20 February 2013

Counterpoint: Cidade Maravilhosa

Part of Rio`s charm lies in its decadence, grit and difficulty. If the urban system functioned efficiently or were governed competently or justly, Rio might lose something of its essence. The stark topographical and environmental contrasts are reflected in the social divisions and vice-versa. The classic images of favelas cascading down (sometimes literally) the mountains into the high-rise condos, present us with the essential paradox of Brazilian democrapitalism. The transit deaths and traffic jams are a reflection of a long-term lack of long-term planning, itself a reflection of the Brazilian jeitinho and improvisation. Yet the unmistakable character of the city lies in its unpredictability, the chance encounters on the street that lead to 25 chopps (for R$125), the random vegetable vendor singing an aria in the weekly market, or a completely full beach on a Wednesday afternoon. In the city center, layers of urbanism emit a stink of reality that both stimulates and challenges the intellect. Making sense of Rio is as difficult and enticing as the city itself.

An economist friend of mine recently gave me the following bit of analytic advice: “Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence.”

This phrase cannot be easily applied to the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) but it can be applied to the general organization of the World Cup. There are cost overruns and delays and poorly conceived projects all over the place. The majority of the transportation projects will not be completed, nor should they be, as they were projected without any public input. The general incompetence of sport management regimes in Brazil, including the World Cup Organizing Committee, can partially be explained by the absence of sport management programs in Brazilian universities. Ditto for public administration. Put the two together for the World Cup and you can expect confusion, delays, headaches and a missed match or two - but a wonderfully improvised party.

As happened last year with Ricardo Texeira, there is a movement to get rid of the current 81 year old head of the CBF. As Andrew Jennings has recently shown in great and disturbing detail, Jose Marin was rather cozy with the military dictatorship and is one of the old cronies of Havelange and Texeira. Texeiria is piddling around Florida, immune from prosecution. Havelange is trying to live longer than Oscar Niemeyer, his extended worldly tenure holding back any chance of meaningful change in Brazilian football.  Marin is an octogenarian obfuscator who is holding the reigns for the Havelange clan. Like the Pope Nope, it is time these ancient, angry old men made way so they can spend their last years having their income redistributed through the Bolsa Familia program.

Stay tuned for news about the Maracanã which saw a one day labor strike this week. The panicked governor intervened but the terms have yet to be accepted. Now that the deadline is almost here, there is wide speculation that the stadium will not be ready and that the games scheduled for Rio will be moved elsewhere. This is an excellent time to strike again for better wages and working conditions. This week will also likely see the release of the privatization scheme. One hopes that the investigation underway into possible collusion between IMX and the Rio Government in the elaboration of the economic feasibility study will negate any possibility of this coming to fruition. 

1 comment:

paulo said...

i like your description of rio. it brings me back.


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