08 August 2012

Look out!!!

Yet another countdown to the day when Rio finally becomes the Olympic city. As the torch fuel switches from BP to Petrobras, the terribly nice things that happen to prepare a city for the Olympics will start ratcheting up here. We do have the small distraction of the World Cup, in case anyone has forgotten about that, but let’s first take a look at some of the critical problems that need to be addressed in Rio.
  1)      The word “legacy”. Can we agree that this is not a good word to describe what happens when tens of billions of public money get funneled into urban projects designed by public relations firms? These are permanent structural transformations that are not predicated on needs but desires and hollow discourse.
  2)      The airport. This will be the only Olympic city, ever, that will not have a public transportation line that connects the international airport with the city. There is a plan to put a Bus Rapid Transit line between Barra de Tijuca and GIG, but are people going to get on a city bus with their bags? There will also be no public transportation between GIG and the domestic airport downtown. Duh. There will be no water taxi, no increase in ferry service, just a generalized clusterbumble (don’t even get me started about the Metro).
  3)      Maracanã. Currently undergoing the third reform in twelve years. Once the largest stadium in the world, it will have a capacity of 76,000 for the World Cup and will likely need to undergo further reforms for the Olympics. For instance, where will the Olympic torch go? The current reforms are going to be around R$1 billion (or more) and if we add the hundreds of millions in the other reforms, plus the destruction of a protected cultural monument…anyway, you get the idea.
  4)      Engenhão. There has been a movement to change the name of the stadium from Estádio Olímpico João Havelange to honor João Saldanha, the communist coach of the national team that was sacked just before the 1970 World Cup. The problem is that the stadium, a flying saucer that landed in the lower-middle class neighborhood of Engenho de Dentro, is called “Stadium Rio”. Thus removing the name of Brazil’s oldest criminal is moot.
  5)      Engenhão II. The area around the stadium has never received any intervention to improve access. Hundreds of millions will need to be spent, yet there is only a R$15 million line item in the budget.
  6)      Engenhão III. The track will probably have to be replaced. The television screens too. And the roof is in constant danger of falling. Oh, and because the Maracanã has been closed 3 of 4 big teams in Rio play there and have destroyed the grass, so some games have been cancelled.
  7)      Vila Autodromo. AECOM’s winning Olympic park project included the urbanization of the Vila Autodromo which occupies the north-west corner of the Olympic park site. The city and Rio 2016 are anxious to get the “favela” out of sight and out of mind and have been trying for more than a decade, without success. Now, the Vila Autrodromo has put forth an urbanization plan that demonstrates that it will be both cheaper and easier to urbanize in situ than to forcibly remove. Will the government engage?
  8)      Olympic Village. Being built in a swamp. Where will those 15,000 daily Olympic size poops go? Can we get the 100 meter turd float into the Games?
  9)      Cost. Let me get this straight…we pay taxes which were spent on the bid, spent on the infrastructure, running of the games, athlete training and over-blown administration. Then we have to pay to go to the games and pay for the maintenance of useless structures that we won’t have access to because they will be privatized? Even if there were a budget to be kept, we still end up paying four or five times for the Olympics.
  10)  Cost II. The World Cup is pushing frontiers in more ways than I can detail in this post, but have been keeping tabs on for some time. Imagina a Olim-piada!?! The same people that went 10x over budget with the Pan American Games have been given more money with fewer controls, why would we expect a different result?
  11)  Medals. Brazil, not doing so well in London (2 gold, 1 silver, 10 bronze, behind the powerhouses of New Zealand, Denmark, and Kazakstan, whose combined population is less than Rio de Janeiro’s). There is little or no effective investment in sport in this country. It is no accident that the most decorated Brazilian Olympian is a yachtsman, and that other medals come through various forms of fighting and football.  There is a dire, desperate need for a massive shake-up at the COB, but Nuzman is holding on for dear life. The media doesn’t hold his feet to the fire because expectations are so low, and therefore easy to meet.

Ok…enough for today, just getting the pump primed (again) for the transfer of focus. 

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