HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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30 May 2011

The sick,sad and tragic case of Bruno Souza

For those of you outside of Brazil, you might not have heard about the Flamengo goalie who after captaining his side to the Brazilian championship in 2009 was arrested under suspicion of having his ex-lover murdered. Jeremy Schapp and the E:60 team from the USA came to Brazil earlier in the year to investigate the case and produced this video, which aired globally two weeks ago (but not in Brazil or Latin America).


Bloodline - E:60 - Bruno from Evolve IMG Films Ltd. on Vimeo.


As part of some ongoing discussions that the Associação Nacional dos Torcedores has had with Marcelo Freixo, there are legal initiatives underway to make Brazil's football clubs responsible for educating their players. Currently there is no media training, no financial advice, no recompense for youth players who become injured. The clubs are basically employing a feudal labor system to generate profits, which are then duly pocketed (generally speaking) by amateurish club directors. The four big Rio teams are the four most indebtted clubs in Brazil. This is not too different from the fake amateurism of the NCAA or from the youth academies that European teams have set up in West Africa.

Was the Bruno case preventable? Should Flamengo have intervened? Does the structure of Brazilian football and their labor practices contribute to this kind of tragedy? Yes. Yes. Yes.

29 May 2011

BARMAN*

* full credit to Douglas Engle for the title

BAR (3) MAN (1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRKIa-a-Ows

Not since the Dutch-inspired spatial revolution in the 1970s has there been a team that has so challenged and changed the geometry of football. Barcelona’s players not only think ahead in time, they also anticipate the shape of the immediate future. For instance, Xavi’s pass to Pedro in the 27th minute split two defenders whose very movements were creating the space for that pass to occur. You see Xavi moving, waiting, procuring, probing, identifying and liberating. Pedro had the relatively banal task of a sublime first touch and side-footed finish.

Xavi is clearly a master of his world, but his dismantling of Euclid’s hegemonic spatiality is fostered by the silky technicality and tactical brilliance of his comrades. Iniesta hides the ball and darts through thick legs, leaping from trouble to glory as he both conducts and misdirects.  He knows instinctively where pressure is coming from and finds the release valves through he becomes a blur of thought and action. Midway through the second half, I remember a ball coming at him in midfield, with a defender coming in hard for a challenge. Pressure in the front, big hard man, space behind. If he turned away from pressure, he risked a nasty challenge, there was no time for a touch to the side and the ball had to be won. With a flick of his left foot, the ball rode up his left thigh which he swiveled to nudge the ball to his right thigh, which dropped it to his right foot. The defender flew by, the midfield opened like a can of tuna, and he splayed the ball to…Messi.

@ Camp Nou, May 2008

The second goal showed the danger of not effectively controlling and compacting defensive space around the box. Messi received the ball from Xavi 35 yards from goal. Park had come too high to defend and left space for Messi to run. He accelerated into the gap between the midfield and central defense and blasted a low shot that curved away from a partially blocked Van der Sar. 2-1.

Messi  started the third goal on the right flank by schooling a world-class defender and cutting into the box. This dragged the United defense goal-ward and as the ball popped around the box, Villa stepped into the void at the top of the box, measured his angle as he set himself and curled, around the lunging defender, an inch perfect shot past 6 foot 6 fingertips into the top corner. 3-1. Champions of Europe.

(United’s goal was excellent if slightly more pedestrian. Rooney paired 1-2s through midfield with Carrick, and into the box with Giggs, slotting home the neat return pass from the greybeard. After their goal, however, it is difficult to remember United doing anything other than chasing the ball. (For fuller tactical analysis click here.) To Manchester’s credit, they are all acknowledging that they were very well beaten).

The players that come through Barcelona’s youth academy are trained from a very young age to think about time, space, and movement in a very particular way. Their collective spatial-ability is changing something about the way football is conceived and played. I see the Barcelona players as constructing new ways of movement and spatial consciousness that are only possible with extreme technical competence. It appears to be unbeatable, with the exception of the occasional team (Inter Milan, Real Madrid) expert in the art of matching Barças non-linear, shifting constellations with the spatial dynamics of a Rubik’s Cube.

How these elements come together to put a smile on my face, I don’t know. But they did. I even managed to forget that all of the candidates in the FIFA elections scheduled for June 1 are under ethics investigations. Thankfully, there’s the Copa do Brasil final on Wednesday to get my mind off of that. 

25 May 2011

Big White Men in Small Black Boxes

This week is the XIV Congress of the National (Brazilian) Association of Urban and Regional Planning. (Link to conference here.) On Tuesday, I attended a session entitled Order/Disorder: violence and the politics of security in the city (Ordem/Desordem: violência e políticas de segurança na cidade). The main attraction was a possible clash between Marcelo Freixo, State Deputy of the PSOL political party (the only remaining progressive party in Brazil) and Rio State Secretary of Social Assistance and Human Rights, Ricardo Henrique.

