30 November 2010

Other considerations for the “War on/in/of Rio”

After listening to Luis Eduardo Soares last night on tv rodaviva, I have a few more things that I would like to add to my commentary about the Complexo.

This is one of the most important developments in the modern history of Rio de Janeiro and any analysis needs to be taken with that in mind. It is not just about “preparing” the city for mega-events, though that is undoubtedly a motivating factor. As Soares points out in his interview, this is an opportunity to “clean” the police of corruption, to professionalize the institutional structures and functioning of public security in Brazil and to vitalize the perception of the police force in the public consciousness (note that I’m not using “re” in front of any words). This is a worthwhile project, but one that has so many tentacles into the highest levels of government that it will be at least as many years in the untangling as in the tangling. Fundamental to this project is to pay the police a decent wage. Perhaps some of the R$50 billion headed to the bullet train could go towards this? I should have an opportunity to ask Lula that question on Friday.

The idea of war is propagated through the media in order to justify extraordinary measures. There were some major abuses that occurred during the occupation of Alemão and Cruzeiro. Though the death penalty is unconstitutional in Brazil, people openly clamored for the summary execution of bandidos. In the case of mega-events, the state of emergency allows for the suspension of the constitution. In the case of "war" the death penalty can be imposed. Yesterday, I wrote that this is a class war. That’s not entirely correct either. It’s a struggle for resources, social inclusion, equal rights, social and urban services, education, opportunity etc. that defines this mind-boggling intricate conjuncture in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. While peace and prosperity pertain in the Zona Sul as never before, the Zona Norte is the scene and scenario of “trouble”. Surely the two worlds are related. "War" it's not and those watching from should understand that. It's something else. 

This is a geo-political and economic project that is in an accelerated cycle of implementation. EVERYONE agrees that the UPPs are bringing some benefit to the way that Rio de Janeiro is governed. However, the secondary and tertiary effects have not been thought through to the point that there are governmental or institutional responses to deal with them. The mayor is concerned with applying “shocks” of all kinds to the Zona Sul of Rio: order, small crime, peeing in the street, trash. “They” propose huge development projects worth hundreds of millions as if these will solve systematic problems that emerge as symptomatic expressions of poverty, crime, informal economies, drug trade, corruption, etc. Will the government go so far as to begin to redistribute wealth, not just in the form of higher salaries and investment in social services, but through the implementation of a urban plan that will attend to the needs and desires of those left out of the “Olympic City”? From the looks of the investments scheduled over the next years, not bloody likely.

Therefore, in the absence of structural changes to the economic-geographic realities that have always defined the city, we can understand these adjustments as partial attempts to control strategic areas of the city that can then be more easily inserted into systems of capital. The security situation in Alemão was critical and was a major threat to the mega-events and capital accumulation at large. The problem (but not the cause) was opportunistically solved, allowing us to ask the government: what’s next? Will you address the cause? These are the same questions we’ve been asking about the UPPs. Rocinha and Vidigal have to be next (especially after the relative embarrassment of the hostage taking in São Conrado). When and how Nem and his troops in the Zona Sul are going to be confronted will be the next chapter in the larger pacification and unlocking of Rio de Janeiro.

FIFA continues to make me sick

The following two videos are from the BBC's panorama series. Investigative journalist Andrew Jennings (transparencyinsport.org) follows up on his years' long investigations into FIFA corruption just ahead of the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The process is opaque, business interests and corruption grease each other up in dark, smoky rooms in the Swiss Alps, and the macho / misogynist heirarchy of FIFA continues to claim "Fair Play" while making record profits due to abusive (and illegal) tax exemptions, the creation of a homogenized consumer culture, and the elimination of democratic processes in order to, as a British MP says in the video, "get on one's knees" for FIFA. Next up we'll see how Soccerex contributes to the current model of mega-event development that in turn creates "states of emergency" in cities and countries that allow for the suspension of urban and social normalcy. The technologies and tactics imposed during these altered states become permanent apparatuses of state control and create structural adustments in the very fabric of society.

Notable in the BBC videos are the continued claims of Ricardo Teixeira's involvement in FIFA corruption scandals. Surprised?

For those in a betting frame of mind, Russia is currently at 9/2 odds to host 2018. I'd take that bet.


29 November 2010

It is WAR! Unless it is something else…um complexo

For those that have been living under a Barack there has been more violence that usual in Rio over the past week. As I was headed to the market in Gloria yesterday morning a troop transport stuffed with camouflaged soldiers rolled to the Zona Norte. I had a quick snapshot of what it must have been like to live in Brazil under the military dictatorship (1964-1985). Later on in the day, I found the scene on the beaches of Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon to be like any other November weekend. Sun, beer, altinha, fute-voli, bunda e sunga, mar, ambulates, areia, paz, e relax. But everyone was talking about the same thing: the massive military action to “pacify” the Vila Cruzeiro and the Complexo do Alemão – Rio’s drug trading center and second largest favela complex.

