02 February 2011

Head of Autoridade Publico Olimpico announced; Nova Fonte Nova underway

In all of the shuffling of positions that occured with the change of government in Brazil, the ever-confused Minister of Sport Orlando Silva couldn't quite figure out where he was going. The CBF wanted him to stay in his current position as did the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB). If you find it shocking that Brazil has a cabinet position filled by a nominal communist, don't be, Mr. Silva is as red as an international finance manager.

The Dilma government decided to maintain Silva in his post at the MoS and has indicated Henruque Meirelles to occupy the top position in the APO. As president Mirelles will make R$22,000 a month and direct a budget of R$30 billion. His qualifications? For the past eight years Meirelles has directed Brazil's Central Bank, winning IstoE's 'Brazilian of the Year' award in 2009. As with nearly all Latin American central bank directors since the Chilean coup in 1973, Meirelles has passed through a conservative USAmerican institution (Harvard) and was the president and c.o.o. of Bank Boston.

There are some conflicts ahead for Mr. Meirelles. The APO is comprised of representaives from three spheres of government, federal, state, and city. The state governor of Rio appears to be on board but the mayor, Eduardo Paes has openly resisted the scope of power of the APO to direct the Olympic building projects. Yesterday he said that he wants "someone smaller" in the position, ostensibly so that Paes himself can have more control over what is going on. This will be an intersting clash of egos. It's unclear to everyone how the APO is going to function, where they will set up shop, who is going to fill the 400 odd positions, and the amount of authority they will wield over urban planning in Rio. We can bet that there will not be much in the way of transparency mechanisms as nearly a year and a half after the seletion of Rio as host of the 2016 Olympics, the website dedicated to Olympic transparency www.transparenciaolimpica.com.br has NO USEFUL INFORMATION.

In my other attempts to gain access to information about the organization of the World Cup and in particular the Maracanã project, I have been met with a vast and stunning silence. I will attempt in the near future to bang on the doors of the SUDERJ archives while continuing to call and email in order to get access to someone or something that will shed light on the inner workings of the World Cup project. The SUDERJ website is good for a laugh.

Which brings me to the World Cup. Four years after the selection of Brazil to host the 2014 tournament there is no didicated website. The CBF website (which only recently has started to work in any browser other than Explorer) has a link that takes one to the FIFA website. On the FIFA site, there are pictures of flaccid, pale middle aged men shaking hands and smiling. There is no public transparency mechanism for the World Cup, and it is increasingly difficult to figure out where money is coming from, where it is going, what the associated infrastructure projects are and who is in charge of anything. The media are as complicit in this obfuscation as as anyone, as I pointed out in my damning critique of IstoE last week.

Another example of the faux-journalism related to these projects came in yesterday's OGlobo. Buried in the middle of the sports section was a full page treatment of the Nova Fonte Nova in Salvador. The stadium was demolished last year over the protests of several residents' groups. There's an excellent article about why it was wrong to demolish the stadium, highlighting its historical function in the city, its multi-purpose utility, and the false and flawed logic employed by the government in order to build something to attend to the sick desires of the FIFA-mafia. Oh well.

The OGlobo piece talks about the public-private-partnership between two of Brazil's largest civil construction firms, OAS and Odebrect, the amount of public financing (R$300 million), the money spent on demolition (R$67 million), but does not mention how much private capital has gone into the project. The stadium will, you will be plesed to hear, "have 31 quiosks, 11 elevators, a panoramic restaurant, a football museum, and space for lectures, shows and business meetings." They might even have a football team play there, though nothing is confirmed. And of course, all of this destruction and construction is actually good for the environment as it will "utilze natural [sic] wind, recycle rain water and sewage, and will (somehow) preserve the environment around the stadium."

The second section of the report was not so glowing as the majority of the urban infrastructure projects planned for Salvador have not lept off the paper and into the lives of residents. The shocking thing about this article was the official statement that Salvador is expecting 70,000 tourists for the World Cup. That's it? 70,000? Surely they get more than that for Carnaval...The planned investments in urban infrastructure, which are needed, amount to R$750 million. But who is directing these projects? Will these projects only attend to the needs of the 70,000 visitors, or to the city at large, creating a more integrated urban transport system? How much will these (so far) phantom projects cost? As a demonstration of the logics behind the projects, the coordenator of the Salvador World Cup said, "It's no good to talk about exact values because the projects will be distributed between various municipal departments and some projects are only related to urban dynamics, and won't be considered part of the World Cup costs?"

Indeed, it is no good to talk about exact values, because these values are going to be hidden from public view. According to the vast majority of press reports, the World Cup and Olympics are responsible for EVERYTHING that will happen in Brazil through 2016. However, when it comes time to talk about the ways in which this will happen logistically or where the money will come from or how those money trails will be followed and accounted for or who will be responsible for delivering the finished product and ensuring that public money is spent in the interest of the public, the answer is always "não dá".

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