Freixo was preceded by Julita Lemgruber (fomer head of the Rio State penitentiary system) who talked about the challenges and benefits of the UPP (Police Pacification Units) being installed in select favelas in Rio. While I touched upon many of the same points in my earlier discussions of the UPPs, what follows is what I took away from Professor Lemgruber’s talk.

Benefits of UPPs:
Residents look to resolve their conflicts through legal mechanisms
Stimulation of micro and neighborhood economies
Reduction of lethal violence
The rivalry between Rio’s two major drug factions, the Terceiro Comando and the Comando Vermelho has been eliminated, allowing for more freedom of movement between favelas
Increase in home values
A sense of tranquility

Challenges:
How can the installation of UPPs in favelas result in a consolidation and expansion of territorial control in the city? This is expecially true in the vast areas of Rio that are controlled by milicias (the subject of the Tropa do Elite 2 film).

Is it possible to control the violence and corruption of the police? The police are poorly trained and always have their fingers on the trigger. There is almost no presence of non-lethal weapons in the UPP forces and NO police will consent to move through the favelas unarmed. When will the police cease to fear a re-taking of the hills by drug gangs, even though such an event has never occurred and start non-lethal policing of the favelas?

How is it possible to turn the regime of the UPP into something that is non-authoritarian? The UPP commanders determine what can and cannot occur in the favelas. There is a generalized ban on baile funks, one of the primary source of weekend entertainment and a source of cultural identity.

When will an effective social politics take the place of an effective security politics?

How will the UPPs be used to stimulate the political and administrative roles of community leaders?
How will the police trained and paid to enter the UPP project be convinced that their job is worthwhile? As it stands, 70% of the police think that the UPP project is directly associated with the impending mega-events and that they have become “doormen of the favelas”. There is a distinct lack of esprit de corps among the UPP police and 70% are actively looking for another posting within the MP.

The activity that the MPs most engage in is the revision of suspects. There is a popular saying in Rio that goes something like this: “Young, black and standing: suspect. Young black, and moving: guilty.” The culture of extreme violence that characterizes the Rio State Police is not meted out evenly across the population.  
In talking with several people about the installation of UPPs over the last several days, there is no question that they have brought a generalized sense of tranquility to both the places in which they have been installed and their surrounding areas. However, the generalized feel-good nature of the “change” has not significantly altered the ways in which favela residents (primarily poor and black) are treated by the government. There is a sickening infanitlization of favela residents which suggests that everyone who lives there, if given half the chance, will turn to crime as a way of life and that without the strong hand of the state behind a gun, the chaos and violence will return. The sense of security is limited to those who are not in the way of massive construction projects, who own their own homes, and who are not subject to the spray paint cans of the Municipal Secretary of Housing.

One of the more astounding figures mentioned by Professora Lemgruber was that only 8.5% of MPs working in UPPs have completed high school. 63.5% have completed middle school. With this level of education, how is it possible to begin to address all of the above problems? To make matters worse, the MPs live in sub-human conditions, have little or no orientation about their project, and lack training specific to the job. It’s hard to tell where this UPP project is going but it is far from the unqualified success that the government is portraying (big surprise, I know).

Ok, on to Marcelo Freixo. Friend of Apa Funk, supporter of the ANT, a man with a price on his head for taking on the Western Milícias, Deputado Freixo is one of the most sought after speakers in Rio and has long been a champion of social justice. For those of you who have seen the Tropa I and II movies, the intelligent agitator who goes into the prisons is based on Freixo’s character. Some highlights from his talk:
Two things occurred around the same time in the mid 1990s: Brazil was consolidating as a democracy and becoming hard-wired as a neo-liberal regime of flexible accumulation.  

What does it mean to have a secure city? Freixo drew attention to the fact that 100% of BOPEs actions take place in favelas and that in the new center of operations that is currently under construction in Maré, there will be a “favela scenario” for the most lethal and well-trained urban fighting force in the world to train. In Rio, the question of security is relative and localized and needs to be expanded if effective and coherent public policies are to be developed.

In Rio, dying while resisting arrest, is called an “auto de resistência”. That means, for those of you who have seen the movie Bus 174, cross paths with the cops with no one around and it’s curtains. The data: Under the Anthony Garotinho government (he who was so recently convicted of a slew of charges yet managed to take office), there were 2209 such deaths, or around 550 a year. His wife, Rosinha, was the next governor. Under her watch the body count doubled to 1900 auto-de-resistências per year. The current governor has kept pace with around 4400 deaths while resisting arrest during his first term in office.

Worse are the staggering numbers of homicides and disappeared. Under Rosinha 18.300 people were killed or disappeared in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Under Cabral, 20.600. In eight years, 38.900 people have been killed or disappeared in Rio de Janeiro state. That is more than during the dictatorship in Argentina, in less time. So, the question is, for whom is the city being secured and how?

There is a clear attempt to follow the USAmerican model of incarceration in Brazil. Between 2000-2009, Brazil had an 11% increase in its population and a203% increase in its prison population. Like the USA, a huge percentage of the prison population is wither awaiting trial or stuck there for non-violent offences. For those not familiar with the film Carandiru, there ain’t no cable tv, weight room, or laundry service in Brazilian prisons.

