CategoryRio de Janeiro

Evidence of “Olympic change” in Rio’s favelas

I have never read Al Jazeera’s English edition until yesterday. I think I saw a post to this article on Twitter; it’s about how construction for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Rio, Brasil, is already removing parts of the favelas, or hillside shantytowns. The article is quite relevant for me because I wrote last week about how rising ticket prices threaten the egalitarian nature of watching futebol at the Rio’s most famous stadium, the Maracanã. From Al Jazeera:

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 you might expect, residents and planners have different ideas on what it means to remove these homes:

[Eduardo] 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”.

The same thing has happened all across the United States and is still happening in Chicago. The Chicago Housing Authority, very quickly in the past 10 years, has demolished all of its high-rises (some were converted to condominiums, like Raymond Hilliard Homes at 54 W Cermak, or transferred to different ownership) under the Plan for Transformation. This displaced thousands of residents; some were moved to newly-built multi-flat buildings in specially-designed, mixed-income neighborhoods. But there weren’t enough of these buildings to absorb all of the residents who had to move out of the high-rises. I’m still not clear on where they went.

A favela in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Kevin Jones.

Chicago’s final public housing high-rise was demolished in April 2011.

World Cup and Olympics construction will disadvantage Rio’s poor

It is a scene we see every four years when the Olympics come around: Development that displaces a group of people who lack a good defense, unlike the futebol team they used to pay $1.80 to see.

There used to be a standing-room only general admission area in the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, years ago, but no longer exists today, according to an article yesterday in the New York Times. (Rio will host the 2016 Olympics after beating Tokyo, Madrid, and Chicago.)

The price of tickets is important to cariocas (residents of Rio) because of the stadium’s “role as an egalitarian space in a heavily unequal city like Rio.”

“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,” Bruno Carvalho said, a Rio native who is an assistant professor of Brasilian studies at Princeton. “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?”

Members of the National Fans Association understand that safety and comfort upgrades, for which the general admission area was removed, have to be made for an event such as the World Cup 2014, but they want to ensure that other venues under construction be integrated and their designers consult local urban planners and neighborhood groups.

Nine new venues will be constructed for the Rio Olympic Games, and seven venues will be constructed but removed after the closing ceremony. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, thousands of city residents were “relocated.” Some reports say 15,000 moved voluntarily with compensation and another says 300,000 were evicted.

I have a concern that in the next five years, there will be founded accusations of cariocas’ civil rights as “progress” pushes them out of the way.

Photo of the Maracanã stadium by Phil Whitehouse.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

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