HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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18 September 2012

General update


Earlier this year, after Vasco was judged to have maintained some of their youth players in “conditions of slavery” at a clandestine training site, I stopped watching football. In Brazil, it’s impossible not to pay attention to novellas of some kind, but I have found that my decision to drop my active support for Vasco (though I’m still Vasco) has freed me to do other things. It’s actually quite a relief not to suffer the difficulties of fighting for a place in the Copa [your name here] Libertadores, or to get upset when we lose 4-0 at home and the very popular, very good manager is forced to resign. The more one knows about the way Brazilian football works, the more revolting it becomes. Quem conheça a cozinha não come mais.

In some respect, the only way that Brazilians give any credibility to my indignation and revolt against Vasco is by me staying away from the game. If I were to follow Vasco closely after calling them out on the international stage, people would have (and some did) questioned my “claim to authenticity”. As Vasco continues to disgrace its history and delude its supporters by trying to get out from under the judicial decisions that would make them treat their trainees decently, they are also being sued by Romário for back wages of R$50 million. The politics of the Vasco directorship continue in the very same, sad, tired vein as the CBF and Brazilian football in general. Without popular, judicial, or political pressure to change, nothing ever will. If you’re satisfied, keep giving your support as you always have. More Bread and Circus please, hold the bread.

As predicted, the Paralympic flag did not make the same rounds as the Olympic flag. It floated on over to a center for the disabled in Santa Cruz, and that was it. This week, even O Bobo was forced to publish a piece on the nearly complete inaccessibility of the city for people in wheelchairs. With four years to the Paralympics, the new metro cars and 40% of the bus fleet are inaccessible. In more than three years of riding city buses, I have only seen one person try to get on in a wheelchair. Why? It’s nearly impossible! There is only one crosswalk in all of Rio that has a sound alert for the blind. ONE! As I suggested in my last post, if we had the Paralympics first, these “problems” would become priorities.

The BRT Transoeste has now claimed five lives and injured many more since its inauguration in June. On a recent trip along the proposed trajectory of the BRT Transcarioca, it became clear that the entire region will be sliced in half, with street crossings limited to stop lights and pedestrian overpasses. Talk about making things difficult for the disabled and elderly! There is no indication that all the overpasses will have elevators, and even if they were to have them, would they be used? Cariocas are masters of finding the shortest trajectory across busy streets, even if those streets are packed with high speed buses. If no one will go an extra 30 meters to use a crosswalk or an underpass, why will they begin to climb with their bags in the heat of the day? Unfortunately, the Transcarioca will kill as readily as the Transoeste. 

10 September 2012

Here it comes, again


It is a pity that more attention is not given to the Paralympics. This is likely a combination of fatigue after the Cyborg Games, combined with some preconceptions and prejudices about “disabled” sport. However, if we are (just for a moment) to think that the Olympics really possess positive, mystical, transformational powers then it is surely in the Paralympics that we see this most clearly manifested (though clearly with some Cyborg elements as well).

The Paralympics is full of eye-watering tales of human perseverance. The difficulties of training and high-level achievement are augmented by the daily rigors of “disability” (an admittedly terrible word to use for world-class athletes). The Brazilian athletes are to be doubly commended as they live and train in cities that are almost wholly inadequate for their daily needs: low levels of investment in sport, grave difficulties in social assistance and cities poorly structured for wheelchairs, the blind and the deaf.

It may be that one way to solve the problem of making the Olympic Games actually useful for a city is to host the Paralympics first. That way, we will have to ensure that the public transportation, sidewalks, restaurants, elevators, crosswalks, museum access, beach accesses, stadiums and hotels will attend to the needs and rights of the disabled before they meet the desires and demands of the International Overlords. We would also focus more attention on the real “human interest” stories found within sport, perhaps giving Bob Costas something meaningful to talk about. By making the Paralympics prelude, we can direct our attention to the people and projects that currently exist as afterthoughts.

This is all to say that the Paralympic flag arrives in Rio de Janeiro today. It is unclear whether it will make the same rounds as the Olympic flag, but I rather doubt it will go to the Complexo do Alemão which is almost completely inaccessible by wheelchair. 

(Vejam esse artigo no BBC Brasil sobre o projeto de transportes no Rio)

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