The issue of the UPPs and “security” is very much related to the Olympics and the World Cup. The discussion and discourses surrounding “security” are woefully limited and tend to be dominated by notions of physical security in the face of criminal elements. What most people in Rio (and the wider world) mean by security is the right to private property and personal integrity. This goal has largely been accomplished in the Olympic Ring (O-Ring) of Rio through the installation of UPPs and a public policy of extreme violence exercised against a highly select population. However, the real issues of security and society are unfolding in the West Zone of Rio where the milícias have taken control.

The spectacle of security is very much part of the spectacle of the mega-event. The invasion of the Complexo de Alemão last year was as much a highly coordinated media campaign as a military exercise. The abandonment of the Zona Oeste and the new public housing complexes in Campo Grande and Cosmos to the milicias is a deliberate public policy. As Feixo pointed out, there is not a parallel system of government in the favelas or in the areas controlled by the milicia. Evidence for this was that Sergio Cabral’s candidate took 75% of the votes in the Complexo de Alemão in the 2010 elections. His question to the audience was: who is in charge there? Traficantes or the Governor?

Following in the left-foot-heavy footprints of Freixo was Ricardo Henrique, state secretary of Social Assistance and Human Rights. In beginning his talk about the theoretical roots of the UPP Social program, Henrique drew a line between the “secure city” and the “integrated city”. This division, he suggested, has resulted from the fragmentation of the urban and social fabrics as a result of different practices and politics aimed at different publics and social sectors. The result of these policies has been to reproduce divisions both horizontally and vertically within spheres of government as well as within civil society. Thus, the UPP social project is an attempt to retake the project of developing a republic based on equal rights and accessibility to rights before the law through a more consistent implementation of public policies directed at social development.

Fine. I agree. UPP Social is a necessary but not sufficient condition for reconciling the structural conditions that result in social and spatial fragmentation. What Henrique failed to address in any way, was that at the same time that UPP social is working towards a project of regeneration and de-fragmentation, the rest of the government is working in the opposite direction. While the UPP social programs may be benefitting the 14 favelas in which they are (partilly) implemented, the BRT lines are fragmenting and re-territorializing the rest of the city…FOREVER!

The result: while we can be optimistic that where the UPPs are installed we have seen a sharp decrease in violent crime and a slew of economic and social benefits, there is much work to be done to make these benefits permanent. The lack of long-term planning in Rio’s political system is endemic, systemic, and generalized. There are no guarantees here, only hopes. There are 1.020 favelas in Rio de Janeiro, the UPPs have been installed in 14 of them – the vast majority of which are within the O-Ring and designed to protect Rio’s zones of accumulation and to project the spectacle of security to the world-at-large. The transportation and stadium projects getting crammed into the city are intentionally fragmenting and dividing the city, not attending to effective demand, and benefitting select areas of the city. All of this through the erection of extra-legal forms of government that use the mega-event as a state of emergency to justify extraordinary measures similar to a state of war.

The city government is operating with a heavy, autocratic, and brutal hand as a slew of international media reports have recently shown. Last week the UN commission on housing rights and evictions paid multiple visits to communities that are being brutalized by the city. The tactics are Machiavellian, the results Dickensian. People throughout Rio de Janeiro (and the rest of the World Cup cities) are living in fear and insecurity. When the SMH comes with their spray can, the scarlet letters do not indicate a brighter future but imminent removal at the hands of an authoritarian state whose strings are being pulled by huge white men hidden in small black boxes.




23 May 2011

Problems Continue

Problems continue in Brazil's mega-event world.

Stadia: Yesterday’s edition of Veja, a conservative news weekly, had as its cover a photo of the Maracanã  with the headline – "At the current pace, the Maracanã  will reopen 24 years late". The story behind the front page was not encouraging. None of the 12 Brazilian stadium projects underway are at the same stage of development as were the stadiums in South Africa. Not that it matters. According to Peter Alegi, a top SA 2010 researcher, only one of the ten 2010 WC stadiums is currently in use and the 50,000 capacity Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace drew an impressive 655 fans for a recent league match.

Corruption: The delays and confusion and lack-of-planning and stupidity and incompetence and outright theft and lack of professionalism in the planning for the 2014 World Cup has now been called out by Brazil’s biggest media outlets. This very same media have had their hands forced into a critical posture but never take the next step to calling for a total reorganization of Brazilian football. The CBF is one of the most corrupt and closed institutions in the world. It’s president Ricardo Teixeira was named as one of the greedy gophers selling his votes to Qatar. His father-in-law, João Havelange was also named in the recent corruption scandal.

Transportation: The transportation lines being crammed through Brazilian cities to attend to the short-term demands of mega-events will dislocate millions of people without attending to the real demands of Brazilian metropolitan areas.  The lack of planning in transportation was reported by Agencia Brasil the other day and comes as no surprise. In the above mentioned Veja article, one of the highlights was that the Brazilian government has already declared that 9 of the 12 airport projects will not be ready for the World Cup or Olympics. The Rio Metro saga is playing out poorly as no one can figure out where the new line 4 is going to go.

