HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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20 November 2013

Dengue, Dudu, Dirceu

Now a UNESCO heritage site but always projected as a  landscape
 frontier for capital accumulation
Still believing the Brazil hype? I´ll just touch on three issues in this post, and do not want to be a haranguing voice of despair but until there is good evidence that urban conditions are being materially improved by mega-events or that a meaningful social change towards a more just society is evident, I´ll continue to point out the gaping holes in the gold-framed 17th century landscape painting hung on Brazil´s front door.

 Dengue is still a major problem in Brazil, particularly in 6 of the World Cup host cities (doubling of deaths since 2010 and 217,885 declared cases in Brazil in 2013). Dengue is not really that hard to eliminate if there is sufficient investment in sanitation and a focuses public education program to eliminate stagnant pools of fetid water. The chances of getting dengue are still pretty slim, unless you are living in a poor area of town or in low lying areas, or at a job site…

For the World Cup there is a thing called the Matrix of Responsibilities that each city agrees to as part of its host city contract. In Rio, for instance, the Matrix includes  the Maracanã and the Transcarioca. Of course, the opportunity to include pet projects in all of this in order to “maximize” (read: make as much money as possible) the benefit of the mega-event is irresistible. In some cases, such as Brasilia, none of the urban mobility projects made it off paper and have since been eliminated from the matrix. In Cuiabá, all of the urban mobility projects began on the same day, immobilizing the city for years. Not even Neo could get to work on time in Cuiabá.  In Rio, the re-organization of transport lines in order to make more room for cars has made an impossibly bad system even worse. The mayor first asked for residents to be patient and now has told them to leave work early. Some have suggested that he take his own advice. I wonder how this kind of brutal, arrogant indifference is measured by IBM´s smart city machines. Want to find out the best place to get into gridlock? The new Iphone 5s will cost R$3,600 in Brazil and the promised G4 network likely won´t work.

At least there has been some movement towards completing prison sentences for the corrupt operators of the PT´s monthly kickback scheme. Of course, nothing will stick to the former president even though his former chief of staff and the majority of the PT´s inner circle have now been dragged off to prison. Of course it is good that these convicted criminals have to submit to the law of the land (even though prisons in and of themselves are good for no one). This may indicate that something has indeed shifted positively in the Brazilian justice system.

We know that Brazil already has the most expensive football tickets in the world (relative to minimum wage), but what C.R. Flamengo has done to their fans is beyond the pale. After reaching the final of the Copa do Brasil, the cheapest tickets for the final at the Xaracanã were set at R$250. Minimum wage in Brazil, R$690 a month. A judge intervened and set the cheapest tickets at R$120. The Brazilian clubs are run by amateurs who are articulated politically with a closed and cloistered national football federation that is mirrored by a 2014 Organizing Committee that has no information about its organizing structure and that is trying desperately to convince Brazilians that the World Cup is going to be the best ever. Can we stop with the charade that football tournaments are adequate tools for urban and social development? Mesmo sendo um sapo tamanho cristo redentor, stopping the bombast would make the transfer of wealth program that is the World Cup a little easier to swallow. 

12 November 2013

Jumping turnstiles

So much for going to World Cup matches. For all the criticism I launch, there is still something great about the World Cup. For those of us that mark our lives in four year increments having the tournament in one´s backyard happens once in a lifetime and I was looking forward to riding my bike to the X-Maracanã to catch all of the games there. The ticketing mechanism that FIFA and MATCH have devised is certain to please no one other than those who received tickets. As usual, there is a lack of transparency. Despite my repeated and insistent requests I have not been able to get information about the number and kind of tickets distributed for the Confederations Cup and I am sure that there will be little or no information made available regarding the 2014 World Cup.

Some questions that need answers are: How many ticket requests for the varying categories were made and filled? What is the percentage of tickets available in each category? What is the percentage of tickets being reserved for “hospitality” groups? Why did France (not qualified)receive more tickets in the first allocation phase than Colombia (qualified)? Why did Switzerland receive more than Argentina? Did Herr Blatter give the Pope some tickets in exchange for absolution?

This is what I have been able to piece together after the first round of ticket sales. Looking closely, doesn´t it seem a bit off that only 2% of Argentines that applied got tickets and 27% of Canadians? 

Applied
Distributed
Percentage
Total
6,164,682
889,305
14




Brazil
4,368,029
(1) 625,276
14
USA
374.065
(2) 66,646
18
Argentina
266,937
 (10) 4493
2
Germany
134,899
(4) 18,019
13
Chile
102,288
no data
no data
Engerland
96,78
(3) 22,257
23
Australia
88,082
 (5) 15,401
17
Japan
69,806
 (10) 5,021
7
Colombia
55,379
 (8) 11,326
20
Canada
49,968
 (6) 13,507
27
France
no data
 (7) 11,628
no data
Switzerland
no data
 (9) 8,082
no data

Yesterday´s ticketing debacle was no less frustrating. I sat in a virtual queue for 3.5 hours only to find out that there were no tickets left for any category for any game other than Cuiabá. Now it is time to dar um jeito and ask my friends from all over the world to register their names with their respective football federations (for the next round of ticketing on December 8) so that I can at least go and see Ghana play Costa Rica in Manaus. If anyone manages to get better data, or a better way to get tickets without working for a multi-national corporation, let me know. 

