazil. In my cautious estimation, I think the 2016 Olympics will cost at least R$60 billion. When we include the investments for the World Cup, Pan 2007, etc. the cost to the public will be around $100 billion. Granted much of this investment is necessary, and I am working on teasing out the various fonts, agencies, projects, that are combining to produce the spaces and places for maximum capital accumulation through mega-events.

Urban changes:
There are massive changes underway in Rio’s urban and social systems as preparations are made to host the coming mega-events. These interventions are not accidental or random in the way that the confusion surrounding the stadium projects is. Rather they are intended to discipline urban-social relations through increased policing, or to open up corridors to accelerate flows of people, goods, and information (which means money, money, money).

On 16.9 Oglobo reported on Operation Hooligan, which targeted members of the torcidas ogranizadas of Vasco and Flamengo, arresting nine for a laundry list of crimes. The three month investigation involved 160 police who monitored Orkut trying to find where the torcidas would stage their battles in public space. Several weeks ago, a Vasco fan was killed after the game against Fluminense by a tire iron. The head of the Vasco torcida Forca Jovem has suffered several attempts on his life. Threats of violence are so severe that the Fla-Flu clássico only had 15,000 spectators (which of course has to do with the problematic access to the Fechadão).

One of the responses to the problem of fan violence is on the same page. An article entitled “New Delegation Against Disorder” reports the creation of the Delegacy for Public Order. The chief of the civil police called it a “process of combat and cleaning to get rid of the bandits that infiltrate the torcidas organizadas. We are a city that is going to host the World Cup and Olympics and we can’t be like this. We are going to bring peace to the public.” Ok. No problem with bringing peace to the public, but how about addressing the cause and not the symptom?

The announcement of the “Pentagon Carioca” confirms the idea that certain areas of the city are being transformed into defensible fortresses while others are being left to fend for themselves. This building will be the control center for all of Rio’s emergency services and will concentrate eight organs from three spheres of government: Policia Militar, Corpo do Bombeiros, Guarda Municipal, Defesa Civil, CET-Rio, Polícia Rodoviária Federal, and the Rio version of 911. The concentration of information and firepower as well as emergency services is one of the guarantees made by the organizing committees of the World Cup and Olympics to FIFA and the IOC. The article points out that the group that put the design together traveled the world in search of models. This included a stop in New York, where they hopefully learned at least one lesson from that city. Don’t put the coordinating agency of your city’s emergency services in a place that is likely to be attacked!

In the Olympic zone in the south-west of the city, the implementation of staggeringly ambitious transportation projects that continue to depend on the internal combustion engine, petroleum, and wheels is underway (17.9.10, p.22). The widening of the Avenida das Americas is going to cause the destruction of 30% of the buildings along its path and 70% are going to lose their frontage. People are complaining. No one was consulted. The bulldozers are there, doing their thing. Customers will be lost, home owners are not being justly compensated. There is something very familiar about all of this.

Today, there was an article that lamented the 40% increase in the number of cars on the roads in Rio in the last five years. When I compared the number of pages of actual news with the number of pages and classifieds for auto sales, guess which was bigger? I suppose it’s one way to keep the inexorable march to a doomed consumer society marching forward, which will eventually sell more newspapers, but does no one see the direct relationship between rezoning urban space to produce massive Miami style condominium complexes, an advertising section for cars that is bigger than the rest of the paper combined, and Rio’s chronic traffic problems? At least there was an article on the 21st that prophesied 10% fewer buses on the roads by 2012 (p.16). Gee, that will really help once the fleet of cars increases by another 20%, especially as the “special bus lanes” will mean fewer lanes for all those cars.

And last but not least, the march of the UPPs continues with “Next stop: Mangueira and Macacos” (18.9.10, p.25). Mangueira is significant because it sits directly across from the Maracanã. Macacos is more problematic as it is larger and is where the now infamous helicopter was shot down last October. On the same page, the inaguratoin of the UPP in the Morro de Salgueiro did not have the customary festive atmosphere because three MPs assigned to that UPP have been killed in the last week.

Two weeks away and I only covered a fraction of what’s been going on, from one news source. It's a complicated mess and if you've read this far you'll be interested in the upcoming International Conferrence Mega-Events and the City, 3-5 November at UFF in Niteroi


Alex Ward said...

Hi Chris,

Really interesting work here.

Funnily enough, Im investigating how megaevents expose issues of social justice with particular reference to Rio's olympic bid and the upcoming Brazilian World Cup.

is there anywhere where i can access details of your published work?

All the best
Alex Ward

Dr. Christopher Gaffney said...

hi Alex,

Thanks for your comment and compliment. I've got an article out in the March 2010 Journal of Latin American Geography. Have also just published a few things in Portuguese that I haven't yet posted on the blog. The issue of social justice in regard to Rio's mega-events is certainly a hot and important topic. We're hoping that CHORE will come here soon to do their thing and that the International Conference Mega-events and the City will begin to draw more researchers to the city to look at issues of social justice. http://www.ufrj.br/mega-events



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