Forced Evicitions: Last week the UN was in town visiting the thousands of homes that have been partially or totally destroyed by the Rio city government to make way for these ill considered transportation lines. It’s a sad and tragic comedy of Olympian proportions. The hubris and callousness of the Rio city and state government knows no bounds.  According to the Estado do São Paulo newspaper the expectation is that at least 65 thousand Brazilians will lose their homes. The reality is that tens of millions more will be directly and indirectly affected. (Click here for a great story by Tom Phillips).

Transparency: Zero. The Rio 2016 Organizing Committee released the contract that the city signed with the Olympic Committee – 19 months after it was signed. The Brazilian chefão, Carlos Nuzman said that only newspapers would have access to the contract and that the general public would not be able to access what their democratically elected leaders have agreed to do with their money.  The laughable websites www.transparenciaolimpica.com.br and www.cidadeolimpica.com.br continue to function as smokescreens for the funneling of public money into private hands.

Privitization: nota dez. Henrique Mirelles, head of the APO (Public Olympic Authority) and former head of Brazil’s central Bank, has long used coded words to guide his public commentary. His latest was that the Olympics will usher in a new form of public governance.

For the first time I have begun to think that Brazil will not be able to pull these projects together in time for the World Cup. The lack of competency and organization and oversight is staggering and of continental proportions. There are so many moving pieces that have gone unattended for so long that it might be too late to create a functioning mechanism. The government should take over all World Cup operations now, nationalizing the CBF and the World Cup profits. The World Cup was awarded to Brazil in 2007, almost nothing has happened since then. The delays and disorganization serve to increase the cost of everything while necessitating a financial infusion from the state that will invariably be turned into private profit. It is important to remember that the WORKERS’ PARTY (PT) of LULA is behind these developments. Where mega-events are concerned, there is rarely any good news, just talking heads, hollow discourse, and momentary distractions from an increasingly harsh reality. 

12 May 2011

O bicho esta pegando

http://bit.ly/ijkbru

Brick by BRIC: How Global Sport Has Declared War on Brazil's Poor
by Dave Zirin
In Chile, it was called the The Brick. It was the many-thousand page economic manifesto of Dictator Augusto Pinochet, written by "the Chicago Boys" - Chilean exchange students from the University of Chicago. Disciples of the university's conservative, neoliberal economics professor Milton Friedman, they printed The Brick on "the other 9/11" - September 11th, 1973. As Chile's Presidential palace was being bombed, "Companero Presidente" Salvador Allende was being murdered, and General Pinochet was assuming power, The Brick became Pinochet's economic compass. It guided the country through two decades of slash and burn privatisation, displacement, and inequality - all in the name of  "development".

Today Pinochet is reviled and gone, but The Brick has become a default manifesto for much of the globe. Today, it's most ardent sponsors ironically bear its name as an acronym: BRIC. They are Brazil, Russia, India, and China. These ambitious nations have established themselves as the future, not only of global economic growth, but as future centres of international sport. They can offer two things that the decaying, Western powers can no longer provide: massive deficit spending and a state police infrastructure to displace, destroy, or disappear anyone who dares stand in their way.

We are seeing this in particularly dramatic form in Brazil. The country will be hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. In the 21st century, these sporting events require more than stadiums and hotels. The host country must provide a massive security apparatus, a willingness to crush civil liberties, and the will to create the kind of "infrastructure" these games demand. That means not just stadiums, but sparkling new stadiums. That means not just security, but the latest in anti-terrorist technology. That means not just new transportation to and from venues, but hiding unsightly poverty from those travelling to and from the games. That means a willingness to spend billions of dollars in the name of creating a playground for international tourism and multi-national sponsors.

Every day in the favelas, the slums that surround Brazil's major cities, these international athletic festivals are vividly recalling the ways of The Brick. Amnesty International, the United Nations, and even the International Olympic Committee - fearful of the damage to their "brand", are raising concerns. It's understandable why.

This week came a series of troubling tales of the bulldozing and cleansing of the favelas, all in the name of "making Brazil ready for the Games". Hundreds of families from Favela de Metro find themselves living on rubble with nowhere to go after a pitiless housing demolition by Brazilian authorities. By bulldozing homes before families had the chance to find new housing or be "relocated", the government is in flagrant violation of the most basic concepts of human rights.

As the Guardian reported, "Redbrick shacks have been cracked open by earth-diggers. Streets are covered in a thick carpet of rubble, litter and twisted metal. By night, crack addicts squat in abandoned shacks, filling sitting rooms with empty bottles, filthy mattresses and crack pipes improvised from plastic cups. The stench of human excrement hangs in the air."
One favela resident, Eduardo Freitas said, "it looks like you are in Iraq or Libya. I don't have any neighbours left. It's a ghost town".