Last Monday, bandidos associated with Rio’s very well entrenched and organized drug trafficking factions began to burn cars and buses, carrying out a general and decentralized campaign of mayhem that was begging for a response from the state. The large media outlets claimed that this sudden outburst was a response to the continued installation of UPPs. I have my doubts about this claim as only 13 of Rio’s 1000+ favelas have been “pacified”.

The military responses over the following 6 days have changed forever the profile of drug trafficking in Rio de Janeiro. What the media is calling the “War for Rio” returned two massive areas of the city to state control after years of a parallel, autonomous form of government. How and why this happened, as well as the residual effects of this week will take a long time to sort out, but I’ll give it a go from where I sit (Center of Rio) and with the information I have at my disposal. (I also highly recommend reading these commentaries: Luiz Eduardo Soares; Gustavo Barreto).

I’m going to start with the premise that this is not a “war”. In a war, there are generally two sides battling, some casualties on both sides, and official declarations of intent. In this case, there were ZERO fatalities on the side of the invading forces and a very ambiguous death toll on the side of the drug trafficking factions. A 14 year old girl was killed inside her home, struck in the chest by a stray bullet and a reporter was shot in the arm. There was undoubtedly more “collateral damage” including the general casting aside of human rights that always accompanies massive military action. Many people (via fbook, twitter, conversations) were demanding the summary execution of all the drug traffickers, calling for helicopters to fly in a give a general strafing, celebrating the sudden death of individuals with as much sentiment as playing a video game. Others have been calling this state-sponsored terrorism. I thought it might be a kind of civil war, but have come to the realization that it’s a class struggle, where the state is intervening to correct some “inadequacies” in the social, geographic, and economic structures of Rio de Janeiro in order to better prepare it for the free circulation of capital that mega-events both stimulate and demand. This is the military version of Ireland’s structural adjustment plan.

The violence in Rio has many of the characteristics of war but cannot be rightly identified as such. It could be part of a larger training regimen for Brazil’s police forces, an opportunity to test new systems of centralized command in preparation for the gazillion mega-events coming to Rio, or simply an opportune time to obtain one of the necessary geographic objectives to establish the rule of law in Rio de Janeiro. Since the announcement of the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro has been pushed into a continual state of emergency where extraordinary measures have become “necessary” instruments to “prepare” the city for these events. The World Cup and Olympics are invoked, chanted, mantra-fied, in order to justify just about anything that will accelerate capital flows and secure urban space.  Without question, the “taking” of the Complexo do Alemão is a fundamental piece of the puzzle and one that can be elaborated with a quick anecdote.

When I was returning to Rio from Buenos Aires, coming into Galeão at night, the flight path took us from West to East over Rio. The final approach brought us along the South face of the Complexo do Alemão. As we passed, first one, then two, then three high powered green lasers began to flash by the windows. It was evident that the plane was being tracked as it landed. Were these lasers attached to high powered rifles? RPGs? Are there anti-aircraft guns hidden in the hills? It would only take one airplane going into the ground as a result of gun-fire from the Complexo to ruin the tourist economy, put an end to the mega-event wet-dream of the Brazilian Brahmans, and to install a general panic about the capacity of the state to control the beast it has so diligently created. As I watched the lasers flash in my window, it occurred to me that I was sitting in a nice, meaty, flammable, spectacular, undefended target.

The Face of Terror: Mister M
His mom convinced him to turn himself in, the only one to do so.
How many people died this week? More than 100? 200? We’ll never know. Why did the violence flare up this week, so soon after the elections? Theories abound. Were election promised unfulfilled? Did the orders to start “blowing shit up” come from the prisons as a reaction to the continued installation of UPPs? Were these autonomous collectives out for some incendiary fun all over the city? Why start this fight now? What are the immediate results and the next steps?

Economic and geographic logics are fundamental here. Let’s look at some consequences of this week’s violence.

More than 40 toneladas of marijuana were found in the military operations this week. 40 tons. That is 80,000 pounds of weed, people. To my knowledge, no one has yet undertaken a scientific analysis of the street value of 40 toneladas (my estimate is US$20-25 million), but it is certainly enough to get the entire world high for the month of the World Cup. This massive seizure has permanently altered the nature of the drug economy in Rio. If we assume that a large part of the power wielded by traffickers was their ability to exchange maconha for money and weapons, then this was a major setback for organized drug trafficking. I don’t think the police expected to find as much as they did. I don’t think that the plan was for them to take the Complexo this week, but the opportunity presented itself and they had to take it. This also makes me think that there was no coordinated plan of systematized violence on the part of the drug factions, or else they would have taken their cash crop with them to other parts of the city. Could the provocations have been a huge miscalculation that resulted with the end of armed drug trafficking in Rio?

