Nearly everyone loves the World Cup, not everyone knows what it takes to produce it. Some people still watch the Olympic Games but forget about the massive public investment required to produce them or the nebulous and contradictory legacies left behind – new transportation systems, public debt, elite sporting facilities, high maintenance costs, gentrification, residential displacement, developing of a tourist economy, loss of authenticity, market opporutnities, commercialization of public space, the list goes on.
After the series of talks I have just given, I am more convinced than ever that the current model of mega-event installation is more destructive than constructive for social relations and urban structures. The absurdly optimistic discourses about development and market share increase do not allow for the insertion of other possibilities. Does the possibility that that the tourist numbers might not be met ever enter the consciousness of even-promoters? Does it matter? Do the decent individuals within the corrupt NGOs responsible for the production of these events really believe what they say or are they willfully ignorant of the Brave New World they are intentionally producing? Once we stop taking the soma pills of developmental sporting discourse it is but a short leap from ignorance to indignation.
Brazilian journalists are stopping their medication. has a very good article in the Journal do Brasil about the Maracanã and the total disrespect shown towards Brazilian football tradition, the fans, and the major problems involved in constructing stadiums with public money given to private contractors that have very cozy relationships with elected officials. Fernanda Odilla in the Folha do São Paulo investigated the economics of producing the World Cup stadiums and concluded that even with significant participation of private companies through PPPs (Public Private Partnerships), the three stadia using this model will be financed through at least 60% public money before being handing over to private concessions for up to 35 years. AS I have been saying all along, the private sector is not entering into the construction of stadia and/or mega-event infrastructure because it is not a viable investment and because they don’t have to, the state has it covered (by law and by contracts with the IOC and FIFA).
There is so much capital flowing through mega-event structures that the political figures and intrigue will make for a very good movie someday. I’m still working on the idea of the World Cup and Olympics as seasons six and seven of The Wire, mixed a bit with Deadwood. The plot, already very complex, is taking some sharp turns as the national and international media are hot on the trail of Ricardo Teixeira (Dr. Jowls). The good Andrew Jennings was in Brazil recently drawing attention to the criminal activities of the CBF. The irrefutable evidence being complied should make for some major shifts in the way Brasil 2014 is unfolding, if, if, if Dilma has the courage of her former convictions, which is so doubtful that I’ll throw in another and bigger IF.
The Olympic power structure is also increasingly clear with Henrique Mirelles (former chief of Brazil’s Central Bank and a Harvard –educated economist [read: neo-liberal]) stepping away from the hot-seat of the Public Olympic Auhtority to preside over the Olympic Council. In his place was inserted Márcio Fortes, former Minister of Cities, who is going to be the one who takes the heat for the success or failure of the Olympic infrastructure plans. The editors from terra.com.br had a good time with the photo for this story, making it slightly difficult to tell which character is Fortes. I hope it’s the guy on the left. Of course, Fortes defended the RDC program which allows for the “flexibilization” of normal contracting process that I talked about a few posts ago.
Hopefully in the coming months geostadia.com will be able to get interviews with these power brokers to find out how much soma they have been ingesting.
What is certain is that the presidency of the APO has been a political hot-potato. Recognizing the extreme political exposure of a position that will be responsible for a budget that is beginning at R$29 billion and urban projects that will change Rio de Janeiro forever, Mirelles went up a level to the Olympic Consular position. He, along with Rio’s Mayor (El Principe) and Govenor (Deputy Dawg Cabral) will have the final say on everything. This will be an interesting relationship to watch as El Principe has already made several failed movements to limit the power of the APO. However, this was when Mirelles was slated to take that position and now that things have changed, again, how these three megalomaniacs get along with the size-defying egos at the IOC and COB to continue the implementation of Gestapo tactics to produce the Olympic City will be fascinating and terrifying to watch.
Oh, some of the Maracana urbanization project has finally been approved. R$117,9 million to build a couple of footbridges. While this hardly qualifies as an “urbanization” project, it will create a new link between the stadium complex and the Quinta da Boa Vista. Now that the pesky Favela do Metrô has been wiped off the map, this project will be much easier to think about. [editor's note: only some houses in the Favela do Metro have been destroyed].