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.
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