Freitas doesn't need a masters from the University of Chicago to understand what is happening. "The World Cup is on its way and they want this area. I think it is inhumane," he said.
The Rio housing authority says that this is all in the name of "development" and by refurbishing the area, they are offering the favela dwellers, "dignity".

Maybe something was lost in the translation. Or perhaps a bureaucrat's conception of  "dignity" is becoming homeless so your neighbourhood can became a parking lot for wealthy soccer fans. And there is more "dignity" on the way. According to Julio Cesar Condaque, an activist opposing the levelling of the favelas, "between now and the 2014 World Cup, 1.5million families will be removed from their homes across the whole of Brazil."

I spoke with Christopher Gaffney, Visiting Professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro and Vice-President of the Associacao Nacional dos Torcedores [National Fans' Association].
"It's like a freefall into a neo-liberal paradise," he said."We are living in cities planned by PR firms and brought into existence by an authoritarian state in conjunction with their corporate partners. These events are giant Trojan horses that leave us shocked and awed by their ability to transform places and people while instilling parallel governments that use public money to generate private profits. Similar to a military invasion, the only way to successfully occupy the country with a mega-event is to bombard people with information, get rid of the undesirables, and launch a media campaign that turns alternative voices into anti-patriotic naysayers who hate sport and 'progress'."

It's a remarkable journey. Pinochet is now a grotesque memory, universally disgraced in death. But The Brick remains, a millstone around the neck of Latin America. Expect a series of protests in Rio as the games approach. And expect them to be dealt with in a way that speaks to the darkest political traditions of the region.

08 May 2011

The Wire, Season 6

At the end of April, three major international organizations visited Rio to deal with Olympic related developments – The IOC, the UN, and Amnesty International. You can probably guess the tone of each of their public statements. I attended the public meeting between the IOC, the Prefeitura, and Rio 2016 which was used as an opportunity to present the new transparency [sic] website Cidade Olímpica (www.cidadeolimpica.com). 

The website presentation was undertaken by the Olympic Parrot, Felipe Goes, and was an embarrassingly shallow testament to the mind-numbing obtuseness of discursive Olympism. The website is slick and paints a picture of “progress” without social, economic, environmental, or structural costs. If you want to sit in an office in Switzerland, São Paulo, or New York and check on the strides that the Cariocas are taking to make you more money, than this is the perfect instrument. If you want to know how and where public funds are being spent, how to interact with the process, or get real information about anything, then just sit back and wait for the bulldozer to come. The website provides 360 degree views of construction sites, tidy videos with carefully crafted interviews, unknown academics talking about Rio’s “transformative” history, and nary a word of opposition or a hint of discord. Everything will happen smoothly, the city will undergo a ‘natural and naturalized’ transformation bringing untold benefits to untold millions. I encourage readers to go through the website to see the projects underway. If you are able to find out any information that goes beyond mere presentation, please let me know so I can have them take it off the website.

The euphemistic void of the new website made me nostalgic for the old black box of www.transparenciaolimpica.com.br. In returning to it after a month away, I was stunned to find that they had reconfigured the site and taken out what little information there was. It’s a joke, an Olim-piada. 

For instance, click on this link and try to get information about the VLT Centro line: http://www.transparenciaolimpica.com.br/projetos2.htm. This brings you to a continual feedback loop which, ironically, functions much like the VLT (Light Rail) line which is projected to circulate only through the Porto Maravilha development project, avoiding connection with the Metro, Rail, and Ferry lines. I shake my head so much in disbelief that I’m developing preternaturally strong neck muscles.

Having read Raquel Rolnk’s UN report denouncing the violations of human rights that are already happening throughout Rio as the government bulldozes homes and building to make way for transportation projects and stadia, I was eager to hear what the Olympian Cerberus had to say about the very strong denunciations.

Geostadia: This has been a very important week for the government and for Rio 2016. Not only is the IOC evaluating developments but the UN and Amnesty International have condemned the government for severe violations of human rights and non-compliance with international treaties to which Brazil is a signatory. I would like to hear how the Prefeitura, Rio 2016, and the IOC are responding to these charges.

Eduard Paes (summary of): I don’t think that the UN is going to need to respond to this question so I’ll just deal with it myself. You have to separate the transportation projects from the Olympic project…

Geostadia (incredulous): But you just presented a whole website link…

Eduardo Paes (irritiated): It will be much easier to get through this if you let me finish.

Carlos Nuzman (bored, thinking about lunch, never looking at the press corps)

Eduardo Paes: As I was saying, these removals have nothing to do with the Olympics because you have to separate the Olympic Facilities from the other infrastructures.

At this point I stopped writing, stopped listening. My head filled with the sound of all of the world’s national anthems being played at once.

As Paes tried to close the door on the subject by asking for another question, Gilbert Felli, head of the IOC delegation took the microphone, answering me directly.

Felli: We don’t want to give the impression that the IOC doesn’t care about these questions. We understand that many of the benefits that the Olympics bring come with consequences and we will be asking Rio de Janeiro for a list of all of the disappropriations being made. We have this problem in all Olympic cities [and how, I thought (two million people in 20 years)], and we are looking to establish more relationships with local and international NGOs in order to deal more effectively with the problem.

