13 December 2012

something for the weekend calumet


1) There is no way to separate the social and cultural phenomenon of sports mega-events, the production of elite sport and the consumption of spectacle, from the circulation and accumulation of four types of capital: political, symbolic, cultural and economic.

2) Sport is increasingly used as a mechanism for the accumulation of all these forms of capital because it is easily detached from the politics of urban life. The combined actions of government, media, finance capital and mega-event rights holders work to differentiate the social and economic costs of mega-events from the provision of housing, transportation, education, sanitation, health care and human rights. This separation is facilitated by the emotional and historical milieus of sports competitions which frame the hosting of events within the non-rational, the patriotic or the intangible. The invention, production, marketing, and consumption of sports mega-events rarely includes complete information regarding the scope, scale and cost of urban and social interventions thereby constructing and maintaining a public veil of ignorance regarding the event.

3) The accelerated cycles of exceptional events has diluted their unique character, increased the scale of intervention and created a permanent and revolving “state of exception” (Agamben  2005). The global peregrinations of “celebration capital” (Boykoff 2013) have created trans-national knowledge sharing networks that continually evolve to meet the logistical, political and infrastructural challenges posed by hosts. These networks articulate with local, vested interests to extract maximum capital (in all its forms) within the event`s temporal horizon (seven years in the case of the Olympics and World Cup).  

4) In order for a maximum of accumulation to occur in the event horizon a specific mode of production needs to be imported and implemented. This mode of production can be considered a “Mega-event industrial complex” that is highly mobile and highly flexible, using metropolitan, state, national and international actors to transform the political, economic and socio-spatial dynamics of hosts. The mode of production requires extensive political, urban and social interventions in order to stimulate flows and circulations to the maximum degree possible. However, these flows are heavily directed and controlled, are of a certain type and have enduring effects on the exercise of power.

5) The general tendency of the mega-event mode of production is to limit the “right to the city” through the installation of a new form of governmentality (Foucault 2004, 108) that uses apparatuses of security as its essential technical element.  The mode of production can also be understood as a series of techniques, deployments, and tactics that restructures urban space through the mechanisms of discipline and security. This apparatus is meant to transform the use value of the city for local residents into exchange value for more mobile agents, thus transferring economic capital to higher circuits while allowing for the unfettered accumulation of political and symbolic capital by local and national politicians.  No informed population with a strong civil society would consensually submit to this outlandish proposal, thus the security apparatus functions to establish and guarantee these new circulations through the exercise of violence.

Agambem, Giorgio.2005. States of Exception. . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Boykoff, Jules. 2013. Celebration Capitalism. Forthcoming.
Foucault, Michel. 2004. Security, Territory, Population. Editions du Seuil/Gallimard. New York: Picador.

07 December 2012

Lies, Truth and Chico


It`s almost too easy to pick on the CBF and the World Cup organizing committee, but they really do deserve all of the opprobrium that we can shovel on them, so let`s get to it.

Soccerex, the global football business conference, was as depressing and vapid as usual. One of the particular lowlights was the presentation offered by Ricardo Trade and Bebeto. The former is the head of something at the CBF and the LOC and the latter was a fine footballer in his day, but appears to be taking nips of electric kool-aid between electroshock sessions. Bebeto said the following at least half a dozen times, “when you`re a player, you have no idea what goes into making a World Cup, but when you`re on this side of things, you realize it’s a lot of work.” Genius! It`s probably better that Bebeto has completely ignored his duties as a federal legislator to take up a position on the left shoulder of whatever authority figure is strutting around.

The meat of the LOC`s presentation looked like it had just crawled out of Graciliano Ramos` Vidas Secas. Don`t bother asking for a copy because their public relations directive is to not give out any information. However, once in awhile, if you go to enough of these presentations, they let out something that might actually be true and I think I discovered a piece of reality in Trade`s brutal, condescending powerpoint:

   ·         Total investment in World Cup associated projects (including federal, state and city)- R$112.8 billion.
   ·         Total anticipated impact on Gross Domestic Production (PIB) – R$64.5 billion

You read correctly. According to the figures presented by the 2014 Organizing Committee at the world`s largest soccer business conference, for every R$1 invested in the World Cup, the Brazilian public can expect a return of R$0.57. Brilliant! [ed: apparently inspired by the deputy, the author begun to repeat things]

It is also important to point out (again) that the word sustainability is so hollow that if you hold it to your ear you can hear Mother Nature crying a polluted river. What no “sustainable” account of stadium construction or reform ever takes into consideration is the amount of energy and resources that go into making a monumental structure that will require even more energy to run. Does it really matter that the stadium in Brasilia will be LEED Platinum Certified if there is no demand for the principal use of the thing after 7 football matches in 2014? I`m not surprised that people say and do anything to drive up costs and to project themselves and their overblown ideas as good for society, but that these insipid discourses get accepted by journalists and the general public as evident truths is disturbing in the extreme.

