22 September 2011

A free, flowing conduit of useful information

While reading the press releases and media reports about the Brazilian mega-event cycle, I have found it useful to keep on hand seminal works by (among others) Kafka, Machiavelli, Joseph Campbell, Sartre, Foucault, Agamben, David Harvey, John Horne, Naomi Klein, Chico Buarque, Fernanda Sánchez, Ruth Levy and Monty Python. The following video clip from The Life of Brian explains all one needs to know about the attempts of Rio 2016 and FeeFã to limit the use of particular words. Substitute “Olympic” for “Jehovah” and batons, shock troops, and Glocks for stones.


In addition to “being about” real-estate speculation as Chris Shaw poignantly demonstrates in Five Ring Circus, megas are also about the international arms trade. In August, the Military Police of Rio signed a contract with the Austrian arms manufacturer Glock to use the 9mm weapon as the “official” gun of mega-event security. This didn’t get much play in the media, but the link can be found here as well as on the LinkedIn Support the Organizing Committee group. Naturally, Glock flew the head honchos of the PM to Austria for a contract signing / head-in-a-bucket-of-vodka-and-red-bull party. Glocks do not have external safety mechanisms. Nice choice. Apparently, on exit, the bullets will leave five rings instead of one large hole. What’s next, a billy club that leaves the Olympic imprint on the skull? Five ring handcuffs? An Olympic drone-flying competition? My money is on the USAmericans there.

I can’t wait for the bloody Pope to get here in 2013 with his horde of young, brainwashed original sinners. The Lordships of Rio have literally taken things to the next level with the signing of a contract with the Vatican to bring the World Youth Day to Rio. This year, his holy-moly-ness extended the “fruits of divine grace” to Spanish youth that had had an abortion. Lovely of him to double down on that Catholic guilt, thanks.  I wonder if there will be speculation about an increase in prostitution surrounding this event. With hundreds of thousands of affluent adolescents running about in a town known for its sexual tourism, there are sure to be some bottled up hormones in loose pockets. And as if to justify the event by connecting it to the already over-justified events that are siphoning off public money into private hands, the Holy See is going to “invest in sport”, whatever the hell that means.

Oh, the Cup. The World Cup. The Copa do Mundo. O Mundial da FeeFã. It’s wrong, all wrong. The wheels are coming off before they’ve been put on, which is a pretty accurate reflection of the way Rio de Janeiro functions, or not. It’s confusing and simple at the same time.

Let’s start with costs. According to the Folha do São Paulo, World Cup related projects have increased by R$ 27 billion in 8 months. It’s hard to convert that figure this week as the Real has jumped from US$1.60 to US$1.90 in two weeks. But if we project this increase forward 1000 days, that will be around a R$100 billion increase. Without question, the Brazilian 2014 World Cup will be more expensive than all of the World Cups combined. This is no joke. We will likely arrive at a number well above R$130 billion and the majority of the projects will still not be ready.

The slowness of the contracting process has been exacerbated by the lack of planning on the part of the organizers. The closer we get to the Cup, the more things will cost to construct. Also, because of higher than expected inflation, the weakening of the Real against the Euro and Dollar which is making imports more expensive, the scarcity of qualified labor, the increase in construction materials because of Brazil’s construction and economic boom, the structural corruption of the big civil construction firms and their friends in government and the lack of interest on the part of the CBFdp and FeeFã to do anything in the realm of transparency…you get the idea.

Not only have the stadium costs increased by 170% in three years but the maintenance costs will also see a commensurate increase. Typically, a stadium requires a 10% investment of the construction costs in yearly maintenance. The Maracanã will cost more than a billion. Thus, in ten years, another billion will be spent just to keep it standing. Remember, at least R$300 million of reforms were undertaken between 2005-2007 to reform the stadium for the Pan American Games. These were, naturally, poorly done as this photo demonstrates.

Add into the mix of confusion the strikes that have been occurring at several of the World Cup stadiums. Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Salvador have all had workers strike to improve working conditions. The latest stoppage at the Maracanã lasted nearly three weeks until the courts stepped in and sent the lads back to the job against their will. When Dilma went to Belo Horizonte to mark 1000 days until the 2014 kickoff the workers used the opportunity to strike. That didn’t make it into the press as Dilma and Pelé posed with some of the boys. According to the ever wise, always frightened Minister of Sport Orlando Silva (who certainly must be the least communist member of the Brazilian Communist Party), everything is on schedule. OGlobo is none too happy with the strikes, or the threat of strikes, suggesting that the “shadow” of work stoppages is slowing the country down.

The government presented an official balance of the World Cup projects last week. Notable was the fact that 51 or the 82 public works scheduled for the Copa have yet to begin. While I have always said that the question “Will Brazil be ready for the Cup?” is the wrong question, it is one that is getting plenty of negative answers.

