23 October 2013

Forests and Trees

Favela da Paz, São Paulo. 500 meters from WC stadium
Another week of protests, teachers still on strike, violent police actions, sewage bubbling on residential streets, ill-conceived plans to rework the traffic flows in the city center, international consultants jetting in to pat each other on the back for their clear vision and well-manicured lives, disappearances and summary executions by “pacification” police, diminishing football crowds and record profits, real-estate speculation, institutional blinkardness, macro-economic troubles, frustrated expectations and a constant battle to make the simple things work. Despite the rot these trees of discontent still make for a lovely forest – if you can afford it.

Corinthians/Itaquera WC stadium. R$820 million
The longer I live in Brazil the more clear it becomes that the country is being shaped to guarantee basic human rights to those that can afford to purchase them. In Rio, the access to mobility, education, health care, leisure, sanitation, water and air is conditioned by one´s position in the forest of capitalismo selvagem. Personally, I can´t complain as I have a good job, a foreign passport, a nice apartment and can afford to buy private health care and live in a part of the city that is replete with cultural and environmental amenities. I will not be removed from my house for Olympic transportation lines and do not have my world dominated by milicias, traficantes or the military police. The vast majority of the 13 million residents of Rio do not live like this.

The arrival of the World Cup and Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (and Brazil) are accelerating and consolidating a number of disturbing trajectories. The protests are an attempt to end the processes of privatization, urban fragmentation, spatial isolation, militarization, elitização, forgetting and obfuscation. There are innumerable examples of all of these processes that cannot be attributed to one particular actor. One of the horrible
The fundamental question for the future of the World Cup. Favela da Paz, S.P.
beauties of these events is that they bring together temporary governance regimes and non-state actors that create vacuums of responsibility. FIFA can´t interfere in what the government does, the government has to agree to FIFA demands. The IOC has “certain needs” that the city is obliged to meet, yet the IOC can´t demand that the projects meet social needs. The mega-event coalition uses the state apparatus (within which mayors and governors are sub-altern agents of capital) to divert finances to the creative destruction of a host city. The mega-event industrial complex may be nothing more than a colossal shell game run by Fuleco, whose goal is to accumulate and consolidate power.

09 October 2013

Looking back, thinking forward

We have known since the turn of the century that Brazil would be the World Cup hosts in 2014. This is because FIFA, after the opaque process of selecting the 2006 World Cup hosts (awarded to Germany in 2000 after a last minute abstention by New Zealand´s voting member), decided to employ a continental rotation system: Asia, 2002, Europe, 2006, Africa, 2010, South America 2014, Oceania (read: Australia) 2018. The plan was abandoned in 2007, one day before Brazil was saddled with the 2014 tournament. 

Blatter apparently wanted to guarantee that he could bring the Cup to Africa. This was not a bad idea in and of itself, but it positioned FIFA in the role of an international development agency. That is, in order to justify the outrageously high costs to the hosts, a thousand little development projects had to be created to massage the impact of the transfer of wealth scheme. Back in 2000, the shadow of João Havelange was still creeping along the halls in Zurich, his ex-son in law Teixeira was on the executive committee and lord and master of Brazilian football. It might not have been explicit, but it was highly probable that Brazil, with its emerging consumer market and football history would be the choice for the 2014 World Cup as it rotated through South America. That was 13 years ago. We are still answering questions about Brazil´s “readiness” to host the 2014 Cup. It´s high time that football fans start questioning the urban and social impacts associated with hosting 64 football matches.

Not too early to start thinking about it.
In a recent interview with Gerardo Lissardy of the BBC regarding the joint candidature of Argentina and Uruguay for the 2030 World Cup, I argued that if those two countries were to host the Cup again, 2030 is an excellent time frame. 2030 would mark a century since the first Cup was held in Uruguay and Montevideo´s Estadio Centenario would be an amazing place for a final. Thinking about the Cup now, there is an adequate time frame to start planning stadiums, infrastructure and financing so that host cities could grow into and out of the event. That means that World Cup 2030 host cities should be chosen in 2015 and the World Cup should be incorporated into the long term urban plans of the cities. Of course, this has to happen with the widest possible network of urban stakeholders, with the common goal of minimizing impacts and costs and maximizing benefits. With an eye to sustainability, by 2030 most of the octogenarian old guard of South American football could help grow the grass of the stadia.