Fuleco. That was not the name that received the most votes on this website but it is now the official name of the tatu-bola mascot of the World Cup. It is a mixture of “futebol” and “ecologia”. What with its high use of chemical fertilizers for fields, hundreds of thousands of kilometers of air travel, equipment manufactured in slave-like conditions in East Asia, the consumption of tens of millions of cans and bottles, vip travel in limousines and private jets, traffic jams for the rest of time, the creative destruction of cities and stadiums and the immense stresses on sewage systems in host cities it is very clear that football is an ecologically sensitive sport! It all makes perfect sense. If they weren`t walking around with pockets stuffed with public money, one would almost feel badly for the adults that have to swallow this garbage as part of their jobs. According to one report, upon hearing his name, the tatu-bola tried to commit suicide. Where are the Brazilian Kevorkians to help him along?

Cafusa. This is the name of the ball for the Confederations Cup. Confusa? Confucious? No, no, that is the ball of the 2026 World Cup in China. I`m cafuso. But thankfully because I know that all of Brazil is defined by Carnaval, Futebol and Samba, I can hopefully remember the name just like every other John Carioca. Why not pair cafusa will a ball named mulosa (mulata gostosa) and get all of the stereotypes into play?
In support of a Maracanã publico e popular
Unlike his former strike partner, Romàrio is on the CBF`s case and has just gathered enough signatures to open a Parliamentary Inquiry into the current and former leadership. The rot runs deep at the CBF and opening the black box as the World Cup starts coming into view is going to challenge FIFA`s newly re-proclaimed dedication to transparency. Força aì deputado!

The Maracanã is ours! O Maraca è nosso! The Rio de Janeiro State Legislature met yesterday to discuss the possibility of a plebecite for a yes or no vote on the privatization of the Maracanã. There are some strange bedfellows in this process, but the battle for the soul of Brazil`s most famous (and most expensive) stadium is heating up with major victories for the people. 



Here`s Chico Buarque on the subject, with more to come soon:


27 November 2012

More Than A Mouthful


As I was debating on Radio Nacional the infinite reasons to maintain the Maracanã  complex in public hands,  there was a march organized by the state government to protest a law that would more evenly divide petroleum royalities among Brazil`s states. The countermarch to protest the authoritarian regime of Sèrgio Cabral was met with pepper spray and violent repression. On the same day, as the FIFA Vice President tried to tour the Maracanã , he was met with protests by indigenous groups and private citizens while at the same time a group of indigenous folk were performing for delegates at Soccerex where Ricardo Trade and Bebeto bored the pants off a room full of people who had drunk deeply from a bottomless cup of kool-aid. They also revealed that the World Cup will generate a R$64.5 billion return on a R$112.8 billion investment.  

In previous weeks dozens of people have been butchered in Sao Paulo and an 18 year old kid was killed in front of his grandmother in Rio by Military Police in an UPP favela who stormed into his room as he slept. The auditor general opened yet another investigation into mega-event fraud, this time dealing with the World Military Games, which blew a hole in the budget for no particular reason other than to keep in good form for the World Cup and Olympics. It`s raining in Rio which means that transportation has come to a standstill, except for the public buses which continue to kill people at an alarming rate. The opposite problem is happening to the ferries which cannot get away from the docks because there is so much trash in the bay that their motors are getting clogged. That, however,  is better than taking a car, because there is always the chance that a roving mob will stop traffic and assault everyone, or if you`re driving on Avenida Brasil where if you are not swerving to avoid the crack addicts pushed out of the newly-occupied favelas, you might find yourself having to go backwards to avoid a gunfight. This generally chaotic situation, we are told, will be solved through technology from the battlefields of Afganestan, as the Federal Police are in the process of buying surveillance balloons which can take photos of faces from a distance of up to 3km. 

In the midst of this chaos, it is no wonder that the CBF with its former president in exile and a current vice-president under investigation by the Federal Police is firing its coaches, shuffling the deck chairs and starting up the orchestra with the icebergs on the horizon. Save us Fuleco!

16 November 2012

Host and Parasite


I would like to have a party at your house. This is a great opportunity for you. I won’t pay you anything, but really, your house is inadequate, unseemly even, so please reform it and beautify the streets. When I get there, no one else can come within two kilometers, a condition you will guarantee by force of arms. You are responsible for the music, drink, getting me and my friends there, telling others about it, and providing everything that I can think of, whether or not I have told you about it. Make sure there is a recycling bin because I am very concerned about sustainability. I would like you to close down all the roads so I can get there more quickly in the limousine that you will provide. If I break everything, too bad. If I decide not to show up, well, that’s up to me. Everything good that happens at this party, I will take credit for. In fact, I’ll sell the video and party favors around the globe to my exclusive profit, and you’ll get nothing in return but the world will see how pretty your house is. In the case that one of my friends urinates on your couch or puts a hole in the roof you can’t ask for compensation. Don’t even think about complaining, it’s not his fault that she has a bit of a heavy wrist and loses control. Once you’ve prepared everything and gone into debt to do so, I guarantee, semi-absolutely, that it is going to be an amazing party but remember that we have different interests here. If you do everything I say and give me everything I want at your own expense, then I will tell people what a good host you were. I need to make enough money at this party to tide me over for years and it’s your obligation to make this happen. If things aren’t just right or if I am in any way inconvenienced by what I perceive to be a lack of preparation, or if the path between my five star hotel and your house is not plastered with my image, I will simply cancel without prior warning and leave you holding a very empty bag. Sound good? Sign here.

