HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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30 July 2009

The Calm Before the Storm

In preparation for the 2007 Pan American Games, Rio de Janeiro invested heavily in sporting infrastructure. The urban and social legacies of the Pan 2007 are deeply ambivalent yet have positioned Rio de Janeiro and Brazil in a situation where more investment in sporting infrastructure is forthcoming.

Twelve Brazilian cities will host the 64 games of the FIFA 2014 World Cup. Incredibly, there are currently no stadiums in Brazil that meet FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) requirements for the month long event. Therefore, the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) in conjunction with national, state, and city governments have embarked upon an ambitious stadium building program. The minimum projected cost for seven renovated and five new stadiums is in excess of R$4.3 billion (US$ 2.15 billion). The financing for the stadium projects and their associated tourist, communications, and transportation infrastructures will come from the public sector with significant contributions from private enterprise.

The World Cup is a global event that occurs in local stadiums. These stadiums function as stages for sport but also serve as repositories of global memory. Residents, tourists, and television audiences share the emotional and cultural space of the stadium, remembering what happened there long after the floodlights dim. Despite the importance of the game and stadium in peoples’ lives, there are very few mechanisms through which they can build upon, share, and connect with the memories and events they helped to create. Long after the World Cup has passed, the stadiums and the games they host occupy a permanent position in the global memory of sport. My 2014 World Cup Memory Project intends to augment and preserve this memory in multiple forms.

Brazil is also one of the four remaining candidate cities to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. On October 2, 2009 the IOC will make its choice between Rio, Tokyo, Madrid and Chicago. If Rio de Janeiro is chosen, the process of preparing for the Olympics will begin immediately, stimulating large scale construction projects thoughout the city. In the event that Rio is selected I anticipate beginning a longer-term project.

My research into mega-events in Rio de Janeiro will build upon my book, Temples of the Earthbound Gods (University of Texas Press, 2008). In Temples, I trace the development of soccer stadiums in Rio and Buenos Aires, situating the stadiums in their political, urban, and cultural contexts. The book was runner-up in the Association of American Geographers's Globe Book Award competition and was called a "damn fine geography book" by one of the reviewers. There is a permanent link to the book at the right of the page.

I am really excited about heading off to Rio for the rest of the year and hope that you subscribe to the blog so I can keep you posted on what I'm up to.

Ate mais!

16 July 2009

2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics Research - Press Release

2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics Research

The years 2014 and 2016 may seem distant, but for Brazilians they are very much in the present.

In May of 2009, FIFA confirmed twelve Brazilian cities as hosts of the 2014 World Cup. Incredibly, there are no stadiums in Brazil that meet FIFA’s architectural specifications. In order to host the 2014 World Cup, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio De Janeiro, Salvador, and Sao Paulo are building or renovating stadiums, constructing new hotels, upgrading transportation systems, and preparing for the quadrennial soccer tournament. Construction on all twelve projects will begin in 2010.

According to the Brazilian Soccer Confederation (CBF), the cumulative cost of the 2014 World Cup stadium projects will be R$ 4.648 billion ($2.32 billion Dollars). The average stadium project will cost around R$ 387.3 million ($190 million Dollars). Billions more will be spent on upgrading transportation infrastructure and communications facilities, building new hotels, and security. Host cities and states will bear the brunt of the financial burden as the current economic climate has reduced partnerships with the private sector.

On October 2, 2010 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select either Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Chicago, or Madrid as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. GamesBids.com, the leading indicator of Olympic Games selection, places Rio de Janeiro in a dead heat with Tokyo. The Olympics have never been in South America and the Brazilian federal government has guaranteed financing for the R$80 billion project (US$40 billion). The Rio Organizing Committee (RJOGOC) has already spent in excess of US$ 100 million in preparing and promoting the Olympic bid. Rio de Janeiro has hooked its Olympic Bid to their experience with hosting the 2007 Pan American Games. The cumulative cost for the Pan 2007 was in excess of US$ 5 billion, more than ten times over budget. Hosting Pan 2007 was a process fraught with corruption scandals, incomplete projects, and militarization of parts of the city.

While politicians and construction firms see mega-events as opportunities to accelerate development projects and promote cities and country on a global stage, others point to the inevitable corruption, graft, and uneven distribution of financial burdens and rewards as evidence of continuing social injustices. The state and city of Rio de Janeiro continue to invest heavily in the constellation of facilities necessary to host global mega-events, using these events as mechanisms to accelerate social and economic development. Whether or not this works as a strategy for solving Rio’s grave social and urban problems is debatable. The evidence from the 2007 Pan American Games suggests that the promised new and/or improved transportation lines will not be completed, environmental remediation projects will stall, and that construction of vip accommodation in stadiums and five star hotels will take budgetary priority.

As a recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant from the U.S. Department of State, in the Fall of 2009 I will be researching the social and urban effects of mega-events in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. My recent book, Temples of the Earthbound Gods (University of Texas Press, 2008), traces the history and culture of stadiums in Rio de Janeiro from the late 19th century to the early 21st. My current research is a continuation of the themes I cover in Temples: exploring the larger political, cultural, and geographic worlds of Brazilian cities through an analysis of their building projects relatative to the 2007 Pan American Games, 2014 World Cup, and 2016 Olympics. In addition to my research, I will teach a course on mega-events in the Department of Geography at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

If your media outlet is in need of background information, interviews, or news stories from Rio de Janeiro, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank You,

Chris Gaffney


About
Dr. Christopher Gaffney holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin and is on leave from UNC – Chapel Hill where he teaches Urban Geography and International Studies. His book, Temples of the Earthbound Gods: stadiums in the cultural landscapes of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, is available on Amazon or from the University of Texas Press. Gaffney hosted a weekly talk show called Soccer Mad on 91.7 KOOP (Austin, TX), has been a radio and television commentator for the USL-1 Carolina RailHawks (Cary, NC), and covers the RailHawks for the Independent Weekly in Durham, NC. He covered the 2006 World Cup at www.soccerprofs.blogspot.com and maintains a blog at www geostadia.blogspot.com. He is also a principal of Six Dimensions Sports Consulting (www.6dsports.com). He can be reached at geostadia@gmail.com or by phone at 512-585-9866 (USA) or 011-55-21-xxxx-xxxx (Brazil).

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