21 July 2011

Tupi Ruins found at the Maracanã!!!

It had been awhile since I had ventured into the hole of sadness that was the Maracanã. Though hope does still exist that the final project can be altered from its current course, the continued devastation of this cultural patrimony continues to depress and amaze. I say that there is hope because the Comitê Popular da Copa e Olim-piadas has scheduled a meeting with the Ministerio Publico Federal (MPF - a federal legal agency) for the 28th of July at 14 hrs in downtown Rio (Ninlho Pecahna 31, 6a andar). There, the public will be able to present legal and personal depositions in an attempt to get the construction project altered. Unfortnately, the title of the public hearing is "Maracanã, Present and Future", a clear attempt to forget the previous 61 years of the stadium's history. What follows are some photos from today's experience, which involved an aborted attempt to see Cyprus play Qatar in volleyball in the World Military Games (aborted because they wouldn't let me in with something sticking out of my backpack).

Losing the color. In order to test the concrete of the supporting structure, the sky-blue paint of the stadium has been stripped away. This is part of the larger plan to return the Maracana to its "original" color, white. There is some question as to whether or not the stadium was ever painted white as it was not completed in time for the opening game of the 1950 World Cup. The story that I choose to believe (due to multiple interviews in 2004) and that I wrote about extensively in Temples is that the organizers of the '50 Cup were so confident that Brazil would win the tournament that they offered to paint the stadium in the colors of the winning team. Uruguay won, silencing 200,000 Brazilians and the Maracanã has borne the stain ever since. If only SUDERJ would open the archives se we could get at the maintenance records of the stadium to determine the exact moment in which the stadium was painted, and repainted, and repainted in the colors of los hermanitos we could put this debate to rest. In the foreground is the mis-conceived 2014 project and a banner for the World Military Games. R$705 million of public investment does not begin to approximate what the final cost of the project will be.

Souviner's shop. Snack's Bar. Fala serio. I know that Brazilians are very liberal in their use of the apostrophe, but this kind of grammar howler pervades tourist-orientated signage. The sign explaining the Jules Rimet trophy says in its final paragraph, "In 1966 it was stolen in England, recovered and once again stolen, this time in Brazil where it was melt and sold." Are we to understand that that the thieves melted the trophy before they sold it? They should also put a footnote in the sign that Brazilian thieves stole it before selling it to an Argentine who melted it and pressed it into gold bars (or bar's).

The "museum". Not only is there no useful information, but on display is a bycicle used by workers to get around the job site. How innovative, I guess it's how they got by in 1950. In the back of the room there is a desk used by a functionary, very good, but on top of that desk there is a suitcase that was "used to carry cash and tickets." You don't say? In the era of Eduardo Viana, the decseased Caixa d'Agua, who ran the Rio State Football Federation as his personal fiefdom, the carrying of game reciepts home in such a suitcase was far from uncommon. This very bag should have FIFA's name on it, though it is definitely not big enough to carry the billions they are going to put on the plane to Switzerland.

General view of the Maracanã from the tourists' perch. This is one of the saddest sights in the history of modern sport. The current projects calls for the reduction of the capacity from 86,000 to 76,000 as well as the shrinking of the monumental pitch from 78 x 110 yds to 68 x 105. This will change forever the kind of place the Maracanã is as well as the kind of football played there. The physical space of the goal mouths that have been the thresholds of joy and despair for millions over decades will disappear. Games played here will become ping-pong matches characterized by long-balls and packed-in defenses, styles of play that will violate the basic characteristics of Brazilian football.

The old moat that separated the geral from the field can be seen in the back of this photo. Now used as a ramp to bring heavy equipment onto what was the field, this defining characteristic of the Maracanã will also disappear. In the foreground, the first of the 60 large concrete supports that held the elegant, monumental roof hits the deck.

As I was watching the roof come apart I was wondering what they were going to do with these massive supports.  As if on cue, in comes the hammer, reducing to rubble a legally protected part of Rio de Janeiro's cultural heritage. No one standing around the massive dust cloud appeared to be wearing any kind of respiratory device. I'm sure that aspirating 61 year old concrete will have a salubious effect on EMOPs labor force.

On the left, one of four new ramps being installed for access to the lower level of the stadium. On the right, the remnants of the old ramp with the entrance to the Maracanãzinho gym in the bckground. This photo was taken from what, in 2000, was supposed to have been the FIFA International Football Hall of Fame. They only managed to construct a huge (gl)ass appendage to the Maracanã and the museum never left paper. During today's visit the down escalators were not functioning.

Museu do Índio, not very well
Tupi Ruins in the Maracanã!!!!
Last week, workers digging under the field found 11th century Tupi ruins. This was either a burial ground, an observatory, a collective kitchen, a platform for religous ceremonies, or just a pile of dirt that kids used to play on. Archeologists are mystified.  This discovery will further complicate the city government's attempts to disappropriate the Museu do Índio to turn it into a parking lot. They were apparently here first, but who knew that they were playing in midfield the whole time? The people working at Snack's Bar said that this was part of the re-cycling of the old field and that this dirt will be used for the new pitch, but they clearly hadn't read Charles Mann's 1491.

Finally, a 45 second video panorama of the work in progress.

Thanks to Caira Conner for the photographic assistance, her master's research (NYU) looking at "social development" though sporting initiatives associated with mega-events  can be found here.

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