A federal judge ordered the publication of the host city agreement between São Paulo and FIFA. The documents defines the “opportunities and obligations” of the city. The obligations are onerous, offering very little for the host other than financial risk, liability and the surrendering of urban space for the “good of the game”. The links to the agreement in English and Portuguese are above, but I have compiled a list of gems that will give you some idea of what the contract involves.

“The LOC (Local Organizing Committee, headed by the 80 year old kleptomaniac and president of the CBF, José Marin) and Host City accept that FIFA is entitled to amend, delete or supplement the terms of any guidelines and other directions and to add FIFA requirements at any time at its sole discretion.” 

Section 9.5, regarding World Cup poster and artistic materials: “The Host City irrevocably waives in favor of FIFA, to the fullest extent permitted by any applicable laws, all moral rights and other rights of a similar nature.”

Section 12.6, “…any and all goodwill arising from the use by the Host City of Competition Marks will inure to the benefit of FIFA.”

Section 14, “…Costs related to the infrastructure, management and operation of public viewing events shall be borne by the Host City.” However, within any of the public viewing areas that a city wishes to establish, all FIFA guidelines regarding branding and sale of merchandise, food, etc. 

Section 16 prohibits the Host City from hosting any competing sporting events and during the day before, day of and day after a match, all cultural events that happen in a city have to be approved by FIFA. (Good luck with this in Rio).

Section 18 reminds the host that they have to provide all stadia and training grounds free of charge. One of the brutalities of the privatization schemes is that the public will have invested hundreds of millions in stadia, privatized them, and then will have to lease them back from the new owners in order to give them over to FIFA. If there is an M.B.A. or sport management student out there that would like to explain how this improves the economic prospects of the host, I’m listening.

Sections 21 and 22 deal with transportation and are worrying in the extreme. The host city shall pass “all necessary ordinances and bylaws” (that is, install an extra-legal regime) to provide special access lanes and transportation schemes for FIFA. In case this does not liberate enough space, “The Host City shall, upon FIFA or the LOC’s reasonable request, at any period of the competition, shut down public access to roads within the Host City.” This is a complete surrendering of territorial sovereignty.

In the “exclusion zones” around the stadiums, FIFA can “cover any and all commercial signage and advertising”. Who will do this covering you ask? Your local, state and federal police forces that will be trained by FIFA in “Rights Protection” (at public expense) and then will be put at FIFA’s disposal for six weeks. You did not read incorrectly. Public police forces will be taken off the job, trained to protect FIFA’s interests, then will be relieved from normal duties for six weeks to enforce what FIFA has taught them. This will be made possible by the passing of “laws that enable FIFA agents to act to confiscate ‘ambush’ materials” (Section 28.2).

Section 31 – all city services will be provided free of charge

Section 32 – City Beautification: “The Host City shall not authorize or grant any permits for any private or public construction works to be undertaken for the duration of the World Cup…any construction which is in progress at the start of the Competition shall be temporarily suspended.” Good luck getting those wages back, or in getting those Olympic projects completed on time.

Section 33.8 – No Partnership. “The Host City shall not act nor purport to act as a partner or agency of FIFA or the LOC…The parties are in all respects independent contractors and have separate financial interests under this agreement.” Indeed.

Section 33.18 – What me worry? “The Host City waives any and all claims of liability against the LOC, FIFA and their officers, members, agents or employees for any loss or damage to the city whether or not such loss or damage may have been caused by or resulted from the negligence of the LOC, FIFA, [etc]…The Host City further indemnifies and hold harmless FIFA, LOC, broadcasters, commercial affiliates, external advisors and agents, [etc.]…from any and all obligations and liabilities, including, without limitation any and all claims, losses, damage, injuries, liabilities, objections, demands, recoveries deficiencies, costs, expenses which they may suffer or incur arising out of or in any way connected with this agreement, or any acts or omissions of the Host City hereunder. The obligations of the Host City set forth in this clause survive the termination of the agreement.”




09 November 2012

Audiência não pública


As anticipated, the government showed up to complete its obligation of realizing at least one audiência pública. Because at no stage of the project had it been discussed with the public, and because it is so clearly wrong in so many ways, an intense resistance to this autocratic schema developed. Yesterday, the idea of those opposed to the privatization of the Maracanã (and to the lack of democratic process) was to impede the audiência from being realized on legal and moral grounds. If the government could not demonstrate that it had performed (or staged) a public hearing then the contracting process for privatization could not begin. Hundreds of people comprised a very loud, unified chorus and tried to bring a halt to the Potempkinish proceedings.