What are the police going to do with all that pot? If we assume that the invasion of the Complexo do Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro has cost the state a lot of money (another thing that is never discussed), wouldn’t it make sense to try to recuperate some of that money through the reselling of the spoils? What better time to legalize marijuana than when the state has just come across a bumper crop? By legalizing, regulating, and selling the drugs obtained in this raid the state has a chance to regularize and make permanent the changes that this week’s military operations as well as recuperate the money spent on the raid. The structural change has already occurred; the sensible action would be to make the social change at the same time.

The scope and scale of arms encountered in the Complexo do Alemão surprised even the police. Life will be much better for residents with only one armed group running the show. Let’s hope there is going to be an increased presence of the state in regard to urbanization, education, health, and environment. The day after the invasion of the Vila Cruzeiro, the mayor announced a program to invest R$400 million in projects for the Penha region. This is a good start, though it is only one third of what the state is investing in the Maracanã. If these projects were so ready to fly into the press, why weren’t they announced until the day after the invasion? Who was blowing up all those cars and buses anyway?

As Raquel Rolink noted in a talk she gave at a Seminar on the Challenges of Mega-Events last week, a state of war is the ultimate instance in which the state can impose its authority through its refusal to impose the rule of law. That is, the state makes exceptions and exemptions to the law when there are states of emergency. In addition to the permanent emergency status that Rio is in because of the deadlines imposed by mega-events, the extra emergency of “war” allows for the further suspension of normalcy.

What this week’s battle in Rio reminded me of was the USA invasion of Iraq. This was a show of highly technologized, overwhelming force against an enemy that had been portrayed to be deadlier than deadly, more organized than the police themselves. The television outlets gave too many details about the kinds of tanks and weaponry employed (a spectacularization of power as the traficantes fled helter skelter into the kills, running for their lives). Detailed maps showing the routes of invasion, the locations of drug and arms caches, and high definition images of night vision goggles, BOPE training, sequences of command, and all of the accoutrements of a war gave me the sense that all of this was happening in a far off country, where I could watch the bombs fall and see the flames rise, but not have to deal with the untidy mess of exploded limbs and charred remains. This “war” is produced and consumed and instantly historicized (naturalized) like any other. OGlobo works with BOPE and the Rio PM in the same way that CNN and Fox worked with the US DOD.  The terminology used, the smug images of Sergio Cabral (Brazil’s George W.) overseeing the operation from on high, the video montages, the absence of critical perspective…it’s all the same. Shock and Awe, baby. Come on down to Rio for the World Cup y’all – we’ve done got rid of the band-ee-toes.

In her talk, Rolink also highlighted the role of the state in “unlocking” value. This is undoubtedly an important element of what is going on in Rio. We have see this with the installation of the UPPs, where rents and land values have increased by 400% in the favelas and more than doubled in the asfalto neighborhoods around them. The “pacification” of Alemão, combined with some confused projects like the teleferico (which turned into a symbol of conquest as the Brazilian flag was hoisted), will undoubtedly allow for the continuation of real estate speculation in Rio, allowing money to flow from areas in which is was trapped by the presence of the drug traffickers and the absence of the state.

The “Battles” of Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro had to happen if the governments of Rio de Janeiro were to ever get control of their urban space (no matter the secondary and tertiary motives). The installation of UPPs in the favelas of the Zona Sul has concentrated arms and drug trafficking in the major favelas of the Zona Norte and Rocinha. Whatever one thinks of the way in which this has all happened, the fact is that last week, the Complexo do Alemão was under the martial law of the drug dealers, and this week it is under the control of the state. This is an important and critical moment in the geo-political history of the city that will have profound and rippling effects.  Next up is Rocinha, which received words of warning all week from the PM: “Keep quiet over there, lads, if you know what’s good for you.”

No word about how the governor and mayor are planning on dealing with the dozens of favelas controlled milícias, (organized crime run by cops that give the big bosses political support), or the other favelas occupied by armed drug factions.

I don’t know what more to say about this other than that it’s complicated, historically situated, confusing, contradictory, and apparently inevitable.

26 November 2010

Good news for World Cup Researchers!

I ran across Marcia Lins, the Rio State Secretary for Tourism, Sport, and Leisure at Soccerex this week and was able to get in some questions regarding the Novo Maracanã project. The following is a transcript of my interview with her that was actually quite encouraging for researchers (if SUDERJ agrees to folow through). Also encouraging is that the Brazilian public can look forward to yet another website to follow the money trail. Though it cannot possibly be worse than the www.trasparensciaolimpica.com.br site, it will definitely be more fun!

Geostadia: What are the mechanisms for the public to monitor the public spending on the Maracanã?

Lins: At the end of this month (November) we are launching a site that will accompany the reforms of the Maracanã. This site will have the whole project with time tables, details, costs, photos, so people will be able to accompany the work being done, give suggestions, etc. It will be totally interactive with a virtual model that will show how our Maracanã will be. We will also have a model with historical photos from the archives. This site will show how the Maracanã will be for the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Geostadia: Will there be space for people to interact with the site?

Lins: Yes. There will be a part for people to leave a message if they like what they see, the emotions they feel, what they think about the direction the work is taking.