And if foreigners and the Brazilian Gen Me want to see some images of what the Maracanã used to be like before it was domesticated, deformed and deracinated, have a look at the trailer of this film about the Fla x Flu rivalry:

06 November 2013

Petulant Provincials

It is always a bit of a shock to come back to Rio. The flights are usually long and then one is greeted by immense lines at immigration. The Federal Police have simply not figured out how to do things quickly. In the recently reformed Terminal 2, there are five booths with ten agents controlling all of the international arrivals. There is no room for expansion, just desperation. Arriving from Europe on Monday it took two hours to process a full Lufthansa flight. Imagina na Copa.

There is, of course, no public transportation from the airport and I had forgotten that the King of Smart City had decided to destroy one of the main traffic arteries for a multi-billion dollar real-estate scheme (aka Porto Maravilha). That tied up traffic rather nicely and I spent another hour and a half in a taxi on my way home. As the Cariocas will tell you, there is no more beautiful city to be stuck in traffic. 

Before I jaunted across the pond the upper crust of the state and city governments had sponsored, in conjunction with Deutche Bank and the London School of Economics, a conference on cities. Neither the Governor the Mayor nor the head of the Porto Maravilha (CDURP) project had the courage to show their faces. This is a consistent theme in Rio – when they have to face difficult questions or the well-conceived and executed plans in other parts of the world, they always find a reason to stay in bed with the sheets pulled up. They don´t even feel the need to give notice, which might seem normal in the local social context but when dealing with international visitors smacks of petulant provincialism.

This particularly endearing characteristic of the city government was on full display last week during a faked “manifestação” of “residents” of the Vila Autódromo. OBobo, the media hegemon of Brasil,  was quick to declare that the Vila Autodromo residents, instead of demanding to stay, were now demanding to leave. This was patently untrue as the city had paid people to get into buses, shipped them to the center, provided a few with banners while the majority that had gone simply took the free ride and then went about their business in the center. There is no end to the underhanded tactics that the government will use to divide and conquer. This is but one in a long, uninterrupted sequence of petty brutalities visited upon Rio´s poor. There will be a real counter protest of the Vila Autodromo this Thursday in front of city hall.

Little known sustainability fact: there is no place to lock a bicycle in front of the Rio 2016 headquarters. Or city hall. Or the Institute of Brazilian Architects. Or at most grocery stores. Or in front of the train station. Or at the ferry.The BRTs have no bike lanes. Bikes in Rio are only for leisure or the poor or the insane. The vast majority of metro stations have no bike parking and it is prohibited to take bikes on public transport except on Saturdays and Sundays (with the exception of the ferry, which, because of the elimination of the main traffic artery to downtown has become over stuffed, making it even more unpleasant to bring a bike on). In short, mobility projects are essential to urban functionality. Rio is flowing uphill.

On the front page of Obobo yesterday was the following: “Maracanã to receive record public” for the Flamengo x Goias Copa do Brasil semi-final. Those with a memory that extends past the year 2000 will know this to be a clever falsehood – but what of Rio´s  Gen Me? They will have never known the Maracanã with a capacity of 130,000 and might very well think that if they go to the Mararacã they will be part of the stadium´s biggest ever crowd. The clusterbumble of the Porto Maravilha, the Muesu do Amanhã,  telefericos, Eike Batista, OBobo and the State and City governments are a coalition of spaces and agents that are carrying off a deliberate and, sadly, historically consistent project to eliminate Rio´s architectural and cultural history in favor of the ephemeral, botoxified simulacra that is THE OLYMPIC CITY. Blah.

Keeping with the Maracanã theme, Soccerex, the global showcase for white men in suits to gladhand, was cancelled yesterday. The Soccerex CEO said that is was a political decision based on the threat of manifestations. The state government is hiding under the covers. The probable reason was that there is no private sector interest in Brazil to sponsor these global trough feedings because the football industry is relatively small and controlled by amateurs. Over the past three years, the state government has shelled out tens of millions to host Soccerex but decided that this year, they couldn´t or wouldn´t meet the price tag of the consortium that runs the Maracanã. It is doubtful that this means we have entered into a new era of fiscal responsibility, but it could signal that the government is a bit more cautious about blowing millions on more public football events. [except for the R$20 billion being shelled out on the Decmeber World Cup Draw]

And for a brief account of how my presence at the International Football Arena conference went over, have a look here: http://www.insideworldfootball.com/ifa/13529-ifa-closes-with-passionate-debate-on-the-future-for-mega-events

The highlight of the session was always likely to be the match-up between outspoken academic and author Chris Gaffney who has written widely on the social impact of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and is a visiting professor at the Universidade Federal Fluminese, and FIFA's director of communications and public affairs Walter De Gregorio.

Gaffney, in a previous interview with Insideworldfootball, maintained that the top down imposition of mega events on countries, developing countries in particular, needs to change. Entering the lion's den of a predominantly football business audience his opinion was no less forthright.”

And finally, a bit of my presentation at the Play the Game conference in Aarhus, Denmark. This is definitely one of the best sports conferences in the world and brings together a wide range of people in journalism, academia and the world of sport. I will see if I can link the audio of this presentation to the video, but for now, here is the prezi that has a bit of useful data in it.


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