The amount of debris that rained down on the heads of the government officials was enough that security forces used an umbrella as a raised shield. Someone threw a bag of $hite towards the table, signaling the general degree of indignation. As the 500+ crowd hollered down the government, the microphone went to a very long line of individuals, who harangued the government even more. There was then a mass exodus that toppled dozens of rows of plastic chairs, and left the government calling the names of those who had just abandoned their show. At the end of the hall, people lit flares and chanted: “Puta que pariu, é a maior robaleira do Brasil”. (Son of a Whore, it’s the biggest theft in Brazil!)

After the confusão, the head of Rio de Janeiro’s state construction authority, Regis Fichtner said that he “refused to cancel the audiencia publica because there is nothing less democratic that restricting people’s right to speak.” Unfortunately, he wasn't prepared to listen which is why the crowd had resulted to throwing trash on his head in the first place. 

I could no longer tolerate the scene when Fichtner began to repeat the litany of reasons why the Maracanã had to be reformed, why it had to be privatized, why this was all for the good of the people. He arrived at this final point by rejecting the legitimacy of those who spoke, at the event that he convened, by intoning: “they do not speak for the people.”

This was a keenly important moment in the history of the Maracanã. An unresponsive government sat and took abuse from the people whose interests they purportedly represent. There was no one at the table taking notes about what was being said, no indication that they heard anything at all. A mood of tyrannical boredom and indifference radiated from the head table. When the waves of abuse passed, they went about completing their legal obligation, and the audiência foi realizada. O Globo called it “one more step towards the realization of the concession.”



07 November 2012

The Perverse Priorities of Power (PPP)


The Maracanã privatization scheme (Public Private Partnership) is both emblematic and symptomatic of the way that the Rio State and City governments relate to the public. For those not familiar with the story, the Maracanã has undergone a series of crippling reforms since 2005 when the state threw R$430 million at the complex to “prepare” it for the Pan American Games. The promise at the time was that these reforms, which included upgrades to the Maracanazinho gymnasium, the Celio de Barros running track and the Julio de Lamare aquatic center, would meet the demands of international sports federations (IOC, FIFA) so that one day Rio could bask in the temporary glory of being the center of the universe. Overseeing the reforms for the Pan was the current mayor, Eddie P., then the state secretary of sports. In his words at the time, “the privatization of the Maracanã is inconceivable.”

Foto from inside EMOP showing the permanence of the Maracana complex 
After tearing apart the reforms of the Pan, the Maracanã has been ripped to shreds with a price tag that is approaching R$1 billion. The football stadium has been closed four of the last eight years, but the aquatic park and athletics facilities have functioned well, serving a diverse constituency of neighborhood residents, athletic athletes and public schools. Two weeks ago, these facilities were put at risk through the opening of proposals to privatize the complex. Ícaro Moreno, the head of EMOP (state public works), said last week that these installations are being moved across the train tracks, but there’s no project for that at all. In fact the photos of the Maracanã complex on the walls of EMOP show these facilities being preserved in situ. No one has consulted any of the users of the Maracanã: football fans, elderly, parents of school children, athletes, coaches, journalists.

The ONLY time the public interest will be “consulted” will happen tomorrow night in what is being erroneously called an audiência pública. The government will present the project they have developed behind closed doors, open the floor for a few comments, perhaps register that they have somehow engaged in a democratic process and tchau. Following the audiência, the script reads, Batista’s IMX company will submit its privatization proposal, which will be accepted, and poof – no more public influence over one of Brazil’s greatest architectural icons and public spaces, no more public school, no more athletic track, no more swimming complex, no more Museu do Índio. The projected return on public investment (without inflation or interest on loans) over the 35 year concession will be around 26%. After 30 years, these cookie cutter “world-class” stadiums all a face lift anyway, so IMX will likely re-negotiate after the public pours money into the New Novo Maracanã.  This is a direct public investment in private welfare.

The perverse associations between Eike Batista and the state government are little discussed, even amongst the politically conscious. The perverse conception of democracy as one in which the public can comment on but not participate in the formulation of the public interest is totally blasé. The extension and expansion of democratic rights to the population isn’t high on the mayor’s or governor’s or Eike’s to-do list.  The expenditure of public money on public works to be handed to private interests that involves the destruction of a top-performing public school, a century-old indigenous heritage site, and two Olympic quality training facilities in order to generate even more profit for Brazil’s richest man, is a perversity that boggles the imagination. 

The future of the Maracanã must be discussed more broadly with those who use it. An audiência pública to discuss a pre-determined project is merely farcical theatre.

