26 July 2012

Velodromo Rio

The continual refrain from the organizers of mega-events in Brazil is that the hosting of the 2007 Pan American Games gave the city's event boosters credibility in the eyes of international sports federations. These very same organizers admit that there was "no substantial legacy" from the Pan, other than going 10x over budget, militarizing the city, and gaining experience in running a major event. To their credit, apparently the Pan was well organized as an event unto itself (ticketing and sports competitions), but the innumerable projects that have been left over to rot in the tropical sun defy full description. 


Among the innumerable absurdities is the Velodromo (cycling track). Built for R$14 million, there is continual talk of destroying the existing structure and building a new one. This is what the president of the Municipal Olympic Authority had to say


“Laudos oficiais mostram que a pista atual não permite a quebra de recordes. E ainda há duas pilastras atrapalhando a visão geral. A capacidade é bem menor do que a exigida (1.500 contra cinco mil lugares). O edital de licitação abre duas possibilidades: tanto para a reforma abrangente quanto para a construção de um novo velódromo. O governo federal estuda também remontar o velódromo atual em outra cidade.”

"The official reports say that the track won't permit records to be broken and there are still two support posts that are blocking the general view.The capacity is smaller than required (1500 vs 5000). The (new) licencing process will open two possibilities: one is to reform the current stadium and the other is to build a new velodromo. The federal government is studying the possibility of moving the velodromo to another city."



If we project that a new Velodromo will cost at least double the 2007 version, we can figure an investment around (and conservatively) $28 million for a sport that is not practiced with much frequency in Brazil. However, people do (or would) use their bikes to get to work, so let's look at the budgeting for bike lanes. 


There is a project called Rio: capital of bikes, which this site suggests has a budget of nearly R$67 million. However, in looking at the ACTUAL money spent by the city government on this project in 2011 and 2012, we find the following: 


2011: R$1,542,890.49
2012: R$1,542,890.49


Ok, great. The city government has invested more than R$3 million on this project, but what does the project entail? 


One company, Sinape Sinalizacao Viaria Limitada, received  R$ 644,228.83 in 2012. What do they do? Signage. Thus, 41% of the bike project budget is dedicated to signage. I haven't seen a new sign on a bike path in years. How many signs can one put up on 150 km of bike path anyway? Something fishy here... 


The point is this: we are spending tens of millions again and again on monumental projects that have no use, are poorly projected, and will fill the pants of the public debt for years to come. In the meantime, the bombast about potentially useful public works projects, like Rio - Captial de bicicleta, has no basis in reality once we start looking at how much money is spent and where. Rio de Janeiro has some bike paths, but they are really inadequate, poorly connected, and when you leave them to try to get from one to another, you run the risk of death. The recently implanted Transoeste BRT line is being used as a bike path, causing some obvious problems between high speed buses and bike commuters. Why are people using the BRT lanes? Because there is no bike path. Why is there no bike path? Because there is no planning and no creative intelligence at work to ends that don't have to do with selling the city to the highest bidder. 


The Velodromo farce is but one element in a larger joke that is taking on cosmic dimensions. But perhaps we won't make the mistake of hoisting the South Korean flag when the North Koreans take the field, as happened on the opening day of the women's football tournament. Nice one LOCOG. 

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