HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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28 February 2010

Winter Olympics in Brazil

Needless to say, the Winter Olympics are not hugely popular in Brazil. The Brazilian delegation consisted of 5 athletes. The mayor of Rio as well as the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee were also there to glad-hand and sign "information sharing" documents.  Even though global warming can't be blamed for Brazil's lack of snow,  Brazilian television stations are keen to start honing their coverage skills, and TV Record sent a team of 80 to Vancouver to cover the games.

The coverage is hugely different from that of NBC in the USA, primarily in the generalized absence of interruptions for long stretches as well as the lack of "up close and personal" coverage that makes Bob Costas such an intolerable sycophant. The biggest attraction for the TV Record producers was ice skating. Perhaps they are taking their coverage cues from NBC, but there seems to be something about the skating competitions (and non-competitions like the "gala") that glues people to the set. It is beautiful and takes dance to some crazy place, but personally, I'd rather watch an Olympic snowball fight.

The other sport that received coverage in an inverse proportion to its diffusion and cultural signficance was curling. Perhaps the slow pace appeals to the millions of doormen, security guards, waiters, and retirees in Rio. Brazilians must think that everyone in cold countries curls. The televisual reality is that there were some pretty good looking women bending into strange poses, which always makes for good tv.

As I was trying to tune into the USA v. Canada gold medal match, TV Record had a "Campeonato de Tunel" on for about an hour. The Tunnel Championship was structured like a knock out football tournament, except the contestants were dogs, dressed in the shirt of the preferred team of their owners, who were also dressed in the team shit, I mean shirt. If you can stomach it, check it out...way better than USA x Canada.

Now that the Vancouver Games are over, it's time for British Colombia to start cleaning up the mess and paying the bills for another IOC party. It's a shame that all of the human drama and accomplishment of Olympic sport come at such a tremendous cost to the host cities, their residents, and the urban and natural environments.

26 February 2010

World Cup, Olympics, cities and the state of the world


The list of cities and countries that have hosted the World Cup and Olympics, and done horrible things to do so is growing. 1968 Mexico City: hundreds of students massacred. 1972 Munich was deliberately lax in security, opening the door for Fatah terrorists, who killed eleven Israeli athletes. 1976 Montreal: the Olympic Stadium took 30 years to pay off, at a cost of C$1.5 billion. 1980 Moscow and Lake Placid seemed to work ok, as did Sarajevo 1984, but the growing debt of Montreal, scared off every city in the world but Los Angeles from bidding for the 1984 Summer Games. These only came off because Peter Uberroth guaranteed private financing, a huge television audience, and because just about every major US American university has the infrastructure to host the Olympics. 

Shall we continue? 1988 Seoul: the military government repressed student protests in the lead up to the games, quelled labor unrest, and suspended discussions over constitutional reform until after the Olympics.  1992 Barcelona: massive reformation of the city center without democratic process, gentrification and dislocation, and the making of an international tourist city, forever altering the social and spatial character of the city. 1996 Atlanta: demolition of low income neighborhoods, the sweeping of the homeless under the podium, and rampant real-estate speculation, hper-commercialization of public space, and the total absence of an urban legacy. 

Want more? 2000 Athens: massive dislocation of Roma people, astronomical budgetary overruns (which are today part of a more generalized crisis for the EU), and nearly all of the stadia built for the event go unused. 

2002 Korea / Japan: 20 new stadiums...TWENTY! These were constructed in the midst of the East Asian financial crisis and the cities are struggling to keep them standing, much less occupied with teams and fans. 

2006 Germany: 1.4 billion euros on stadiums. Not much for a country with great transportation infrastructure and a huge soccer culture. Yet, the idea that a World Cup will bring more tourists was debunked as Munich saw an overall drop in tourism in 2006

2008 Beijing: the Bird's Nest is turning into a shopping mall. Enough said. 

2010 Vancouver: Gentrification, appropriation of native lands, hyper-security, dislocation of low-income residents, criminalization of the poor, huge costs. This video is good. 

2010 South Africa: it's hard to know where to start with this one. Cape Town? Housing rights?

2012 London: just to start, East End "regeneration" numbers

2014 Brazil World Cup: 12 new stadiums, no national rail or highway infrastructure, big problems with the airports. Keep coming back here for updates, but also check out this site for daily news

2016 Rio de Janeiro: R$ 30 billion guaranteed by the government. 2007 Pan American Games 10x over budget with the same people in charge. Violence, poverty, wealth, tranquilidade, cut-throat politics, corruption and a hell of a place to be. 

17 February 2010

Geostadia on tour

The RDU days are numbered, the GIG and SDU years are nigh. Geostadia is on tour these coming weeks and months, shuttling between RDU, GIG, STM, SDU, DUA, RDU, and GIG between now and May. I'll keep you, er, posted.

There's a new gadget on the right that lets you see where readers are (with kudos to Candido Neto).

If you're reading this, recommend the site to one person today. Someone far away, so you can see when their little blip comes up on the map.

And for those of you who haven't seen it yet, here's the Al Jazeera video that resulted from the interview that I posted a couple of months ago.

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