If you didn't have enough to gag on today, take a look inside the host city agreements: http://www.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/cidade/secretarias/copa/documentos/index.php?p=47152



30 October 2012

CÈU ABERTO, MARACANÃ LIVRE


The much-anticipated and little discussed privatization scheme for the Maracanã came out last Monday, exactly two weeks after the elections. “The plan” calls for the demolition of the Municipal School Arthur Friendenrich (the subject of Martin Curi’s 2011 book). The parents and principle are convinced that the government is waiting until to the end of the school year in late November to make their move. There is no clear indication of where the kids and teachers would be for 2013. The privitization was launched as a surprise for the general public (even for OGLOBO), but the school has been under threat since 2009 and has taken successful legal action against the state itself to militate for its permanence. Why does this school have to be removed, and if its removal is necessary, why can’t the Maracanã accommodate new school facilities?

The Museo do Índio is also slated for the bulldozers of a private consortium. The Museum, around for more than a century, an architectural treasure and site of indigenous identity, strength and resistance might be made into a parking lot, an walkway, a restaurant, or a storefront selling postcards of Brazil’s rich anthropological specimens. Does anyone know what the project is? Has this project been discussed with all of the relevant stakeholders? If the Museum can’t be reformed in situ, what alternative projects can be considered in collaboration with indigenous communities?

Want to train for the Olympics on the fine track at the Celso de Barros facility? You’d better hurry because the other day  representatives of IMX, (a consortium of Eike Batista and the USAmerican-based sport venue\ and entertainment conglomerate IMG) were seen walking around taking pictures. Probably unnoticed by the suits were hundreds of school children using the facilities, participating in public school Olympics, the Rio equivalent of field day. School kids using public sporting facilities in the middle of the day? Who ever heard ofsuch nonsense!? The track is one of the few Olympic-standard facilities in the state. If privatization will destroy recreation space, where and when are the replacement facilities being constructed?

The Julio Dellamare swimming complex is also going agua abaixo. The elderly are going to have to find a private club or a distant public pool to do their water gymnastics; they’re rightly upset that water therapy is not being valued and that their physical health will be negatively impacted by the loss of the pool. Olympic swimmers, divers and water polo players are going to have to train in Barra where there will finally be a positive legacy for Maria Lenk, coitada. There is a proposed reform for the Maracanazinho gymnasium, which will no doubt be banked by the public. This stadium also went under significant reforms for the 2007 PAN, and should theoretically, be adequate for 2016.  What are the plans here? Is another reform necessary?


As with most public meetings of this kind, the panel will likely consist of a table of government officials powerpointing the project, allowing for the public to ask questions and make comments afterwards. This type of public planning ensures a minimum of transparency, maximizes private influence and excludes the general public and civil society from entering the discussion about the destiny of the very facilities that they pay for and use (or not: Maracanã, closed for four of the last eight years).  

The state says it has no option but to privatize, because it is building something that it does not have the capacity to manage. Why not then privatize the construction costs as well? The numbers never add up on stadiums, so why limit the scope of the argument to economic rationality? The stadium complex is multi-use, always has been, and we don’t know how much it cost to run over the last 62 years because the government won’t let us in to look at its records. We have no idea where the old Maracanã would have fit on the World Stadium Index because the is no access to attendance figures, number of events held, or even how much water the stadium used.

 It is long past time to make the Maracanã transparent. Even the clubs are arguing for privatization. As ever,  the clubs and the CBF are hijacking the public interest.  The torcidas organizadas are pawns of the clubs, so there’s no help coming from the most organized fan sectors. What is happening is that mothers, fathers, their kids, the elderly, the disabled, Olympic athletes, indigenous nations, physical education teachers, fans, beer vendors, and  public sector employees  are gathering to create the Plano Popular do Maracanã. Collaborators, enthusiasts and critics unite!

10 October 2012

Violence, violence, violence...and more violence

You don't have to speak or read portuguese to get the jist of this video where the Municpal Guard of Rio attacks beach-goes in the form of a gang. It's incredible. This happened yesterday, October 9, 2012 because the Guardas apparently didn't like that some people were playing football on the beach. Who knows their motivations. Whatever they were, the reaction was right out of MMA or a crappy 1980s video game where you whack inert creatures with long sticks. International visitors, are you ready for this? Oh, and if you need to wash the blood off your cracked skull in the showers on Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, don't. It's untreated grey water, fecal coliform counts off the charts. Mmmm.



Remember, this is the "unarmed" police force of Rio. In Ipanema, on a Tuesday afternoon. As one of the mayoral campaign slogans quipped: Não Paz com Paes. 

08 October 2012

Rio para não chorar

viomundo.com.br photo: Girl beaten by Military Police in Porto Alegre

As if on cue, the Military Police in Porto Alegre showed us the extent to which the World Cup mascot will be protected. The obscene and absurd images nicely encapsulate what is going on to rip public money from the, er, public, and give it to multi-national corporations. After “Safado” was deflated by protesters, the Really Very Extraordinary Secretary for the World Cup in Rio Grande do Sul was most concerned that FIFA would give him a new Tatu-Bola. .
viomundo.com.br photo: Military Police guard a plastic armadillo!?!?

