08 May 2011

The Wire, Season 6

At the end of April, three major international organizations visited Rio to deal with Olympic related developments – The IOC, the UN, and Amnesty International. You can probably guess the tone of each of their public statements. I attended the public meeting between the IOC, the Prefeitura, and Rio 2016 which was used as an opportunity to present the new transparency [sic] website Cidade Olímpica (www.cidadeolimpica.com). 

The website presentation was undertaken by the Olympic Parrot, Felipe Goes, and was an embarrassingly shallow testament to the mind-numbing obtuseness of discursive Olympism. The website is slick and paints a picture of “progress” without social, economic, environmental, or structural costs. If you want to sit in an office in Switzerland, São Paulo, or New York and check on the strides that the Cariocas are taking to make you more money, than this is the perfect instrument. If you want to know how and where public funds are being spent, how to interact with the process, or get real information about anything, then just sit back and wait for the bulldozer to come. The website provides 360 degree views of construction sites, tidy videos with carefully crafted interviews, unknown academics talking about Rio’s “transformative” history, and nary a word of opposition or a hint of discord. Everything will happen smoothly, the city will undergo a ‘natural and naturalized’ transformation bringing untold benefits to untold millions. I encourage readers to go through the website to see the projects underway. If you are able to find out any information that goes beyond mere presentation, please let me know so I can have them take it off the website.

The euphemistic void of the new website made me nostalgic for the old black box of www.transparenciaolimpica.com.br. In returning to it after a month away, I was stunned to find that they had reconfigured the site and taken out what little information there was. It’s a joke, an Olim-piada. 

For instance, click on this link and try to get information about the VLT Centro line: http://www.transparenciaolimpica.com.br/projetos2.htm. This brings you to a continual feedback loop which, ironically, functions much like the VLT (Light Rail) line which is projected to circulate only through the Porto Maravilha development project, avoiding connection with the Metro, Rail, and Ferry lines. I shake my head so much in disbelief that I’m developing preternaturally strong neck muscles.

Having read Raquel Rolnk’s UN report denouncing the violations of human rights that are already happening throughout Rio as the government bulldozes homes and building to make way for transportation projects and stadia, I was eager to hear what the Olympian Cerberus had to say about the very strong denunciations.

Geostadia: This has been a very important week for the government and for Rio 2016. Not only is the IOC evaluating developments but the UN and Amnesty International have condemned the government for severe violations of human rights and non-compliance with international treaties to which Brazil is a signatory. I would like to hear how the Prefeitura, Rio 2016, and the IOC are responding to these charges.

Eduard Paes (summary of): I don’t think that the UN is going to need to respond to this question so I’ll just deal with it myself. You have to separate the transportation projects from the Olympic project…

Geostadia (incredulous): But you just presented a whole website link…

Eduardo Paes (irritiated): It will be much easier to get through this if you let me finish.

Carlos Nuzman (bored, thinking about lunch, never looking at the press corps)

Eduardo Paes: As I was saying, these removals have nothing to do with the Olympics because you have to separate the Olympic Facilities from the other infrastructures.

At this point I stopped writing, stopped listening. My head filled with the sound of all of the world’s national anthems being played at once.

As Paes tried to close the door on the subject by asking for another question, Gilbert Felli, head of the IOC delegation took the microphone, answering me directly.

Felli: We don’t want to give the impression that the IOC doesn’t care about these questions. We understand that many of the benefits that the Olympics bring come with consequences and we will be asking Rio de Janeiro for a list of all of the disappropriations being made. We have this problem in all Olympic cities [and how, I thought (two million people in 20 years)], and we are looking to establish more relationships with local and international NGOs in order to deal more effectively with the problem.

There were a couple of other questions regarding the massive flooding that happened around the Maracanã, effectively shutting down the Tijuca region of the city for three days. Of course, but of course, there are project under way to fix this problem, but the reality of the situation is that when it rains in Tijuca and the tide is high, there is nowhere for the water to go and the Maracanã becomes a mud bath.

(I also need to point out that after the official launching of the website, the site didn’t get on air for two days. During the presentation, the Olympic Parrot had to keep pecking at off-line videos to show content. Yet another show at the Rio 2016 amateur hour).