A forward thinking urban development model is clearly not what we have seen in the 21st century editions of the World Cup and European Championships (not to mention the Olympics). Korea / Japan 2002 scattered 20 stadiums across the hosts, most of which are unused. Portuguese politicians are looking for ways to destroy stadia built for Euro 2004. Germany was Germany in 2006, and appears to be even more German now. South Africa paid out billions, dislocated tens of thousands from their homes, excluded even more from formal participation in the economy, has rotting carcasses of white elephants strewn about and did not advance football in the country even a little. The Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for 2014. In 2012, Poland and Ukraine paid dearly for the Euro and will likely see their buildings collapse into a quicksand of debt servicing. Brazil, as readers of HWE know, is a 20 billion dollar comedy of errors. The promised urban improvements won’t be ready, the militarization of urban space is ever more profound, and once-loved (though decaying) stadiums have been turned into antiseptic nodes of casual entertainment, social exclusion and rapacious accumulation. There are indications that FIFA has recognized that their business model needs to change, that they are perceived as parasites on the hosts and that their “For the Game. For the World.” motto could be interpreted as a quest for global domination of the people´s game. 

04 October 2013

The Bursting Brazilian Bubble

Brazil, Brazil, Brazil! We´ve been hearing it for years, again. Brazil is the Latin American development model. Brazil is the new home for “sustainable” capitalism to plant a billion genetically modified seeds to generate green economies of scale. Brazil is the emerging soft super power. Brazil is the safe port in a global shite storm of locked up consumer markets. Brazil´s ethanol, Brazil´s oil, Brazil’s water, soybeans, timber, coffee, cacao, açai. The World Cup in Brazil! Brazil´s educated workforce? Brazil´s creative entrepreneurialism? Brazil´s progressive political reforms? Brazil´s infrastructure?

The Rio de Janeiro teachers have been on strike for two months, making demands for better pay, a viable career plan and an end to the market-oriented dogma of merit-based pay. The embarrassment of Rio´s public education system is not reflected in the dedication of its teachers, but in the lack of decent infrastructure, a poorly functioning state apparatus (with lifetime sinecures for untrained, politically appointed administrators), and an executive that would rather pay Woody Allen “whatever he wants” to make a movie in Rio than to pay teachers a living wage. The result is as predictable as it is pathetic: tear gas, pepper spray, truncheons and rubber bullets to clear Rio´s Cinelândia. Pop, pop, pop.

For those keeping score at home, Eike Batista has lost $34.5 billion and is being ridiculed in the national and international media. So sorry Eike. Perhaps you would like to return the Maracanã to the public from which you stole it? Pop. There is a great deal of speculation about whether or not Eike´s Olympian hubris and chicanery can be understood as a metaphor for the most recent Brazilian economic miracle. The Economist isn’t particularly optimistic and the continuing protests around the country are a good indication that the population isn’t satisfied. There clearly needs to be some political reform but the main opposition candidate for next year´s presidential elections, Marina Silva, was barred from registering her political party through a series of dirty tricks that were likely orchestrated by the ruling Workers´ Party. Pop.

The World Cup has faded somewhat from public consciousness but it is a nagging, persistent and troubling stew of discontent. After the Confederations´ Cup, ticket prices for Brazilian league matches, already the most expensive in the world, have gone even higher. While some attendance figures have jumped, others are pretty low indeed. 8,136 people paid to see Santos x Fluminense at the Maracanã. (Remember Santos, Libertadores Champions in 2011?). Pop. The Botafogo x Fluminense clássico in Rio the other night only had 19,562 fans – and this was with prices reduced to R$40. The average price for tickets in the Minerão in Belo Horizonte is R$50 and in Brasilia´s Mané Garrincha R$66.

The top down imposition of a sport business model where fans are transformed into clients, players into pets and stadia into shopping malls was predicated in part on the promise of Brazil´s ever expanding consumer economy. This time next year, FIFA will be in Russia, the hundreds of government agencies created to deliver the 2014 Cup dissolved and the resounding silence of “legacy” will rattle through the intestines of white elephants.

The persistent chant of the teachers in Rio has been this: “Da Copa, da Copa, da Copa eu abro mão, quero meu dinheiro para saúde e educação!” (I give up the Cup, I want my money for health care and education). FIFA, of course, doesn’t like to hear this and may be too busy trying to tunnel out of the Qatari hole they have dug for themselves to notice what is going on in Rio.