The details of what happened in the center of Porto Alegre (formerly known as the home of the World Social Forum, Participatory Budgeting, etc.) are a repeat of what we have seen all over the world. Peaceful protest by righteously indignant youths met by overwhelming police force that results in reporters being beaten and thrown in jail, cameras and cell phones broken, and unarmed people demanding their civil rights perrper sprayed, tazed, rubber bulleted, and bashed in the face by mindless thugs in service of private capital. Three days later the President went to Rio Grande do Sul to vote. The mayor was re-elected.

Also on cue was the Brazilian Professional Football Players' Union, who rightly pointed out the health risk of playing matches at 1pm on the bloody Equator! FIFA, of course, said that they consulted their medical committee which likely consisted of a Tatu-bola, Henry Kissinger, Jack Kevorkian, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. In Brazil, lawyers are also called doctors, so perhaps there was some real confusion for FIFA. The best thing about the new stadiums is the air-conditioning in the VIP boxes. So cool, so quiet. Ooh, snacks!

Thouands form a human chain around the Maracanã. Gustavo Mehl photo. 
To resist some of this profanity, Marcelo Freixo brought together thousands of people on Saturday to form a human ring around the Maracanã. As Erick Omena and I were debating on Radio Nacional last Friday, the destruction of the Maracanã is a crime against culture, architecture, history, memory and football itself. Those who approve of the reform tend to think that “global tendencies” are always good, don’t look past the discourse of plenty and progress, and want to blindly follow a path of infinite consumption as a way to complete citizenship. Enjoy the freefall  into an antiseptic nightmare.  The full program is below:


Freixo, a heroic figure in the current political scene in Rio de Janeiro, finished second in the municipal elections but with more than 28% of the vote. This is a huge victory and bodes very well for the insertion of social justice into the blithering diatribes of the incumbent. Paes ran with Goveror Deputy Dawg Cabral to Brasilia this morning to kiss the hand of the President and to thank her for her support in getting him re-elected. The first campaign video that Lula did was for Paes and his dominance in the militia-controlled sections of Rio was complete. Given all this, plus his insane financial advantage and the inherent conservatism of Carioca society, Freixo's 28% is indeed a huge milestone. Tatu-bola para a frente!

Pathetically and predictably, the hegemonic mega-event coalition was consolidated on Friday with the re-installment of Carlos Nuzman as head of the Brasilian Olympic Committee. Now at the helm for more than two decades, Nuzman was unopposed in the “election” and received the vote of 29 or 30 federations. The only vote against? The Brazilian Ice Sports Federation. You could say that the Federation has been frozen out.

To demonstrate the degree of depravity and old-school Latin American Coronelismo going on at the COB, check out this excellent piece of reporting by ESPN – Brasil. The piece opens by showing COB functionaries breaking into the Ice Federation headquarters to steal documents. The way the funding for sports federations works is that the Federal Government, via the Ministry of Sports, sends money to the COB which then distributes money to the federations. To get the money a federation president has to be on Nuzman’s good side and use the COB accountants at a cost of R$4000 per month. If you cross Nuzman, the money gets cut and the COB invades your headquarters. When asked about this by ESPN, the Minister of Sport said he could do nothing. Delightful.

The “election” of Nuzman to another term as head of the COB also means that he will keep his post as President of Rio 2016. The re-election of Paes has probably calmed the nerves of the IOC and FIFA. Invariably, the scenes of Porto Alegre will be repeated throughout Brazil as public space is privatized, social services are cut and citizens’ rights are trampled so that more gigantic Tatu-bolas driking Coke can be thrown up in the 12 host cities. Please vote on the name for the Mascot or send me your suggestions and I'll put them on the voting list. 

Here’s a longer video of the Abraço no Maracanã. Congratulations to all who participated!


02 October 2012

Amijubi, Fuleco, Zuzeco e Safado

In addition to volunteering labor for profitable enterprises, a practice prohibited under Brazilian law for which the Law of the Cup made a generous exception, Brazilians can now participate in the trough-feeding insanity of the 2014 World Cup by choosing between three names for the official mascot.

"Safado"
Not satisfied with having the path to social participation opened by voting on the name of the World Cup ball, Brazuca (made in Pakistan where the skies are patrolled by drones), Brazilians are flocking to their computers to choose the name of the World Cup mascot. As FIFA explained in a press release, that despite their fervent desire to open name suggestions, there were certain legal complications but because “queríamos muito que os brasileiros pudessem desempenhar um papel ativo no batismo da mascote, decidimos realizar algo inédito e oferecer algumas opções para votação” – because we really wanted Brazilians to actively participate in the naming of the mascot, we decided to do something unique and offer voting options.

Uma delicia!
Thanks FIFA!!! I always wanted to have the chance to choose between three names for a mascot that will help cram the Tatu-Bola down our throats. 

