28 April 2013

Photos from the Novo Maracana

Protest dancing, shoes optional
The protests outside of the stadium were not seen by many members of the media because they had been bused in government vans from the Sambodromo directly into the stadium and were told that they would not be permitted to enter and leave. This "worse than China treatment" (as one journalist put it), compounded a hugely confusing and overly-long credential process. Some jornalists spent more than six hours getting their credentials because the third party that had been contracted for the service had experienced a power outage of some kind and had not been able to print up the badges prior to the arrival of the media. 

Flying the flag with the question of the day.

The protest was organized by the Maraca é Nosso movement, a group affilitated with the Comite Popular da Copa e das Olimpiadas. The hundred-odd protesters included indigenous folk from the Aldeia Maracana settlement, parents, professors and students from the Escola Municipal Arthur Friendenrich, athletes and trainers form the two Olympic training facilities slated for destruction, members of the Comite Popular and the Frente Nacional dos Torcedores. Femen made an appearance and you can see the gratuitous photos of naked breasts on the globo site. 

The stands as television screen. Sit back and relax. 
 Inside the stadium, the show was on. This kind of display was meant to test the stadium`s lighting and sound capacity. The sound system was predictably bad, but the lighting reminded me of big concernt venues in North America, or going to an NBA game. The switching of lights and focus is a hallmark of multi-use arenas and this new arena will no doubt excell in the production of concerts and spectacle. Once they figure out the sound system, this will no doubt be one of Brazil`s most blinged-out concert venues.

A Praia do Maraca
Many of the drinking fountains were not working and the food service was not up and running so the Consorcio Rio 2014, in charge of the construction, handed out coke and water to the workers that comprised the majority of the audience (although selling of tickets for R$50 was the norm around the stadium for days leading up to the game). The Consorcio also gave away what could, in desperation, be called food: pringles and soggy sandwiches. The lack of trashcans was a problem. The lack of running water ensured that everythign had to be served out of plastic bottles and put into plastic cups. There was no clear recycling program and as a result, the inside of the stadium ended up looking like Ipanema after a sun-soaked Sunday (minus the floating arms). 

Having been to many stadiums and having seen the poor quality of construction relative to the seat installation that followed the deforms undertaken for the 2007 Pan, I was disappointed to see yet again that we find it very difficult to install seats properly in Brazilian stadia. The seats were either installed crookedly, had hugely varying distances beteen them or had confusing arms rests. In this photo we can see a bulge in the concrete that has twisted the yellow seat leftward. The seat has no arm rest, but the ones on either side do, in the blue row in front, some seats have one arm rest and others two, some none. It`s a small point perhaps, but the general impression is that the seats were all installed hastily and without much attention to detail. The same happened the last time around, as I noted in this post

No to privatization and an end to demolitions!
The protest made its way into the stadium and was fortunately not repressed by security forces, although I did hear one Consorcio 2014 worker shout over his walkie-talkie "we`ve got to get those people out of there". The banner is a call to maintain the stadium in public hands and to end demolitions and forced removals in Rio de Janeiro. The lack of action on the part of the security forces was a good sign for Brazilian democracy as is the fact that people are willing to risk getting beaten up to politicize an event that has been de-natured by most of the Brazilian media. 

Right hand only? 
Volte Sempre!
That the World Cup is the culmination of a process that is turning fans into clients was evidenced by the hundreds of green-clad Consorcio 2014 greeters that encircled the stadium before and after the game. On the way from the Metro I was greeted by a glad-handing troop of young Cariocas that were happy to point the way to the stadium. There is only one direction to the stadium so it was impossible to go wrong, but their presence indicated that the New Maraca will be dedicated to customer service. On the way out of the stadium, these same people lined the exits, cheering for the fans. The phrase of the night that really struck me was "Volte sempre" - come back always. This is the same phrase that we hear in the supermarket, the shopping mall, or in Wal Mart. This is perhaps the saddest twist to the entire saga. The Maracana is being promoted as an entertainment option, not as a historically important site of social and cultural reproduction. The presence of the hundreds of Consorcio Greeters consolidated the corporate nature of the event. That this has come at a cost of one point something billion R$ is disgusting, that it has come at the expense of democracy is quite something else. 

As I had gone into the stadium before the end of the protest, I missed these joyful moments that occurred sometime after the game started. So much for my short-lived optimism, but at least I was correct about needing to have running shoes and a gas mask. 

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