2014 World Cup Rio de Janeiro Maracanã FIFA 2016 Olympics 2016 Summer Olympics Eduardo Paes CBF Copa do Mundo 2014 Rio de Janeiro Olympics Ricardo Texeira World Cup 2014 Vasco da Gama 2010 World Cup White Elephants mega-events APO UPP BRT Brazil football Flamengo Lula Orlando Silva violence ANT Aldeia Maracana Carlos Nuzman Dilma Eike Batista Rio 2016 Sergio Cabral 2007 Pan American Games Campeonato Carioca Corruption IOC Jerome Valcke Novo Maracanã stadiums BOPE BRASIL 2016 Brasil 2014 Engenhao Joao Havelange Maracana Policia Militar Vila Autódromo Aldo Rebelo Botafogo Henrique Meirelles Medida Provisoria Metro Revolta do Vinagre Sao Paulo Sepp Blatter World Cup 2010 forced removal Carnaval Elefantes Brancos Fechadao Marcia Lins Minerao Morumbi Odebrecht Porto Maravilha Rio+20 Romario Security Walls South Africa South Africa 2010 TCU Transoeste protests public money public transportation slavery transparency x-Maracana Andrew Jennings Argentina Audiencia Publica Barcelona Brazil Carvalho Hosken Comitê Popular Confederatons Cup Copa do Brasil 2010 Cost overruns Crisis of Capital Accumulation EMOP FERJ Favela do Metro Fluminense Fluminese Fonte Novo IMX Jose Marin Leonel Messi London 2012 Marcelo Freixo Maré Museu do Indio Olympic Delivery Authority Perimetral Rocinha Soccerex Transcarioca bicycles consumer society debt idiocy militarization transportation 1995 Rugby World Cup 2004 Olympics 2015 Copa America Banco Imobiliario Barcas SA Belo Horizonte Bom Senso F.C. Brasilerao CDURP CONMEBOL Champions League. Mourinho Complexo do Alemão Copa Libertadores Cupula dos Povos ESPN England FiFA Fan Fest Istanbul 2020 Jogos Militares John Carioca Kaka Manaus McDonald's Obama Olympic Village PPP Paralympics Providencia Recife Russia Salvador Soccer City Taksim Square Tatu-bola Urban Social Forum Vidigal Vila Olimpica War World Cup Xaracana attendance figures cities corrupcao drugs estadios football frangueiro futebol mafia planejamento urbano police repression porn privitization reforms shock doctrine taxes 201 2010 Elections 2010 Vancouver Olypmics 2013 2018 World Cup 2030 Argentina / Uruguay ABRAJI AGENCO ANPUR ANT-SP Amazonia Ancelmo Gois Andrade Gutierrez Anthony Garotinho Arena Amazonia Arena Pernambucana Athens Atlético Paranaense Avenida das Americas BID Barra de Tijuca Blatter Brasil x Cote d'Iviore Brasileirão 2013 Brasilia Brasilierao Bruno Souza Bus fares COB COI COMLURB CPI CPO Cabral Caixa Economica Canal do Anil Cantagalo Celio de Barros Cesar Maia Chapeu Mangueira Chile 2015 Choque do Ordem Cidade da Copa Class One Powerboat Racing Clint Dempsey Comite Companhia das Docas Copa do Brasil Corinthians Cuiabá Curitiba Dave Zrin David Harvey Der Spiegel Eastwood Edge of Sports Escola Friendenrich Expo Estadio Expo Urbano FGV Fonte Nova Gamboa Garotinho Geostadia Ghana Globo Greek Debt Crisis Greek Olympics HBO Hipoptopoma IMG IPHAN ISL Iniesta Internatinal Football Arena Invictus Istanbul Itaquerao Jacque Rogge Jefferson John Coates Jose Beltrame Julio Grondona Julio Lopes Julio de Lamare Knights Templar Korea Lei Geral da Copa MAR MEX Manchester United Mangabeira Unger Maracanã. Soccerex Marina da Gloria Mexico Milton Santos Molotov Cocktail Mr.Balls Neymar Nicholas Leoz Nilton Santos Olympic Flag Olympic Park Project Oscar Niemeyer Pacaembu Pan American Games Parque Olimpico Pernambuco Plano Popular Plano Popular do Maracana Plano Popular do Maracanã Play the Game Pope Porto Alegre Porto Olimpico Porto Seguro Portuguesa Praca Tiradentes Preview Projeto Morrinho Putin Qatar Quatar 2022 RSA Realengo Regis Fichtner Roberto Dinamite Russia 2018 SETRANS SMH Santa Teresa Santos Sao Raimundo Sargento Pepper Security Cameras Smart City Sochi 2014 South Korea Stormtroopers São Januário São Paulo Teargas Templars Tokyo 2020 Tropa do Elite II Turkey UFRJ/IPPUR URU USA USA! Unidos da Tijuca United States government Urban Age Conference VVIP Via Binário Victory Team Vila Autodromo Vila Cruzeiro Vila do Pan Vilvadao Vivaldao Volta Alice Wasteland Workers' Party World Cup 2018 Xavi Zurich apartments atrazos barrier beer bio-fuels bonde capacities civil society comite popular copa sudamericana crack crime dengue dictatorship estádios favelalógica feira livre fiador flooding freedom of information furos geral graffiti guarda municipal host city agreement identity infrastructure ipanema istoe labor rape riots schedule school shooting security segregation social movements stadium state of exception supervia tear gas ticket prices torcidas organizadas tourism traffic tragedy trash trem-bala velodromo wikileaks xingar