The names are the best in indigenous and green-washing of a football tournament that will effectively step on the rights of the indigenous and destroy the environment. “Amijubi” is a combaination of "amizade” (friendship) and “júbilo” (happiness) that also happens "to resonate" with the Tupi-guarani word “Jubi”, which means yellow, one of Brazil’s colors! Perfect! I’m a happy friend to the Indians, I’m voting for that one! (Too bad the Museum of the Indian  next to the Maracanã is likely to be plowed under for the Cup).

But wait, “Fuleco” is a mixture of “futebol” (which I just love!) and “ecologia” which I also love as it is the fountain of all life. If I vote for this name, so FIFA tells me, I will encourage people to think even more about the environment than Carvalho Hosken, Odebrecht and Eduardo Paes combined. So many choices!

“Zuzeco”, well it’s just so dang Brazilian I might not be able to help myself. Not only does the “Zu” sound cool, it represents Azul which reminds me of the color of the seas of Brazils “magnificent coastline, its rivers and its beautiful sky”. Eco, well, why not just say it again because the more you do, the more you’ll believe that you’re participating  and not just wasting your time. If you hold the empty shell of the Tatu-Bola up to your ear after eating its tasty insides, you might hear the echo of the hollow eco-discourse.

Additionally, we’ve been informed by the Overlords that we will be assisting games on the Equator at 1pm. That’s right, kickoffs in Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, 1pm. There might be a good opportunity for someone to enter with the “official sunscreen” of the World Cup. Something durable, like the shell of a Tatu-bola. European television markets have dominated the scheduling of World Cups since Mexico ’86, sacrificing players and fans for the good of the game.


18 September 2012

General update


Earlier this year, after Vasco was judged to have maintained some of their youth players in “conditions of slavery” at a clandestine training site, I stopped watching football. In Brazil, it’s impossible not to pay attention to novellas of some kind, but I have found that my decision to drop my active support for Vasco (though I’m still Vasco) has freed me to do other things. It’s actually quite a relief not to suffer the difficulties of fighting for a place in the Copa [your name here] Libertadores, or to get upset when we lose 4-0 at home and the very popular, very good manager is forced to resign. The more one knows about the way Brazilian football works, the more revolting it becomes. Quem conheça a cozinha não come mais.

In some respect, the only way that Brazilians give any credibility to my indignation and revolt against Vasco is by me staying away from the game. If I were to follow Vasco closely after calling them out on the international stage, people would have (and some did) questioned my “claim to authenticity”. As Vasco continues to disgrace its history and delude its supporters by trying to get out from under the judicial decisions that would make them treat their trainees decently, they are also being sued by Romário for back wages of R$50 million. The politics of the Vasco directorship continue in the very same, sad, tired vein as the CBF and Brazilian football in general. Without popular, judicial, or political pressure to change, nothing ever will. If you’re satisfied, keep giving your support as you always have. More Bread and Circus please, hold the bread.

As predicted, the Paralympic flag did not make the same rounds as the Olympic flag. It floated on over to a center for the disabled in Santa Cruz, and that was it. This week, even O Bobo was forced to publish a piece on the nearly complete inaccessibility of the city for people in wheelchairs. With four years to the Paralympics, the new metro cars and 40% of the bus fleet are inaccessible. In more than three years of riding city buses, I have only seen one person try to get on in a wheelchair. Why? It’s nearly impossible! There is only one crosswalk in all of Rio that has a sound alert for the blind. ONE! As I suggested in my last post, if we had the Paralympics first, these “problems” would become priorities.

The BRT Transoeste has now claimed five lives and injured many more since its inauguration in June. On a recent trip along the proposed trajectory of the BRT Transcarioca, it became clear that the entire region will be sliced in half, with street crossings limited to stop lights and pedestrian overpasses. Talk about making things difficult for the disabled and elderly! There is no indication that all the overpasses will have elevators, and even if they were to have them, would they be used? Cariocas are masters of finding the shortest trajectory across busy streets, even if those streets are packed with high speed buses. If no one will go an extra 30 meters to use a crosswalk or an underpass, why will they begin to climb with their bags in the heat of the day? Unfortunately, the Transcarioca will kill as readily as the Transoeste. 

10 September 2012

Here it comes, again


It is a pity that more attention is not given to the Paralympics. This is likely a combination of fatigue after the Cyborg Games, combined with some preconceptions and prejudices about “disabled” sport. However, if we are (just for a moment) to think that the Olympics really possess positive, mystical, transformational powers then it is surely in the Paralympics that we see this most clearly manifested (though clearly with some Cyborg elements as well).

The Paralympics is full of eye-watering tales of human perseverance. The difficulties of training and high-level achievement are augmented by the daily rigors of “disability” (an admittedly terrible word to use for world-class athletes). The Brazilian athletes are to be doubly commended as they live and train in cities that are almost wholly inadequate for their daily needs: low levels of investment in sport, grave difficulties in social assistance and cities poorly structured for wheelchairs, the blind and the deaf.

