13 May 2014

30 Daze

With one month to go until kickoff all the talk is about infrastructure projects delivered or not delivered, costs, stadiums, legacy, protests, who will win, etc. There are a few talking points being left out of the debate.

Which projects are (not) being completed and why?

More than half of the WC infrastructure projects that were part of the Matrix of Responsibilities that each city signed as part of the “host-city agreement” with FIFA have not happened. This includes a monorail in Manaus, a light rail in Cuiabá, the 1.5 km extension of the metro in Salvador, reforms to Rio´s port, airport projects, 4G communications and numerous Bus Rapid Transit lines. There are two things to consider: a) why were these projects chosen, by whom and how and b) why didn´t they get done and what are the consequences?

In the case of Rio, a major bus line that was projected in the 1960s was finally brought into being. It connects the international airport with Barra da Tijuca in the southwest part of the city. It cuts through dense neighborhood fabric, has removed tens of thousands of people and will not attend the tourist or commuter demands of the city. Why a bus line from the 1960s to a distant suburb where no residents use public transportation? Why not an expansion of the metro to the international airport? Why not new ferry lines? In short, the lingering questions about “legacy” are going to be answered in a few years, as Jerome Valcke recently said. The implication is that Brazilians shouldn´t protest now because we don´t know how things are going to turn out. Already, the evidence points to a legacy fail of historic proportions.

But if we take Valcke´s advice and wait to see what happens, surely we can look at what has happened with the projects that have been delivered.

The projects that have been delivered, such as stadiums, have not functioned to attract “families back to football”, as the event organizers have suggested. FIFA suggests that these “better facilities” will “welcome more fans, because the structure is nicer and have a higher standard of international football.” Please.

The quality of the Brazilian league may be at its lowest point in fifty years. The data show that attendances are lower and ticket prices higher than all of the major football leagues in the world. Indeed, Brazil has the highest ticket prices in the world relative to minimum wage. The new stadiums have been privatized and the teams prefer to have fewer, wealthier fans in the stadium. Why? For every fan, the teams pay insurance and security costs. Therefore 10,000 fans at R$50 generates more money than 20,000 at R$25. 

Total Public
Average  Public
Total gate receipts (R$)
Average ticket price (R$)
Data taken from the CBF website and compiled by me.

If we take out the novelty of visiting new stadiums, and the fact that the big teams are playing outside of their home cities and attracting bigger crowds through novelty, the 2013 Brasilierão would have been worse than the numbers here show. If we take into account items such as transportation, food and parking then average costs are much higher. In short, the promise that families would flock back to the stadiums because of increased comfort and security did not and will not materialize as long as the level of play is so bad and the prices are so exorbitant.

Yesterday, I returned to the Favela do Metrô-Mangueira. The city has removed the majority of the favela to make way for undefined and uncompleted projects. We were warned of all the cracudos lingering in the trash and sewage filled alleyways.  The scene was one of utter destruction and desperation.

Passing by the Maracanã metrô station, I was astounded to see that a huge construction project had gotten underway in the three weeks since I had last been there. It seems impossible that the integration of the train and metro stations will happen in a month.

Inside the Maracanã, the press handlers were frantically trying to keep us from touching the grass at the edge of the technical area. “Only players” was the mantra, as security guards stomped around the edge of the pitch. The gaggle of neurotic pr flacks was desperately trying to create some kind of religious iconography out of a patch of grass in a historic place that has been sanitized and deracinated. Not 500 meters from that very spot, people are struggling for their lives amidst scenes of destruction and ruin.

One month from the Cup, the questions should be about infrastructure and preparedness, but we must first consider what has Brazil (not) prepared, how and for whom.


Gunther Kirschner said...

I never understood the point of the express bus from the airport to Barra. Ideally some form of express transport system would connect the airport (and Ilha do Governador) to Central do Brasil. There you would redistribute to the metro and buses.

Rio’s public transportation system suffers from its excessive reliance on buses: (old, dangerous and uncomfortable). Its wide avenues would be ideal for a tram system. It could link Central do Brasil down to Leblon without the need for new tunnels. Much cheaper than the ongoing metro extension. When I mention this I always the reply: you don’t understand – the owners of the bus companies are more powerful in Rio than Petrobras…

Christopher Gaffney said...

Thanks Gunther,
The express bus from the airport to Barra is a remnant of hte Doxaidis plan from the 1960s. It may have made sense then, at the height of Brazilian modernism, but it certainly does not make sense for the mobility crisis facing Rio in the 21st century. The bus companies are a mafia and have conspired to ruin the city for their own benefit. Brazilian love of cars has not helped either and rio´s streets continue to be choked with parked cars on the side of the roads and idling cars in the middle of them. The trains transported more people per day in the 60s and 70s than they do today and the light rail system that should extend through Rio´s Zona Sul and Tijuca neighbourhoods is only going to articulate the port zone to the port zone. This is a planning disaster that has eliminated any hope that Rio will be a more liveable city in the coming generations. Sad but true.


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