Returning to the confusion that is Rio de Janeiro, it is worth noting that the city government continues to do everything it can to irritate residents in whatever form it can. Recently, an order was sent down to the Guarda Municipal to start cutting the locks of bicycles chained to signs, light posts, fences, and other logical places to lock a bike in the complete absence of bike racks. This has, with good reason, irritated those who try to get around the city by bike. In my visits to the Institute of Brazilian Architects, one of the institutions most involved with the “reworking” of urban space in Rio, there is nowhere to lock a bike. There are no bike racks at the vast majority of Metrô stations, and none at the train station. The city government claims that Rio has 150km of bike paths, but these are concentrated between the center and Leblon and maybe if you count the paths in both directions you could arrive at this number. Many of the city’s bike paths are painted onto sidewalks, end abruptly or are in terrible conditions. One of the headlines from OGlobo today was that the Day Without Cars will reduce by 2,000 the number of cars on Rio’s streets: a drop in the proverbial bucket. Cyclists are rightly upset about all of this and there is a protest getting underway tomorrow afternoon in front of the city council chambers.[editor's note: on Friday 23 Sept., the Mayor signed a decree legalizing the locking of bicycles to posts throughout the city. Well done! We hope that this is an indication of the power of public indignation.]

To magnify what is already a chaotic transportation scenario, work is beginning on the destruction of the elevated highway that runs around the center of downtown. Though a terrible idea to begin with, the elevated highway has become one of the principal arteries that link the Zona Sul, Zona Norte, and Niteroi. Whenever there is the most minor accident, traffic backs up for hours. Now, traffic will be blocked up for years. These are the kinds of costs that are never measured. Ostensibly, the highway is going underground in order to “renovate” the port zone, so that the real-estate speculators can cash in. This new system will in no way reduce traffic in a city that has long dedicated its urban planning practices to the private automobile. Having driven the length and breadth of this city, I can testify to the chaos and frustration that define the experience. As incomes increase, traffic is worsening in the suburbs as residents there buy the used cars from the wealthier regions. Riding past the port, one can see thousands of newly unloaded cars and trucks waiting to clog even further the streets of Rio. This is a global problem, of course, and one that the Day Without a Car will do absolutely nothing to resolve unless the urban planners working for the city recognize the need for alternative forms of transportation.

And finally, the Olympic governance structure continues to amaze and confuse. The Empresa Brasileira de Legado Esportivo Brasil 2016 erected to deal with the Olympic projects in Rio has been eliminated before it even began to function. This latest case of erectile disfunction is particularly troubling as the Empresa has already received around R$109,000 for its non-existent work, with money going to government officials including the above mentioned Orlando Silva. It will take some work to get a working knowledge of how the Olympics are going to be structured and this latest twist in the plot has not helped me wrap my head around it.


3 comments:

Antonio Oswaldo Cruz said...

Chris Gaffney, o Demolidor da farsa olímpica e da copa do mundo.

Christopher Gaffney said...

espero que essas demolições sejam tao fortes quanto as das comunidades!

Christopher Gaffney said...

Copa do Mundo no Brasil privilegia torcedores mais ricos


Entre as diversas transformações que a Copa de 2014 trará ao Brasil, destaca-se a mudança do perfil e, consequentemente, do comportamento dos torcedores. A expectativa é que ocorra elitização do público frequentador dos estádios, assim como espécie de domesticação desses seguidores - o próprio formato das arenas, que são construídas, foi concebido pensando nessa alteração.
É o que defende Antonio Holzmeister Oswaldo Cruz, doutor em Antropologia Social pela Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, que desenvolveu pesquisa sobre as transformações das torcidas e dos estádios ao redor do mundo.
"A elitização do público é uma situação de causa e efeito que segue tendência quase que mundial dentro do futebol globalizado da atualidade", explicou Oswaldo Cruz.
Ele cita o exemplo do Maracanã, que chegou a receber mais de 183 mil pessoas e teve capacidade reduzida para 86 mil espectadores após diversas obras de modernização. Para o Mundial de 2014, quando será palco da final, o número diminuirá ainda mais: 76.500.
"Para onde vão esses quase 10 mil lugares que tiraram do estádio? Vão para camarotes e assentos maiores que a Fifa exige. Tudo está sendo feito em nome de um conforto que nem todo mundo vai poder pagar", recordou o pesquisador.
Marcos Alvito, antropólogo, professor da Universidade Federal Fluminense e fundador da Associação Nacional dos Torcedores, destaca que um dos marcos desse processo de elitização do futebol brasileiro foi o fim da geral do Maracanã, em 2005.
Ele também critica a maneira como o dinheiro público é utilizado. A principal queixa é que as camadas mais pobres da sociedade pagam pela construção de estádios que não terão condições de usufruir depois de prontos. "É um processo que chamo de Robin Hood ao contrário. Os estádios se parecerão com shoppings, terão lojas e restaurantes, porque estão em busca de um consumidor com poder aquisitivo possível", diz o professor.

Para tentar amenizar a distorção, a ANT pretende apresentar projeto de criação de ingressos populares para ser implantado em todo o País após 2014.

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