Geostadia: When will the site be launched?

Lins: We’re finalizing it now and the idea is to have it ready before the end of the year.

Geostadia: Where will the site be accessible from?

Lins: It will be linked to the webpages of SUDERJ, the Secretary of Sport and Leisure, and the State Government, we’ll also link it to various other sites that have been created in relation to the World Cup such as the Local Organizing Committee. We will also continue to have an overlook within the stadium so people can watch the Maracanã being prepared and this overlook will allow people to have a view of the work in progress…the Maracanã model will be on display as well as the historical display that is currently there.

Geostadia: During the time that the Maracanã is under construction will the SUDERJ archives be open for researchers and journalists?

Lins: The archives will continue to be open and will be accessible via the glass tower which will not undergo reforms [note: the glass tower was constructed in 2000 and was intended to host the FIFA Soccer Hall of Fame, but the money disappeared and the project was never completed]. Everything is accessible there, the blueprints, the photos, the newspapers. The whole archive will not be open but there will be more than one thousand items on display.

Geostadia: And this is open today?

Lins: All you have to do is ask us. It is not open to the pubic but it will be open for research

note: I have repeatedly sent emails to Carmen Dittz, the curator of the SUDERJ archives since September of 2009, have gone to the Maracanã on numerous occassions to try to get access to the archives and have never had any success, despite having met personally with Mrs. Dittz on one occassion (August 2009). The Memory Center currently in place is best and easily forgotten. I must compliment SUDERJ on reducing the price for entry to the Maracana from R$20 to R$10 and for eliminating the R$8 extra that one had to pay to enter the Memory Center. Now that the reforms are underway the field and dressing rooms cannot be visited and so the price was dropped. However, the Memory Center is an embarassment. 

Here is the model of the Novo Maracanã  revealed at Soccerex:

 I am not sure how this differs from the model the released in July: 

But it is very different from the original project:

Missing from all of the mock-ups are the advertising boards that will surround the field. These advertising boards were the source of a 6 week delay in the project because those of FIFA are 30 cm higher than those typically used in Brasil. Thus,the sightlines were all wrong and FIFA sent the architects back to the drawing board. 

When we finally get some access to the detailed plans they will be discussed at length and depth (unlike the field of the Novo Maracanã which is losing 7 meters in length and 5 in width - pode dizer campo de society?)!!!

And finally, for today, the concrete teardrop:

The Rio State Goverment, as part of their display at Soccerex, gave away pieces of the Maracanã stands as souvenirs. I find it so ironic as to be laughable and so absurd as to be sad that the government, in the name of the people, is using the very concrete worn down to smoothness to sell a new space of consumption for the global marketplace. The budget for the Novo Maracana is R$709 million. This price will double, easily. Combining the 2005-2007 reforms with the 2010-2013 reforms, the stadium will have been closed for 5 years (losing revenue), and will have undergone approximately R$2 billion in reforms while reducing the capacity from 129,000 to 75,000. Will the current reforms be sufficient for the Olympic Games? Why were the R$430 million reforms undertaken for the PanAmerican Games just destroyed? How does one establish a budget for a project without first knowing what the project will entail? How many foreign contractors will need to be hired to complete the technical details of the Maracana? How many millions of reales will the maintenance costs of the Novo Maracanã be over the current stadium? Why is SUDERJ so hard to communicate with? Why is it that three years after Brazil's selection as WC host, is there no mechanism in place for evaluating the way public money is spent? What are the qualifications of the LOC members to organize a World Cup? Who are these people and what are their interests and connections?


23 November 2010

World Cup 2018 Conspiracy Theory #1

The contenders for the 2018 World Cup are Holland/Belgium, England, Russia, and Portugal/Spain. South Korea is bidding for 2022 (as will be Russia if they don't get 2018). All of the above have impressive displays at the Soccerex in Rio this week. No one thinks the Dutch have a chance. England is over-rated and probably too straight laced for FIFA. Russia is willing to play FIFA's game and spend every last petro-ruble to get the World Cup. The Korean bid is predicated on the idea that the World Cup will bring North and South together. I think that Russia paid the North Koreans to fire some scuds over to the South a couple of weeks before FIFA's big vote to make sure that the Father Motherland gets its Cup.

It makes perfect sense but it's only a theory.

More coming about Soccerex on Thursday and Friday.

19 November 2010

The Death of Public Culture

I went to the Maracanã today.  My team did not lose. The other team did not win and it wasn't a draw. There was no game. Yet I left the stadium traumatized, horrified, stunned, shocked into a profound sadness.

As I have written about time and again, stadiums are sites of public memory and culture. This is espeically true in the case of the Maracanã which, as readers of this blog probably know, is one of the most important stadiums in the history of the human species. What I saw today, I knew was coming but didn't want to believe.