Privatized Mud Bowl
We knew it was coming but have finally had official confirmation. The Maracanã will, after undergoing more than a R$ 1,5 billion of reforms over six years, be given over to a private concession. Sergio Cabral made the announcement here, saying that “a stadium like the Maracanã simply doesn’t fit into the hands of public power”. So, after 60 years, the Maracanã, once the greatest and grandest public space in Rio, Brazil and the Americas, will be fully privatized. As I have been saying in my recent pieces for Brazilian audiences, the Maracanã is dead and we are just entering into stages of denial. The mourning process hasn’t even begun.

Paul McCartney 1 Fla-Flu 0
The Brazilian national championship is going to kick off in two weeks but no games will be played in Rio de Janeiro. Vasco and Botafogo are away and Fla and Flu will have nowhere to play because Paul McCartney is going to be using the Engenhão. With the Maracanã closed to general use until the end of the Paralympics in September of 2016, when big shows come to town three of the big four have to find somewhere else to play. How is it that Rio de Janeiro does not have the capacity to have both Paul McCartney and football occur on the same weekend? No one knows where these games are going to be played yet, which is making it mighty difficult for the Associação Nacional dos Torcedores to organize a protest. Come on CBF, get your s#!@# together so the formgias can take it apart!

Tropa do Elite III
The forced evictions in Rio are accompanied by two major resettlement projects, Morar Carioca and Minha Casa, Minha Vida. The majority of these settlements are in the far, far western suburbs where the presence of milícias is particularly strong. Milícias are the Rio equivalent of 19th century New York ward bosses that control the provision of water, gas, electricity, cable, security, drugs, and transportation for poor neighborhoods. Comprised of off-duty cops and other civil servants, the milícias were the subject of the Tropa do Elite 2 film. They are clearly a major problem and represent a parallel state structure that is completely intertwined with the democratically elected government. Given the more generalized confusions it came as a shock to hear the Municipal Secretary of housing, Jorge Bittar, announce that there is no way to get rid of the milícias operating in the Minha Casa Minha Vida projects. This is an admission that the state has failed in a large geographic area and has allowed that vacuum to be filled by armed gangs who are much more powerful than the drug trafficking factions that have been the target of the UPP installations throughout the city.

Stringer Bell, Marlow Stanfield, Tommy Carcetti, José Maria Beltrame, José Pataro Botelho de Queiroz
Another two pieces of the personality puzzle fell into place over the last ten days. Maria Silvia Bastos Marques will take control of the newly formed Municipal Olympic Authority and Brazil’s top international cop José Ricardo Pataro Botelho de Queiroz will take control of the special security organization. The list of names, players, companies, and institutional arrangements is beginning to fill out. All we need now is for someone to start making a mocumentary like this one about the preparations for the Sydney Olympics:


The Olympic Park Project (OPP)
And finally, the contest to design the Olympic park has begun. This Olim-piada deserves book length treatment. Some highlights:
  • The Olympic Park project is isolated from the city, making an integrated urbanization project nearly impossible
  • There is a 25 meter “environmental zone” around the perimeter, ostensibly to protect the lake, but really, it’s there to eliminate houses in the Vila Autódromo.
  • The majority of the houses in the Vila Autodrómo fall outside the project area, rasing questions about the Prefeitura’s intentions for the community.
  • 40% of the park area must be given over to sporting infrastructure (CTO, Centro de Trinamento Olímpico) and 60% for real-estate speculation. 
  •  The project should not cost more than R$590 million
  •  Only companies that have prior experience with Olympic projects can apply
  •  The material was published on May 5 and the deadline is June 30
  •  All of the proposals will be evaluated and the results published on July 13 (a two week evaluation period for a concusro that will undoubtedly receive scores of proposals from all over the world)
  •  900 pages of information
·         This edital substitutes the previous attempt by Rio 2016 to cram though the Olympic Park project without competition. The IAB (Brazilian Architects Institute) cried foul over a lack of transparency during the initial process in September 2010. It remains to be seen how transparent this process will be as the evaluation committee has yet to be named.

As this process develops over the coming months, Geostadia will be laying a heavy hand on the winning proposal with extreme prejudice. For now, I hope to have given you enough things to chew on for two weeks as I take a little break to work on some other projects. Please keep linking the site to yours and please send comments!  

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