Vision and legacy, hopes and doubts
By Xi Chen
Rio de Janeiro is passionate about transforming the city through sports and building a sustainable legacy. There are many examples engineered into the 2016 Olympic Games plan, with programs aimed at improving the city and the entire nation.
The games legacy plan is based on four key priorities, which are also integrated into Rio’s long-term plan, according to the Candidate File for Rio de Janeiro to Host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Transformation of the city
This program includes better air quality through stronger emissions controls for industry and mass
transport and extensively improved security, including new skills and systems.
Social inclusion: homes, training and jobs
The program plans to provide more than 24,000 rooms in the newly built apartments around Games locations.
It will also provide 48,000 adults and young people with programs of professional and volunteer training in areas of strategic importance for the Games, which will ideally help participants find jobs after the Games.
Rio is expecting 50,000 temporary and 15,000 additional permanent jobs in events, sport management, tourism and venue operations, in addition to a significant number of jobs in construction-related industries as a result of the substantial infrastructure investments.
Youth and education
The Games will bring investment of more than $400 million between 2009 and 2016 in Mais Educação, a Federal program that funds sport infrastructure for public schools.
The committee says that Rio 2016 will benefit from increased private sector investment through existing fiscal incentive programs. It is anticipated that funding will grow from $80 million to at least $200 million by 2016 to support a variety of sport infrastructure and program developments.
However, not all people are as optimistic as the committee is. A group of young people, coming from different parts of Brazil, gathered for a three-month economic journalism internship program at O Estado de S. Paulo, a daily newspaper published in the Metropolitan region of São Paulo, Brazil. O Estado de S. Paulo has the second-largest circulation in the City of São Paulo and is owned by Grupo Estado, the largest news agency in Brazil.
As part of Brazil’s young generation, the interns are full of hopes and dreams about their country. And at the same time, as journalists they are skeptical about the impact of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympic Games, and Brazil’s future.
Name: Walquíria Cassiano de Oliveira Hometown: Brasília Age: 23
Walquíria Cassiano de Oliveira thinks Brazil has a great opportunity and it has the capability to hold a great event like the Olympic Games or the World Cup. But she said nobody really knows how the two big events will turn out.
“I think most of us want to be hopeful,” she said. “Unfortunately we have big problems with the
administration in our country.”
One of the biggest problems, according to Cassiano de Oliveira, is that people in power abuse their authority and don‘t want to lose some benefits as the country grows.
“Next year, we will have the election so they are really masking things to sell a good image,” said
Cassiano de Oliveira, “but they are not worrying about doing something that will reflect in a long term.”
Name: Thaise Constancio Temoteo Hometown: Rio de Janeiro Age: 25
“I think it’s going to be amazing for the town and for us ‘cariocas’,” said Temoteo.
As one of the “cariocas”, which refers to the ones who live in Rio de Janeiro, Temoteo is confident that Rio is going to be an international city and the public services have already started to improve.
On the other hand, Temoteo didn’t hide his worries. In his words, “It is almost impossible to live in Rio.”
“Everything in the town has been more and more expensive day by day,” he said.
He said Brazil is trying to make good money before the event, but Brazilians and cariocas consumers don’t have much to spend.
Temoteo also is concerned that improvements and new developments happening in Rio are not aimed at helping the citizens, but only a show for tourists.
“I ask myself if all those improvements will continue after the Olympic Games,” he said.
But Temoteo remains optimistic about Brazil’s future, saying, “We have lots of natural resources, lots of talented people, and lots of other things to grow and develop.”
Name: Fernando Ladeira de Azevedo Hometown: Recife Age: 25
Fernando is excited about Rio’s 2016 Olympic Games. He said he sees a lot of construction works in Rio.
“I don’t know exactly how things work there,” he said, “but I imagine by 2016 Rio de Janeiro will be a much better city.”
In Ladeira de Azevedo’s eyes, the Olympic Games will improve the image of Brazil.
“Everybody says Brazil is the country of the future, and I agree with that,” he said.
One thing that worries Ladeira de Azevedo is the corruption. He said he believes many contracts will be given to companies linked to politicians.
“I think that’s the price we have to pay,” he said.
Corruption is not as hidden as it once was, Ladeira de Azevedo said. While it is an ongoing problem, he said more corruption is exposed by the newspapers now than it used to be.
Ladeira de Azevedo said he believes in Brazil. “I read about the period when I was little, in the ‘90s,” he said. “I realize how much we have improved.”
“We have a stable currency; we have great tourism potential; a very diversified culture,” he said, “I think international investors still see us as a good country to invest.”
Name: Caio Proença Hometown: Belém Age: 25
“For me, both the World Cup and the Olympic Games in Rio are already big disappointments,” Caio Proença said, disagreeing with the ambitious vision leaders are touting.
Though Brazilian leaders say it will strengthen its infrastructure and improve its tourism industry, Caio said it is already too late to do so.
“What we see are overpriced stadiums, like Maracanã,” he said, “which not only cost way more than what was expected, but also spent 90 percent taxpayers’ money, instead of being fully funded by private investments as promised by the government before.”
Maracanã, which was built for the 1950 World Cup, has been undergoing renovation at a cost of $430 million dollars, according to statistics.The budget for the 12 stadiums stands at 7 billion reals ($3.3 billion), three times the total spent by South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Most of that is public money, despite a government pledge in 2007 that the private sector would pay for stadiums, according to a report from The Economist.
Besides the stadiums, Proença said that Brazil also needs to spend on things like ports, airports, roads, subways, railroads.
“It is not enough to just focus on investing in the FIFA hosts,” he said.
Brazil has some of the best-paid politicians in the world, Proença said, “but we see very little returning to us.”
“Despite social programs like Bolsa Familia saving thousands of people from living in misery in parts of the country like where I came from,” he said, “the gap between the poor and rich continues to be the worst in the world.”
The Bolsa Familia is a social welfare program that provides financial aid to poor Brazilian families. About 12 million Brazilian families receive funds from Bolsa Família.
Proença said Bolsa Familia is far from enough for a big country like Brazil.
“The spread of wealth gained from the social benefit programs is showing signs of success, but not life changing improvement to the populations in the North and Northeast of the country,” he said, “as the investment on education continues to be less than it should be.”
Another problem Brazil faces, Proença said, is the fact that almost nobody gets punished in the Congress, and scandals like the Mensalao case tend to pop up every month.
The Mensalao scandal was a vote-buying case of corruption that threatened to bring down the
government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005.
Due to this scandal, many key advisers to President Lula resigned, while several deputies were faced with the choice of resignation or expulsion from Congress, though the president himself went on to be reelected in 2006.
Proença said perhaps a poor showing by Brazil in front of a worldwide audience will “give us the push that we need.”
“I’m certain that news outlets around the world will burn this administration for the pitiful results that
we’ll see,” he said. And his hope is that such a result will spur politicians to “take responsibility and
rethink what they are doing.”
“I hope that’ll be the case, even though I’m not confident about that,” he said.