The entire lower bowl of the Maracanã looked like it had been bombed. Huge machines pounded the concrete bleachers into rubble, destroying the R$430,000,000 reforms undertaken from 2005-2007. The televisions installed for the Panamerican Games were gone. The grass, the "sacred pitch" of Brazil,  looked more suitable for grazing than football. Tourists walked in and out, snapping pictures of the scene, not knowing what they were witnessing. The destruction of the lower bowl is the first step towards the sanitization, homogenization, and elitization of football culture in Rio. According to many of my colleagues,  the Maracanã has been sick for some time, but seeing this final, brutal attack on the stadium was like hearing, but not believing, a rumor of war. When you see troops occupying the streets, stepping on your neighbor's neck, carrying friends off to jail, razing houses, installing martial law... it's no longer a rumor but a new and brutal reality that one has to cope with, somehow.

There were some positive images that I'll take away from this visit. All of the seats were ripped out of the upper bowl which allowed the imagination reverse to a time, not so long ago (1998), when there were no dividers separating the upper stands and there were no seats. This partial restoration of the original architecture made me realize just how huge the stadium is, and how pathetically near-sighted, inadequate, ill-considered, and violent the current reforms are. In 1998, the Maracanã had a capacity of 179,000 (por ai). In 2014, the capacity will be 75,000. This is an intentional assasination of public culture and memory so that a new world, a new spatial paradigm, a new football culture can emerge shining and cool, like a shopping mall, from the rubble of the populist past.

The World Cup is going to happen in Brazil. The corruption has been legalized at every level of government. Favelas are being bulldozed to make way for parking lots. Public memory and culture are being appropriated for private profit at the same time they are being evicerated, eliminated, sanitized, and sold as circus clowns dressed up in a Carnaval g-string. The stadium projects are disasters foretold. The Maracanã is dead.

The Maracanã is dead.

The Maracanã is dead.

10 November 2010

Conference paper: political interventions

Political interventions
The global nature of SMEs ensures that they have geo-political implications as well as global media coverage. . It is very common to see delegates from the IOC and FIFA meeting with heads of state, governors, and mayors as they negotiate the contracts for their private events. Andrew Jennings (2006, 2010) has suggested that these relationships offer the leaders of these international NGOs ample political protection from lawsuits related to corruption and graft. The contest to host the 2016 Olympics involved a global political campaign that employed the presidents, prime-ministers, governors, and mayors of each of the candidate cities. In the cases of Chicago and Rio de Janeiro, the popularity of presidents Obama and da Silva propelled those two cities to the status of favorites, even though Chicago was never considered as such by experts and Rio de Janeiro had finished outside of the top four in the aspirant stage.[1]  In the wake of the Brazilian victory, Carlos Nuzman (president of Rio 2016 and the Brazilian Olympic Committee) with characteristic immodesty claimed, “I have the triumph of defeating two presidents, first Bush then Obama.” [2]

The competition to host a SME is global in multiple senses. “Capturing a SME” is akin to a hunt undertaken by large, wealthy, or “emerging” cities in search of a rare, itinerant species that carries the promise of accumulating economic, political, symbolic, and cultural capital. It could also be considered a kind of global potlatch that requires hosts to extend themselves to the point of financial ruin to host a global party.[3] Competing cities tend to have a well-developed global profile, possess economies large enough to fund the event, or are trying to extend their brand recognition. Government and business perceive the Olympics as an opportunity to project a city to a global audience with the clearly stated end goal of stimulating domestic consumer markets while attracting increasingly mobile forces of global capital: international tourists, multi-national corporations, media firms, conferences, and events. Rio 2016 took their candidature, athletes, and politicians around the globe - traveling and spending more than any other candidate city. In addition to global media campaigns, the SME-hunt requires focused and strategic political maneuvering. Accumulating the votes from the sport federations of small nations is a vital component of winning elections within the international sports governing bodies. This strategy, first employed by the Brazilian João Havelange in his pursuit of the FIFA presidency in the early 1970s, has become a fundamental component of the global politics of international sport (Sugden and Tomlinson 1998). The connections between the global and national are well articulated within international sports federations, but in order to capture a SME it is also local politicians that must build strong coalitions (Burbank, Andranyovich, and Heying 2001). 

The political leadership of Rio de Janeiro began their quest to capture SMEs in the mid-1990s. In an attempt to replicate the perceived successes of Barcelona’s 1992 Olympics as a catalyst for urban, cultural, and economic transformation, the market-orientated mayor Cesar Maia, in conjunction the COB, hired Catalan consultants to learn the techniques and tactics of urban entrepreneurship as a way of capturing the 2004 Olympics.  Looking to follow the strategies of city-marketing, large urban renewal projects, and a political economy based in urban entrepreneurship (Sanchez 2006), Rio de Janeiro submitted a bid for the 2004 Olympics but did not make it past the aspirant stage. Following this failure, the city and COB tried for the 2012 Games, but failed again at the aspirant stage. After this second failure these same groups turned to the regional level and employed the experience of their Olympic applications to secure the rights to the 2007 Pan American Games (PAN).[4]

