14 October 2010

ANT: o formigueiro positivo (The positive anthill)

The National Fans’ Association (Associação Nacional dos Torcedores) has launched a campaign to fight for the rights of sport fans in Brazil. The group has already received criticisms for being elitist, leftist, Marxist, out of touch, etc. Tudo bem, bring the criticisms. However, within a week of its founding, ANT has more than 500 members and is growing daily. The organization has laid out a series of criticisms and demands that are a reaction to the visible and invisible changes occurring in Brazilian stadium culture. Many of these changes are stimulated by preparing Rio de Janerio and 11 other Brazilian cities to host the World Cup. In Rio, the changes are multiplied, intensified, and accelerated because of the looming Olympic and Paralympic Games.
 
ANT received criticisms of elitism because it is provisionally headed by university professors. The reality of mega-event production in Brazil, is that the events are being carried off by a handful of cloistered, neo-liberal, privatizing, real-estate speculating, five star hotel tourist, Rudy Giuliani adoring, cruise ship loving, luxury box cavorting, prawn sandwich eating, out-of-touch elites (protected by private and state security apparatuses). I have been cataloging for some time now the radical transformations happening in Rio de Janeiro to prepare the city for the World Cup and Olympics, including the bulloxed 2007 Pan American Games.

It is quite easy to be against everything that is going on with the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil. The events are forced upon cities (with the consent of a nominally representative government); they take money from public coffers and spend it on sporting infrastructure that has little or no local context or post-event usage; the “legacy” benefits are not equivalent to the money spent; there are much more serious problems that need to be addressed that public money should be going to; everything is run out of a black box; there’s no public accountability; there is real violence taking place in order to shape urban space to accommodate the event; notions of “security” are limited to economic accumulation; no attempt is made to consult the very people who will have to live with the consequences of the reforms; the benefits are exaggerated and the costs hidden. In the case of ANT, we’re talking about football fans, but we should extend that categorization to include anyone, everyone who will be impacted by the preparations for the World Cup and Olympics.
 
So, given that the World Cup and Olympics are going to take place (and change space), what are the alternatives? What would a more just mega-event look like? What are some counter-proposals? Here are some ideas, each of which link up with items put forward by ANT:

  1. The post-Games sale of housing projects developed for the Olympics should be regulated, allowing for mixed income residences. These projects should also be spread throughout the city. Why just build Olympic housing in Olympic zones? Is it really necessary to spend TENS OF BILLIONS of Reales to restructure such a limited area of the city? 
  1. Less than 20% of Rio de Janeiro’s public schools have recreation areas, yet the Maracanã reforms alone will cost more than R$ 1 billion (1.000.000.000) and will reduce the capacity of what was once the world’s largest stadium to an anorexic 75,000. The mantra of Marcia Lins, State Secretary of Sport and Leisure, is that “we have to comply with FIFA’s demands.” The use of BILLIONS of public funds to create a stadium for a private event, for private profit, when that VAST MAJORITY of Rio’s schools are without basic spaces for play is a criminal violation of the basic rights of all citizens, not just football fans. What about attending to the basic social contract of a democracy first?
  1. In the same way that large sections of the population have been excluded from football stadiums because of an increase in ticket prices, millions will also be displaced because of an increase in rents. Since Rio “won” the Olympics, rents across the city have increased by 81%. In “pacified” communities, they have increased 400%. The stadium is a reflection of society at large. The city should be a place that exists beyond the realm of consumer consumption – everyone should have the right to frequent spaces of leisure. The “elite-ization” of Brazilian stadiums and is not an inevitable outcome! The indirect expulsion of people from the center of Rio because of real-estate speculation can be avoided! Has anyone looked into renting an apartment here? Don’t even think about coming here to buy anything until the bubble bursts in 2017. Rio is already one of the most expensive cities in the Americas and it’s only going to get worse unless there are legislative measures put into place to control real-estate speculation. 
  1. Mega-event transportation projects should treat the whole of the metropolitan region, not simply restructure urban space to bring people from tourist centers (Zona Sul), or pockets of cheap labor (Deodoro, Santa Cruz) to Barra de Tijuca. The current transportation projects will further fragment the city, increase dependence on outmoded forms of transportation, and will not provide long term solutions to Rio’s already grave traffic problems. Water-based transport should play an integral role in Rio’s preparations for mega-events. Current plans to extend service: 0. (This item attends to ANT items 5 and 7, game times and game transport. Last night , for example. São Januário, Vasco x Corinthians, jogasso. Kickoff 10pm. The metro closes at midnight. Why 10pm? It’s after the novellas. Why midnight? No one has any idea as Metrô Rio is run by a private concession.)
  1. The jeito (style, manner) in which the cheap, standing-only sections of Brazilian stadiums (geral) were removed is the same jeito that the government uses in relation to lower income communities throughout the city. The urban redevelopment projects slated for the Zona Portuaria have been handed over to a private company (CDURP). Around 30,000 people live in this part of town but their urban, work, and residential futures are going to be shaped by a privatized form of urban governance. The same kind of process is at work with the 119 favelas slated for forcible removal by the municipal government. The complete absence of public involvement in the process of re-structuring the Maracanã is EXACTLY the same lack that we can see in other social sectors. The Maracanã will likely be privatized after the Olympics. The Zona Portuaria is turning into a zone of private enterprise and private urban governance. Long (and short) -standing communities are being cleared form the map in order to produce “Olympic Space”. The public needs to become more involved in these decisions. ANT is demanding to participate in the conversation regarding stadiums. Civil society has been slow to react to the larger changes under way.
  1. Football is not democratic, we get it. But seriously, in Brazil we’ve taken things to the next level. Ricardo Teixeira has been the president of the CBF for 21 years. That’s longer than Neymar has been alive. For the first time in the sordid history of the World Cup, the president of the national football federation is also president of the World Cup organizing committee. This double papel is already having some dire consequences for transparency. Oh yeah, his daughter (former FIFA president João Haveleange’s grand-daughter) is the Secretary General of Brasil 2014. There are 5, F-I-V-E, CINCO, people on the Brasil 2014 Organizing Committee! There must be some kind of independent entity that holds this cabal accountable, represents the interests of Brazilian fans, and ensures that the World Cup will leave something, anything behind other than 12 white elephants that spend the next 50 years eating up a million R$ a month in maintenance costs.
  1. Since forever, human beings have gathered in public places to watch other human beings play games. Since then, which is a very long time indeed, they have eaten red meat and consumed some kind of fermented beverage. Since June of 2009, the basic human right to consume alcohol and watch people do things in a space and place specifically designed for that activity, has ceased to exist in Brazil. That’s right, you cannot drink beer in a Brazilian stadium!!!!!! Until 2014, that is, when the “less violent, less criminally inclined” come to visit. If there is any proof whatsoever that banning alcohol reduces large or even medium scale violence at football matches, someone please send it along. Otherwise (you football overlords) treat people as adults, not criminally inclined juveniles, and you’ll be able to make some more R$ for AmBev! Jaysus Mary and Joseph – let the beer flow! Respetiam o torcedor!
ANT will have its first public manifestation at the Fluminense x Botafogo match this Sunday, October 17. 

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