It may be that one way to solve the problem of making the Olympic Games actually useful for a city is to host the Paralympics first. That way, we will have to ensure that the public transportation, sidewalks, restaurants, elevators, crosswalks, museum access, beach accesses, stadiums and hotels will attend to the needs and rights of the disabled before they meet the desires and demands of the International Overlords. We would also focus more attention on the real “human interest” stories found within sport, perhaps giving Bob Costas something meaningful to talk about. By making the Paralympics prelude, we can direct our attention to the people and projects that currently exist as afterthoughts.

This is all to say that the Paralympic flag arrives in Rio de Janeiro today. It is unclear whether it will make the same rounds as the Olympic flag, but I rather doubt it will go to the Complexo do Alemão which is almost completely inaccessible by wheelchair. 

(Vejam esse artigo no BBC Brasil sobre o projeto de transportes no Rio)

27 August 2012

Istanbul 2020

Is it too soon to look ahead to Istanbul 2020? Is it too early to start poniting out the obvious?

Seems like the Turks are convinced. From the Istanbul 2020 bid book:



10.11 – Community support in excess of 87% of the population
Opinion polls were conducted by Strategic Focus measuring the response of 2,418 people 15 years of age and above from Istanbul (789) and 16 other cities (1,629) providing a representative national sample. The survey was conducted from 2 to 26 January 2012. The poll confirmed the wide-ranging support of the Games in Turkey and Istanbul:
Would you like to see Turkey host the Olympic Games? 87.1% of respondents in Istanbul and 83.3% throughout Turkey supported Turkey as host of the Olympic Games (14.2% had no opinion, 2.4% opposed) [ed: damn Kurds!]

~~ Do you believe that hosting the Olympic Games might help present a new image of Turkey to the world? 86.4% of respondents in Istanbul and 85.1% throughout Turkey believe the Games will offer a positive legacy and image for Turkey (13.4% had no opinion, 1.6% negative response). These results are achieved without any domestic promotion campaign, which will commence during the Candidature Phase and are comparable to those from polls conducted in November 2000, reflecting the enduring support of the Games.[ed: we haven't had to convince people it's good for them yet]

10.12 – Full support of government and the private sector
There is no organised opposition to the Istanbul 2020 proposal to host the Olympic Games. Rather, the bid enjoys the full support of all government bodies, opposition parties, the private sector and the general public.[ed: the Lords are in agreement about this]

10.13 – No requirement for a referendum under the terms of the Olympic Law
The Olympic Law ensures there is no requirement to stage a referendum in relation to the staging of the Olympic Games. Nor is it possible for opponents to the bid to force a referendum. [ed: I am not making this up].

11.1 – A balanced OCOG budget with guaranteed underwriting and cash flow. [ed: drinks on us!]

11.2 – Complete financial support from all levels of government [ed: keep the change]

11.3x    See you and your offshore accounts in Istanbul! 

24 August 2012

3,600,000 hours of free labor for FIFA.


The FIFA Voluntary Labor Camp has opened for people to give even more of their lives to the International Overlords. I know that this is a “customary practice” but when FIFA is anticipating profits in excess of $3.5 billion for the month long tournament, it is obscene to think that in a country that has a minimum MONTHLY wage of R$622 (US$311), that FIFA has the gall to not pay people to work for them. Worse is the total success they have in doing so! The first days of volunteer enrollment there were tens of thousands of inscriptions. No doubt the meals, transportation and uniforms will be worth the trouble. It’s no small trouble:

Volunteers must agree to work 10 hours a day for 20 days = 200 hours of labor.
If a working week is 40 hours, that is 5 weeks of free labor per person.
Each host city needs at least 1,500 volunteer-slaves. 1,500 x 12 = 18,000
18,000 serfs x 200 hours = 3,600,000 hours of free labor for FIFA.
3,600,000 hours = 90,000 weeks = 22,500 months = 1,875 years

You get the picture.

Let’s put this in economic terms. Each person laboring for the Brazilian minimum wage for five weeks would earn R$777.50 for five weeks of work (a pathetic hourly wage of R$3.89). Multiply this by the number of laborers and we get R$13,995,000 or around US$7 million. With profits estimated in the billions, why does FIFA demand free labor? Seven million dollars doesn’t seem like so much to pay and if you actually threw some job training in there, people could use the event for something useful other than a t-shirt made by nimble Cambodian fingers.

The minimum wage in Switzerland is US$23. Let’s pay our Brazilian volunteers that wage and see how much FIFA continues to crow about sustainable practice. It would still only amount to 828 million dollars – a modest contribution to Brazil’s economy.  Or, as a colleague of mine has suggested, let’s get all of the COPA 2014 team on board with the national spirit and have them volunteer 5 weeks of free labor. Aló Ministro Rebelo! I know you are a member of the communist party, but this is really going too far! Let’s all  be good capitalists here, not feudal serfs.

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