The process of preparing Rio de Janeiro to host the PAN was fraught with difficulties, accusations of corruption, delays in construction, and a general lack of planning and integration with the city’s master plan. Originally projected to cost R$330 million, the PAN eventually ran ten times over budget and resulted in multiple law suits against members of the organizing committee. The PAN organizing committee failed to deliver on the majority of the “legacy” projects and left behind multiple of “white elephant” structures that have either been privatized or have little use value. One of the most damning wastes of money was a R$430 million reform of the Maracanã stadium complex which is currently being demolished in order to re-reform the stadium to host the 2014 World Cup.[5] Additionally, multiple communities experienced traumatic invasions by Military Police and on the eve of the PAN, as many as 40 people were killed by a police action in the Complexo do Alemão favela. During the PAN, 17,000 extra police forces roamed the streets of Rio at a cost of more than R$1.6 billion.[6] In the context of this analysis, the PAN produced a highly militarized OS and left almost no positive transformations in urban or social infrastructures.

Hosting the PAN was hugely problematic, but the event gave Rio’s political and sporting elite valuable experience in organizing a SME, gave them credibility in the eyes of the IOC, and encouraged them to bid for the 2016 Olympics. The general consensus, for those who did not have to live with the problems generated by PAN construction, was that the event had run smoothly, that the facilities were excellent, and that the organizing committee had carried off a successful event. Shortly after the PAN, FIFA awarded the 2014 World Cup to Brazil[7], further consolidating the discourse that Rio de Janeiro and Brazil have a “natural sporting disposition.”

One of the major concerns with hosting large events in Rio de Janeiro is the high level of violence in the city. This violence is a product of multiple and intersecting vectors that merit more attention than can be given attention here. It will be useful to note, however, that the constant decay of Rio de Janeiro’s infrastructure and public revenues following the relocation of the nation’s capital to Brasilia in 1960 combined with sharp socio-economic-geographic polarization to create a city characterized by violence, disinvestment in public works, and urban decline (Abreu 1994). This decline was contra-posed with the stunning natural setting and the prodigious wealth of a very small sector of the population. For decades, Brazil has had one of the worst indices of socio-economic disparity in the world.  The “transformative potential” of SMEs was seen by Rio’s political leadership as a way to stimulate investment in the city and to recuperate Rio’s “self-esteem”. This narrative resonated with President da Silva who used the growing international political stature of Brazil, his shift in governance tactics towards neo-liberalism, and his cult of personality to pursue the Olympic Games once Rio gained candidate city status. The importance of Rio de Janeiro in the collective imaginary of the nation helped to build strong political alliance between Lula’s PT (Worker’s Party), the Rio de Janeiro state governor, Sergio Cabral, and Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes (who was Rio’s Secretary of Sport and Leisure during the PAN). These three figures combined with the charismatic head of the COB (Carlos Nuzman) and the Ministry of Sport (Orlando Silva) to produce a unified political front and to guarantee a nearly limitless budget to bring the Olympics to Rio. The Olympic candidature process cost around R$100 million. Having the full weight of all levels of Brazilian government firmly behind the bid was likely an important factor in the decision making process of the IOC. As part of the Olympic contract, President da Silva signed a financial guarantee for R$29 billion[8].

The FIFA and the IOC are purely self-referential institutions, yet it is naive to think that the selection of SME sites can be separated from the complexities of global political-economy. For instance, in the wake of the US$40 billion Beijing Olympics and the onset of a global financial crisis in September of 2008, the organizers of the 2012 London Olympics were quick to limit expectations of their event. They also had to jump start a political relations campaign to  justify what suddenly appeared to be exorbitant public spending on the Olympics. As the global economic crisis worsened in the lead up to the vote for the 2016 Olympics, residents and politicians of Madrid and Chicago (and likely Tokyo) began to resist publicly their city’s candidatures, citing the need to spend increasingly scarce funds more pragmatically. This was not the case in Rio de Janeiro, where public resistance was scant and the “Brazilian boom” ensured political support for massive public spending. The Rio 2016 OBB budget was greater than all of the other candidates combined and promised to generate lasting urban and social impacts that would forever place the Olympic seal on the city. If we take Rio’s nearly limitless Olympic budget into consideration along with the relative levels of “development” present in the other candidate cities it is evident that Rio de Janeiro presented the greatest opportunity for the Olympic movement to leave an imprint on the city. This was likely a critical factor in the final vote.

