Clarity for Rio’s future, despite short funds and political uncertainty

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Lapa has seen big change

Despite everything — even sudden Olympic days off — lots of people are thinking about Rio de Janeiro’s future these days, exactly two months before municipal elections.

Clique aqui para português

Moving around the metropolis in recent weeks, this blogger noted three certainties that will attend the future, regardless of who is elected or how much the budget is:

1) Rio is and can be a better place. Obvious– but it wasn’t up to 2009, when we began a brief turnaround, after 40 years of decadence. There’s new life in the city. Complaints are heard about the Olympic legacy, transportation. We have yet to see the real impact of the Metro extension, 4 BRTs (dedicated articulated bus lanes), the VLT trams, the Joá elevated highway expansion, SuperVia train improvements, the bus rationalization, the elevated Perimetral demolition and the tunnels that replaced it.

Even for those who appreciate none of this or think it falls short, the idea itself of a turnaround is new in Rio. No more shrugging off problems.

2) Public policy, particularly in regard to transportation, environment and public safety, demand a metropolitan approach. No longer can officials turn their backs on responsibilities because they belong to another level of government. Leadership will be necessary, collaboration too. Society will pressure those who don’t get this. The new Câmara de Integração Metropolitana (Metropolitan Integration Chamber) created by order of the Supreme Court, will guide this new phase.

3) Public policies will have to be custom-made for each territory in the metropolis. Before, the complexity of neighborhoods and favelas were a barrier to public policymakers, strengthening the simplicity of welfarism.

Today, with more precise and useful data now available, the ability to crowdsource local information and the growing complexity and richness of social media, across-the-board public policies are no longer acceptable. In addition, highly-connected citizens, especially youth, are ever more likely to engage in dialogue with politicians and public servants.

In the last decade in Rio de Janeiro we’ve had joy and disappointment. Nothing was as easy as we thought it would be. Lucky for us, learning comes of experience, with lessons that can contribute to the greater good in coming years.

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About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Clarity for Rio’s future, despite short funds and political uncertainty

  1. curmudgeon says:

    Yesterday one of the Curmudgeon’s friends wrote him from the USA: “I feel for you. The hassle of hosting the Olympics. I don’t know why anyone would want to agree to such a thing; it certainly would not be the people who actually live there.”

    The Curmudgeon responded that he was wrong, the people who actually live here supported the bid to host the games—in fact, the people of Rio rejoiced!

    One reason is that, when the bid was made and accepted, Brazil was in full-fledged growth mode. For the first time in almost a century, the Mayor, Governor and President were all part of the same poltical coalition, so money could be found at all levels of government. Moreover, the “pre-salt” oil boom was beginning and Rio was far and away the biggest beneficiary.

    Another reason was that Rio’s bid contained a promise to leave a legacy after the games ended, and people hoped that it might just happen. The promised legacy included cleaning up Guanabara Bay—that didn’t happen. The legacy also included improving urban mobility—that did happen. Rio now has a new VLT, a new Metrô Line 4, several BRT lines, tunnels rather than elevated highways—even the super-crowded suburban trains have been upgraded. Downtown is now a much lighter, cleaner place than it was.

    On the other hand, over 22,000 people were removed from their community dwellings to faraway places. The UPP system designed to make the favelas safe has failed, as the number of civilians killed by police (and vice versa) has grown exponentially. All the Olympic infrastructure was completed at the last minute—some with structural defects—at prices well over budget. [Please do not bike to São Conrado from Leblon without wearing an inflatable life vest.]

    No one in Rio is excited about a “legacy” public golf course, because almost no one in Rio can afford to play golf. The housing built for the Rio2016 athletes will be converted into dwelling places almost no one in Rio can afford; nothing was built for hoi polloi.

    Did we mention that Cariocas remember the “legacy” of the Pan American Games hosted here in 2007? Less than a decade later, a single sports facility built for that event was suitable for the Olympic games. The high-rise complex designed for lower-middle-class housing has become a white elephant, built over a swamp that was never properly drained.

    Seven years ago, the Olympic Games of Rio2016 were supposed to be the final building block in Brazil’s campaign to be recognized as “a serious country”. Sadly, most people here (including The Curmudgeon) just don’t believe that any more. Given the political and economic crises, coupled with the vast corruption being uncovered, there’s a generalized sense of regret that Brazil, once again, just missed the boat.

    Put another way, many Cariocas feel trapped in a leaky boat, navigating turbulent and polluted waters. But we resist.

    The Curmudgeon submits that F. Scott Fitzgerald described Rio 2016 for Cariocas far more elegantly in The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

  2. Rio real says:

    Well put, Curmudgeon! I would only submit that the celebrations re the Olympic bid may have been carried out by public servants on Copacabana Beach. They’d been given Oct. 2, 2009 as a day off. And I think all of this takes place again a current that so far seems to be bearing us ceaselessly into something that is definitively NOT the past, the current of the Lava Jato investigations. Watching the joy over a young black woman favela resident’s gold medal, today, also gives me hope. A turning tide is always hard to categorize.

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