There were a couple of other questions regarding the massive flooding that happened around the Maracanã, effectively shutting down the Tijuca region of the city for three days. Of course, but of course, there are project under way to fix this problem, but the reality of the situation is that when it rains in Tijuca and the tide is high, there is nowhere for the water to go and the Maracanã becomes a mud bath.

(I also need to point out that after the official launching of the website, the site didn’t get on air for two days. During the presentation, the Olympic Parrot had to keep pecking at off-line videos to show content. Yet another show at the Rio 2016 amateur hour).

Privatized Mud Bowl
We knew it was coming but have finally had official confirmation. The Maracanã will, after undergoing more than a R$ 1,5 billion of reforms over six years, be given over to a private concession. Sergio Cabral made the announcement here, saying that “a stadium like the Maracanã simply doesn’t fit into the hands of public power”. So, after 60 years, the Maracanã, once the greatest and grandest public space in Rio, Brazil and the Americas, will be fully privatized. As I have been saying in my recent pieces for Brazilian audiences, the Maracanã is dead and we are just entering into stages of denial. The mourning process hasn’t even begun.

Paul McCartney 1 Fla-Flu 0
The Brazilian national championship is going to kick off in two weeks but no games will be played in Rio de Janeiro. Vasco and Botafogo are away and Fla and Flu will have nowhere to play because Paul McCartney is going to be using the Engenhão. With the Maracanã closed to general use until the end of the Paralympics in September of 2016, when big shows come to town three of the big four have to find somewhere else to play. How is it that Rio de Janeiro does not have the capacity to have both Paul McCartney and football occur on the same weekend? No one knows where these games are going to be played yet, which is making it mighty difficult for the Associação Nacional dos Torcedores to organize a protest. Come on CBF, get your s#!@# together so the formgias can take it apart!

Tropa do Elite III
The forced evictions in Rio are accompanied by two major resettlement projects, Morar Carioca and Minha Casa, Minha Vida. The majority of these settlements are in the far, far western suburbs where the presence of milícias is particularly strong. Milícias are the Rio equivalent of 19th century New York ward bosses that control the provision of water, gas, electricity, cable, security, drugs, and transportation for poor neighborhoods. Comprised of off-duty cops and other civil servants, the milícias were the subject of the Tropa do Elite 2 film. They are clearly a major problem and represent a parallel state structure that is completely intertwined with the democratically elected government. Given the more generalized confusions it came as a shock to hear the Municipal Secretary of housing, Jorge Bittar, announce that there is no way to get rid of the milícias operating in the Minha Casa Minha Vida projects. This is an admission that the state has failed in a large geographic area and has allowed that vacuum to be filled by armed gangs who are much more powerful than the drug trafficking factions that have been the target of the UPP installations throughout the city.

Stringer Bell, Marlow Stanfield, Tommy Carcetti, José Maria Beltrame, José Pataro Botelho de Queiroz
Another two pieces of the personality puzzle fell into place over the last ten days. Maria Silvia Bastos Marques will take control of the newly formed Municipal Olympic Authority and Brazil’s top international cop José Ricardo Pataro Botelho de Queiroz will take control of the special security organization. The list of names, players, companies, and institutional arrangements is beginning to fill out. All we need now is for someone to start making a mocumentary like this one about the preparations for the Sydney Olympics:


The Olympic Park Project (OPP)
And finally, the contest to design the Olympic park has begun. This Olim-piada deserves book length treatment. Some highlights:
  • The Olympic Park project is isolated from the city, making an integrated urbanization project nearly impossible
  • There is a 25 meter “environmental zone” around the perimeter, ostensibly to protect the lake, but really, it’s there to eliminate houses in the Vila Autódromo.
  • The majority of the houses in the Vila Autodrómo fall outside the project area, rasing questions about the Prefeitura’s intentions for the community.
  • 40% of the park area must be given over to sporting infrastructure (CTO, Centro de Trinamento Olímpico) and 60% for real-estate speculation. 
  •  The project should not cost more than R$590 million
  •  Only companies that have prior experience with Olympic projects can apply
  •  The material was published on May 5 and the deadline is June 30
  •  All of the proposals will be evaluated and the results published on July 13 (a two week evaluation period for a concusro that will undoubtedly receive scores of proposals from all over the world)
  •  900 pages of information
·         This edital substitutes the previous attempt by Rio 2016 to cram though the Olympic Park project without competition. The IAB (Brazilian Architects Institute) cried foul over a lack of transparency during the initial process in September 2010. It remains to be seen how transparent this process will be as the evaluation committee has yet to be named.

As this process develops over the coming months, Geostadia will be laying a heavy hand on the winning proposal with extreme prejudice. For now, I hope to have given you enough things to chew on for two weeks as I take a little break to work on some other projects. Please keep linking the site to yours and please send comments!  