In addition to and perhaps because of massive public investment in the games, the opportunities for private capital to multiply in Rio de Janeiro were greater than the other candidate cities. With three levels of government investing tens of billions of Reales in transportation infrastructure, hotel subsidies, world class sporting facilities, and Olympic housing projects (that will later be sold to private interests), the opportunities for civil engineering and construction firms to make money are apparent. Additionally, the opportunities for real-estate speculation in SME cities are well-documented (CHORE 2008,2009). Through the 2000s Rio did not experience the kind of real-estate bubble that crippled the Spanish and USAmerican economies in 2008. Japan’s economy has not fully recovered from the crises at the end of the 1990s. Economic considerations, combined with the emotional “it’s our turn” mantra of President da Silva were decisive in steering the Games to Rio. [9]

As evidence of the surplus economic value to be extracted from Rio de Janeiro, since the announcement of Rio de Janeiro as host of the 2016 Olympics in October 2009, real estate values have nearly doubled. Moreover, the linking of massive urban renewal projects with the Olympic Games has led to an acceleration of real estate speculation in Barra de Tijuca and the Zona Portuaria. This kind of real estate speculation can be observed in every OC, yet in Rio the processes have begun sooner and with more rapidity than in any other Olympic host. Research currently underway will likely show that the over-investment in sportive constellations combined with the add-on effects will worsen and not improve the already critical public housing problem in Rio.

While it required a hegemonic political alignment to bring SMEs to Rio de Janeiro, the production of OS necessitates a series of extraordinary legal (political) interventions. These are either explicitly related to the production of OS, or are aimed at reformulating urban space and culture in order to extract the maximum value from the events. As we shall see, the motivations for the creation of extra-legal authorities vary, but the processes are essentially the same.

[1] Curiously, Rio de Janeiro finished fifth in the aspirant stage yet was propelled into candidature stage ahead of Doha, which had received a higher rating for its Olympic project, but had used dates outside of the Olympic parameters.
[2] http://colunistas.ig.com.br/paulocleto/2009/10/03/o-sonho-e-a-suspeita/. Nuzman refers here to the awarding of the 2007 Pan American Games to Rio de Janeiro over San Antonio, and the 2016 Olympics.
[3] Thanks to Martin Curi for this observation.
[4] The Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) awarded Rio de Janeiro the Pan American Games in August of 2002
[5] See Gaffney 2008, 2010d.
[6] For a more complete analysis of the PAN see Omena and Gaffney, 2010; Mascarenhas 2008; Oliveira 2010.
[7] The 2014 World Cup was essentially the awarding of a no-bid contract, as FIFA had temporarily instated a continental rotation system for the event, promising a South American host the World Cup after South Africa 2010. Brazil was the only candidate put forward by CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation and was awarded the 2014 World Cup in October of 2007.
[8] For a more detailed accounting of the history of the development of political hegemony see Gusmão de Oliveira 2010.
[9] The Summer Olympics have never been hosted in South America, thus, da Silva’s infantile whinnying was not without some merit. 

09 November 2010

A slice of the conference paper

The following is a slice of the paper I presented at the International Conference Mega-Events and the City. If you would like a full-text copy, please email me. More coming soon!

Sporting mega-events (SMEs) such as the FIFA World Cup, Olympics and Paralympics have increasingly profound effects on their host cities and countries.  The political, cultural, and economic logics that govern SMEs are as complex as the urban and social impacts of the events themselves.   During the hotly contested and wholly global competition to capture SMEs, candidate cities and nations present highly specific representations of urban space and culture to international sports federations. The “selection”, “winning”, “conquest”, or “right to host” a mega-event results in a legally binding contract that obliges an organizing committee to deliver on the promises made in the bidding process. SME bids are, by their very nature, discursively driven representations of a possible urban future. Once the contracts are signed and the projects begin, discourses of development, transformation, security, and sport take physical form on the landscape increasing their impacts as the Olympic city[1] grows. The Olympic contract becomes the driving force behind the innumerable transformations that “prepare” a host for a SME and requires the cooperation and support of local government.

Rio de Janeiro and Brazil are at the epicenter of global SME production. The list is impressive and extensive: 2007 Pan American Games, 2011 World Military Games, 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Brazil’s relative economic strength and its concomitant increase in global political capital have been strengthened by charismatic political leadership, a historically strong presence within international sport federations[2], and the construction of domestic political consensus. The successful pursuit of SMEs in Rio de Janeiro is no accident, but is both a tactic and practice that work to install a model of social and economic development in a particular kind of urban space.  The current model of SME production is conditioned by the exigencies of international sport federations and their corporate partners.  The spatial paradigms that SMEs demand are not yet present in Rio. In preparation for the events, Rio de Janeiro is undergoing political, economic, social, and urban interventions that will have lasting effects on the city.

The localized euphoria surrounding the production (and consumption) of a SME is stimulated and amplified by the very forces that bring it into reality: politicians, corporations, national and international sports federations, media conglomerates, marketing and public relations firms. The dominant narratives of a SME are of celebrating shared cultural values (“globalization”), the construction of a better society through sport (“transformation”), the valorization of the local in the global marketplace (“brand recognition”), and the “unique opportunity” of a SME to bring about lasting changes to urban space and culture (“legacy”). The accelerating flows of capital, media, goods, and people that define the current era of globalization have ensured ever expanding audiences and consumers of SMEs. This acceleration has also increased the scope and scale of interventions required at the urban scale. The end goal of local SME boosters is to bring more of those flows to the host, but in order to accomplish this goal various infrastructures must be pieced together. These infrastructures must attend to the spatial and temporal demands of the SME[3] and also to the more uncertain demands of global capital (Cammack 2009).  The interventions required to host an SME are nearly impossible to describe in their entirety as the processes and results involve intersecting vectors that operate unevenly over many years. Despite the profound local impacts of SMEs, the processes, tactics, institutions, and logics that produce them are not well known.

