13 August 2012

Here it comes!!

Below is a transcript from an interview with the journalist Lucy Jordan (www.lucy-jordan.com)about the impending, banalized brutality of Rio 2016.


Lucy Jordan (LJ): Do you think the process of preparing for mega-events such as the Olympics has been a positive thing for Rio? Why not? Can you think of any positive aspects to the 2016 Olympic games? 

Hunting White Elephants (HWE): Yes and no. There has been a lot of investment and the city is nearly at full employment, yet the projects under way will not attend the real needs of the city. The Rio 2016 project has become the effective master plan for the city: a dangerous move in a city with a historical lack of investment in basic infrastructure. Also the interventions are creating a dual city: the Olympic city vs. the Non-Olympic city. There are of course always positive aspects when a city receives such massive investment but how those investments are being directed and what their long term effects will be is another story.

LJ: Do you think Rio is prepared for the Olympics? What measures have been taken so far to prepare Rio? Have they been successful? What are the main obstacles that Rio will face in preparing and being ready in time?

HWE: No. Almost none. Of the four BRT lines, three of which were not part of the original project, the one that has come partially on line has killed five people in the past few months because people are using it as a bike path.Why? There are no bike paths in the region. The question about being ready on time is not completely relevant as the six-week demands of the Games tend to justify a thousand urban interventions that will not prepare the city for the demands of 2017 or 2025. The main obstacles are a lack of professionalism in management, conflicts of interest, bureaucratic obstacles, lack of public participation, lack of transparency, and a lack of planning for post-event uses.

LJ: What do you think will be the main similarities and differences between the London games and the Rio games, and why? Do you think that differences between Rio and London, and Brazil and the UK, will manifest themselves in the difference between the Rio games and the London games? How?

HWE: London’s Games happened in a large city with a relatively functional transportation network and very few physical alterations to the city’s infrastructure had to be undertaken. Rio has many more problems in this regard: transportation is fragile, sewage systems are inadequate, etc. Also there is no terrorist threat in Brazil, so the massive investments in security will be more to control local populations rather than to defend against external threats. Things will happen more spontaneously in Rio and the Brazilian penchant for big parties in public space will make the spirit of the completion more diffuse. Also, Rio is not as cosmopolitan as London so there might be more surprises in store for the wealthy international tourist class that frequents the Games.

LJ: Do you think that Brazilians, and in particular Cariocas, are excited about the 2016 games? Why/Why not? How has Rio reacted to the London games? Do you think Brazil will be able to top the success of the London games?

HWE: The Olympics are exciting and Cariocas are of course excited to have the opportunity to see the games happen on home soil. Yet there is a tremendous anxiety and lingering doubts about the capacity of games organizers and the government to act transparently, professionally, and with the best interests of the city residents at the front of their agendas. There hasn’t been much reaction in Rio to the London
Games as Olympic sports are not of great interest in Brazil. The sexualization of female athletes has dominated the amateurish coverage. Brazil’s medal count has been surprisingly low which has further diminished interest. Top the “success” of the London Games? In what sense? Organization, transportation, security, cost? Successful sporting events are easy enough to pull off, preparing the city for future demands should be the real measure of a Games’ success. London was 5x over budget, hugely militarized, corporatized, etc...now what? 
LJ: What do you think of AECOM’s design? Is had been lauded for sustainability – do you think this is warranted?
HWE: It depends on what sustainability means. 60% of the AECOM project will be given over to real-estate. This will be yet another car-dependent, closed condominium project in Barra de Tijuca. The densification of this wetland region is occurring without the required investment in sanitation or in effective public transportation projects. Without creating jobs in the region, residents will get in their cars to go to centers of employment = not sustainable. AECOM has done some interesting things given the parameters set by Rio 2016, including the urbanization of the Vila Autódromo community. The Vila Autódromo has developed a proposal for how this urbanization should occur, demonstrating that keeping the community in situ will be more economical and sustainable environmentally than removal.
LJ: What kind of lasting “legacy” do you think Brazil will be left with after the games are over? 

HWE: I don’t use the word “legacy” to describe the Olympic project. These are impacts. There will be a massive budgetary overrun, militarization and privatization of public space, huge investments in world-class sporting facilities that will not be supported by programs to develop athletes, transportation lines that fragment instead of connect the city, huge increases in rents, unused four and five star hotel rooms that were subsidized by the public, and millions of good memories for one of the most expensive parties in history. 

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