05 May 2011

Couldn't have said it better myself...NYTImes article on the Maracanã

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/sports/soccer/06maracana.html?_r=1&ref=sports



Stadium Upgrades Squeezing Out Brazil’s Poorer Fans

Sergio Moraes/Reuters
Maracanã, a municipal stadium, is one of the city’s revered public spaces.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Generations of Brazilians have grown up in the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, known around the world as the Maracanã. Built for the 1950 World Cup and at the time the largest stadium in the world, it became an instant national landmark, a symbol of Brazil’s soccer-centric culture.
Goal
The Times's soccer blog has the world's game covered from all angles.
Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
Luxury boxes, modern seating and safety improvements are reasons Brazil’s stadiums are changing as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The stadium, which is likely to host the 2014 World Cup opener and final, is flanked by hills and favelas, the city’s notoriously poor slums. Far above, from behind the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, the distant Maracanã looks like a still birdbath amid the pulsing metropolis.
But that mountaintop view, with an admission cost of $18, is out of reach for most Cariocas, as the locals are known. The view of the field from the standing-room general admission area of the Maracanã, on the other hand, cost just $1.80 not long ago, making it one of the few places Rio’s massive population of poor residents could afford to go for world-class entertainment.
Not anymore.
That general admission area known as the geral has steadily disappeared. The stadium’s official capacity of 173,000 was more than halved during preparations for the 1999 FIFA Club World Cup, when the Maracanã was converted to an all-seater, in which every patron has a seat. For the 2007 Pan American Games, the general admission area was closed off, as is the entire stadium today. Its capacity — some say more than 200,000 crammed in for the 1950 final, a heartbreaking loss to Uruguay — will be just 76,525 when the renovated Maracanã reopens in 2013 to host the Confederations Cup, the World Cup’s dress rehearsal. Those renovations will cost more than $600 million, according to the state’s Office of Public Works, but they were not entirely welcomed.
“It’s just one reform after another without anyone ever doing any kind of research as to what the people who actually use the stadium want,” said Christopher Gaffney, a visiting professor of urbanism at the Federal University in Fluminense in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Gaffney is part of a recently formed group of activists called the National Fans’ Association, which is seeking a greater voice in the future of soccer in Brazil. The culture and the history of Brazilian fandom is being swept away, they argue, as stadiums are modernized. At the heart of this transformation, Gaffney says, is commercialization.
“The culture of Brazilian football isn’t just one of going to the game and having a hot dog and a beer,” he said. “It’s active participation in what is a fundamental element of Rio’s culture.”
At another Rio stadium, the Engenhão, large bamboo poles wave 10-foot-tall flags just inches over the heads of fans in the section of seats behind the goal. Drums are beaten, songs are sung and fans run up and down the stairs of the stadium, which was built for the Pan American Games. These are the cheap seats, but at $18 they are 10 times as expensive as the former standing area at the Maracanã. At a recent match between two local teams, half the stadium was empty.
As more and more Cariocas are effectively priced out of attending matches, an increasing number of people have joined the effort of the National Fans’ Association. The organization was created in October and has 2,700 members.
“They tried to tell themselves that this was not happening, that football was still the same, that supporting their club was still the same, that the stadiums were still the same,” said Marcos Alvito, founder of the group and a history professor at the Federal University in Fluminense. “It’s not true and they know it.”
Luxury boxes, modern seating and safety improvements are reasons Brazil’s stadiums are changing as the country prepares to host the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. They are also likely to increase ticket prices. But the Maracanã, a municipal stadium, is also one of the city’s revered public spaces. As these global changes seep into Brazil ahead of its spotlight-luring turns hosting the world’s two largest sports spectacles, the public nature of the Maracanã of the past is under threat.
“Do you give up the vitality of the Maracanã as a public space, a rare type of space in Rio where you can actually get together people of different social classes?” said Bruno Carvalho, a Rio native who is an assistant professor of Brazilian studies at Princeton. “What’s the price that you pay when you don’t allow that to happen?”
Carvalho said he was not too worried about the participatory nature of Brazil’s fervent soccer fans fading away. But he does worry about the Maracanã’s role as an egalitarian space in a heavily unequal city like Rio.
Goal
The Times's soccer blog has the world's game covered from all angles.
“What could be lost is the nature of the stadium experience as something that cuts across the class segregation of the city as a whole,” Carvalho said.
Brazilian football officials argue that ticket prices for soccer matches remain low compared with many of the leagues in Europe, and that these sorts of stadium renovations are badly needed. Brazil’s stadiums today are not up to the standards of its fans, according to Rodrigo Paiva, a spokesman for the 2014 World Cup’s local organizing committee.
“The dedicated supporter cannot be treated as a second-class citizen in the local stadiums and deserves better viewing conditions, more safety, comfort, as well as access to good catering and other services,” Paiva said in an e-mail.
For the members of the National Fans’ Association, better services and modernized facilities are but a tradeoff, fulfilling the desires of the wealthy while ignoring those of the poor. They know that much of this work has to and will be done before the World Cup, but they remain hopeful that the process can be altered along the way to reflect the will of the full spectrum of Brazilian fans.
“Maybe we can make it necessary that they include cultural space, or that they have to at least consult with urban planners or neighborhood associations to see how they should integrate what will basically be white elephants into the urban context,” Gaffney said.
Discounting unforeseen developments, the World Cup will indeed return to Brazil in 2014. Though a report released recently by a government watchdog group known as the Brazilian Audit Court warned that work on the stadium was progressing too slowly, several of the World Cup’s biggest games will most likely take place inside the renovated Maracanã. Protected as a historic site, the stadium’s structure will remain largely the same concrete bowl millions of Brazilians have known for decades. But inside, the stadium will be unavoidably — and to some, unfortunately — different.
“It’s such a part of the public memory and the very texture of the city that it’s hard to imagine it being something else,” Gaffney said. “But now it is. And people are going to have to come to terms with the fact that it is not going to be what it was.”