The process of reshaping urban space in an Olympic City (OC) begins many years before the event itself, with a tactical projection of images and spatial tropes that represent the future OC to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The spatial imaginaries of the candidate OC are contained within the Olympic Bid Book (OBB). The OBB combines with video, celebrity, and political presentations to sell the Olympic Project to local, national, and global audiences. The spatial imaginary of the OBB attends to the highly selective demands of the IOC but also reflects the desires (and socio-spatial exigencies) of local elites in their dogged pursuit of cultural, political, and economic capital. These extensive and limited, simplified and complex imaginaries draw from and place demands on urban space, its residents, and visitors. Critical geographic analysis provides tools for “reading” the urban futures projected by the OBB. 

Video Discourse Analysis
The discursive structure deployed in the Rio 2016 OBB was reinforced through a global media campaign to sell the Olympic Project to international audiences. In the case of Rio de Janeiro we can identify a distinct evolution of Olympic videos. Earlier videos (2007, 2008) were comparatively simple, technical representations of the “Olympic potential” of Rio de Janeiro. They showed the bare bones of Rio’s OS: transportation infrastructure, sport installations, hotels, security. As the video projects evolved, they became much more technical, digitized, and fragmented.  The final video (2009) shows almost no Olympic Spaces as such, but plays on emotions, the iconography of landscape, and the “natural disposition” of Rio de Janeiro to host the Olympic Games. The images, music, and sound are overwhelmingly emotional, generating strong affectation in even the most calloused observer.  It will be instructive to analyze more profoundly this video in order to identify the spaces and places, techniques and tactics that Rio 2016 used in its Olympic campaign.

In the final and “winning” Rio 2016 video we see a stylized representation of a highly fragmented and selected urbanism. The motifs of music, leisure, water, mountains, bright colors, and collective emotion dominate the four minute video. The movements of sport occur within a context of soft urbanism that plays host to the rhythms and sensuality of samba, manufacturing a sense of harmony between the cultural, urban, and physical worlds. Importantly, the video shows the tele-visual potential of the city while demonstrating that Rio de Janeiro already possesses the requisite cultural characteristics that will attract international tourists and global capital. Logically, no Olympic promotional video would show the dark underbelly of urban life, yet the images selected for the video encompass a staggeringly limited area of the city, playing on the iconography of landscape and culture with every scene.
The choreography of geography and culture shown in the Rio 2016 video follows a limited and repetitive sequence. Following the action scene by scene we are presented with the following physical and cultural scenes (with points indicated on map)[1]:

The highly fragmented and repetitive representation of urban space and culture plays on a generalized understanding of Rio de Janeiro as a city that has a certain “disposition” towards sport and leisure. The hugely circumscribed geography of the video reinforces a touristic and voyeuristic imaginary of “Rio de Janeiro” strategically employing the city’s natural beauty (human and physical, not architectural) and “naturalized” cultures (sport, samba, beach, football) to sell Rio’s Olympic project.

[1] http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=pt-BR&msa=0&msid=108089938923734461423.00048f7353efc5ac12b0f&ll=-22.898948,-43.255234&spn=0.330815,0.676346&t=h&z=11

[1] For the sake of simplicity I will refer to the mega-event city as an “Olympic city”, with the understanding that the impacts of a mega-event are as variable as the event itself.
[2] The Brazilian João Havelange was president of FIFA from 1974-1998 and is also a long standing member of the IOC. For more on the relationships between FIFA and the IOC see Jennings.
[3] The transformation of urban space occurs within the limited temporal framework of the event. SME facilities should be completed within one year and six months before the event so that they can be tested for performance. The assumption is that structures will begin to lose the sense of “newness” if they are completed too early. Thus, the spatial is linked to the temporal and the two combine to create Olympic places. For more on the relationships between space and place see Massey (Massey, 2006).

02 November 2010

Problems with FIFA and the World Cup model


The above is a link to an article published @ The Shin Guardian, one of the most respected USAmerican football news sources. In it, I discuss the problems ahead for Brazil 2014 and the more generalized horror show of hosting the World Cup in countries that use it as a top down model for economic development. There is a comment section there, so join in!

Also, the ANT is well over 1,000 members. Gente, se ainda não tinham feito sua inscrição façam agora mesmo. Tambem deveriam falar pelos seus amigos, parentes, companheiros de pelada, etc.

Também - não esqueçam o Congresso Internacional Mega-Eventos e a Cidade essa semana na UFF. Minhas falas seriam 5a feira as 14hrs e 6a feira as 14 hrs. Até lah!


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