30 October 2012


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!

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