04 May 2011

Respondendo ao relatório do ONU: Responding to the UN report

Para quem trabalha com megaeventos esportivos, o relatório da ONU não trouxe consigo grandes surpresas. Mais que nada, o relatório de nossa colega Raquel Rolnik deu um suporte oficial as lutas que estão acontecendo diariamente no Brasil (e mundo afora) para preservar direitos humanos na face da implementação de projetos faraônicos, mal considerados, não planejados e antidemocráticos.
 O que estamos vendo no Brasil e, sobretudo no Rio de Janeiro, é uma forma de planejamento urbano que atende às demandas dos mega-eventos e não às demandas das cidades e seus cidadãos. Quando vemos os projetos de transporte, hospedagem, infra-estrutura e esporte de alto-rendimento deveríamos perguntar por que esses projetos e não outros? No caso das linhas BRT, que estão trazendo consigo os maiores impactos nas cidades brasileiras, deveríamos demandar uma amostra dos dados de uso da malha rodoviária e um estudo que mostra como os novos projetos vão atender as demandas existentes. Os problemas, já sabem, é que esses estudos não existem. Os resultados, já sabem, é que os projetos não vão atender às demandas metropolitanas atuais e sim às demandas de dez horas de futebol ou dezesseis dias de Olimpíada. O resultado, já sabem, será mais um legado de um mega-evento esportivo. 
Na semana passada o Comitê Organizador Local da Olimpíada Rio 2016, em conjunto com a Prefeitura e na presença dos representantes do Comitê de Avaliação do COI, lançou o site “Cidade Olímpica” [sic]. O site não estava funcionando na hora do lançamento, nem no dia seguinte. Mais um sinal que tudo está sendo feito em cima da hora. Eu assisti a apresentação de Felipe Goes, Secretário Extraordinário de Desenvolvimento, com minha cabeça balançando. Não existe informação no site, não há dados. O site está feito para inglês ver que projetos estão em andamento. O Inglês, ou nesse caso, o Suíço, pode acompanhar os projetos de transporte em “tempo real” desde lá, sem precisar entender os processos de licitação, sem acompanhar as retroescavadores destruindo comunidades, sem a necessidade de saber de onde vem e por onde vai o dinheiro público.   O site que só começou funcionar dois dias depois de seu lançamento e descreve com o maior orgulho os projetos das três linhas de BRT sendo implementados no Rio (em teoria, são quatro) mais as outras intervenções massivos na cidade. Como o Relatório da ONU detalha, esses projetos de transporte estão desapropriando milhares de prédios, deslocando dezenas de milhares de moradores e cortando comunidades por onde acontecerão. Depois daquela apresentação eufônica, de chapa branca, de Disneylândia,  que ligou os sistemas de transporte e grandes projetos urbanos com os Jogos Olímpicos, eu perguntei ao prefeito, ao Carlos Nuzman (presidente do COB) e aos integrantes do Comitê de Avaliação do COI como eles iam responder as denúncias levantadas pela Amnesty International e pela ONU. 

A primeira pessoa a responder foi o prefeito Eduardo Paes. Ele assinalou que é importante separar os projetos de transporte dos projetos Olímpicos. Daí, falou que não é só pobre que terá sua casa desapropriada! Os ricos também vão sofrer! Paes sequer queria que o COI respondesse, mas o Gilbert Felli (Diretor Executivo dos Jogos Olímpicos) tomou o microfone para dizer que “não queria deixar a impressão que o COI não presta atenção às desapropriações.” Felli acrescentou que “o problema é basicamente o mesmo em todas as cidades e que queremos ter uma lista de todas as desapropriações no Rio e estabelecer mais conexões com ONGs trabalhando no respeito.” Pelo menos essa foi uma resposta mais honesta e menos defensiva, identificando que os projetos de transporte são partes integrais dos jogos e que existe uma relação de “custo e beneficio.” Por sua parte, Carlos Nuzman ficou quieto nem olhando para os poucos repórteres quem estavam lá. Logo depois, Felli inclinou a cabeça para Paes e a entrevista coletiva acabou.

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