HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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16 December 2013

After the rains, the shock

It didn´t take long for the new transportation projects in Rio´s port area to assume the habits of their elder siblings. With the intense rains of last week, the Via Binário filled with rainwater and sewage, completely blocking access to downtown. The city government admitted that their due diligence wasn´t happening but all
The Via Binário gests into the flow of Rio. OGlobo photo
the same slapped the private consortium that is handling the R$9 billion, 5 million square meter privatization of public space
 with a R$100,000 fine. One wonders what will happen when all of the traffic that used to flow above ground through the port goes below sea level and people are trapped inside their cars in a tunnel. 

The Via Binário shouldn´t feel badly for failing its first test. The Metrô flooded. The SuperVia train tracks flooded. The region around the Maracanã flooded completely. The Avenida Brasil flooded. There was no way in or out of the city center where 60% of the city´s jobs are concentrated. The advice of the mayor: “stay home”. Of course, he could have said this earlier in the day before millions made their way across waterworld to never get to their places of employment. Again, how much good does an IMB smart system do when it can only sit by idly and watch a dumb city fall to pieces? In their propaganda video, there is a line that suggests that the smart city center can now predict heavy rains and
Imenjá makes an appearance in Rio´s Zona Norte
move to prevent disasters. It is amazing that only five people died. Hundred were robbed on Rio´s highways as bandidos made the most of stopped traffic. IBM: “The result is a visionary city, equipped to react, predict and plan for current and future events”.

During these wildly unpredictable rains, the Observatório das Metrópeles held a national seminar that dealt with the effects of the World Cup on all twelve host cities. The results were depressing. In every case, the World Cup is stimulating interventions that use public funding and military agents to commodify urban space, increase prices, and reduce access to sport while guaranteeing a suite of “executive privileges” for the cloistered and aloof global elite. Those who were present at the World Cup draw on the Bahian coast witnessed the FIFA president shutting around with a 50 car motorcade. Brazilian officials use the phrase “differentiated treatment” without a hint of irony, as if it were a defining characteristic of a democratic society. For this and for other reasons, the National Articulation of the Popular Committees of the World Cup nominated FIFA as the worst corporation in the world. While there is stiff competition from Gasprom, the campaign is picking up steam.

Three workers have died building the World Cup stadium in Manaus, one fewer than the number of games that will be played there. I wonder how many minutes of silence Herr Blatter will have for them before each of the games? If the ten seconds he allowed for Nelson Mandela is any indication, we may have already been silent for long enough.

Assuming that the stadium is built without more human sacrifice, the four games in Manaus mean that eight teams will play there, 25% of the total field of 32. However, there was a 100% chance that the USA would end up in the Amazon. Given that the USA sends more fans than any other country to the WC, that there are direct flights to Manaus from Atlanta and Miami, and a penchant for eco-tourism...bring the sun-screen, forged notions of Fair Play and bug spray!

Staying with football, we have no idea what the Brazilian first and second divisions will look like for 2014, more than a week after the final games of the tournament. Three teams are relegated from Serie A: Vasco, Ponte Preta and Náutico. However, Portuguesa from São Paulo used a substitute who was in some kind of legal limbo with 16 minutes remaining in the second half of the last game of the year. They tied the game and kept their heads above the relegation line. The punishment for an illegal player is the points that were won in the game + 3. If Portuguesa were to be punished with a four point deduction, Fluminense would be saved from relegation. My money is on Fluminense to be saved from a terrible year in which they went from Brazilian champions to relegation. Flamengo is also facing the same situation as Portuguesa and could face relegation if the sporting tribunal in Rio rules against them. My bet is that the size of the angry crowds outside of the building will encourage jurisprudence to go with the masses. However, if the vote goes for Flamengo, it must surely go against Fluminense. I am changing my bet. I bet that nothing will ever be resolved in Brazilian football as long as the CBF continues along without a massive institutional overhaul. The rest is just a bunch of guys in shorts.


And to get the week off to a flying start, over the weekend the road in front of the Maracanã was closed so that work could get started on a pedestrian overpass that will connect the stadium to the Quinta da Boa Vista. Last night (Sunday), perhaps making use of the fact that no media could get near because of the closed roads, the Rio Military Police shock brigade moved against an occupation of buildings undertaken by members of the Aldeia Maracanã. The terrorism that the state has manifested against a peaceful occupation of indigenous space is a perfect encapsulation of the creative dialogue that has defined the hosting of the 2014 World Cup. 

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