Discussing the Olympic and Paralympic legacy in Rio de Janeiro (b)

Photo credit: Alline Ourique

This is the part two of two from the blog post "Discussing the Olympic and Paralympic legacy in Rio de Janeiro"

By: Aikaterini Tsakanika

Is there anyone to blame?

Renato Cymbalista, urban arquitect representing the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo (FAU/USP) reflected upon the common perception of progress in relation to strategic short-term and long-term interventions in the urban landscape. The evaluation of the full impact of the preparation projects is often a not-so straight-forward and complicated procedure, yet he registered many Cariocas complaining and condemning with relative ease.

Paula Camargo, Coordinator of CCD, pointed out the role and the contribution of the urban designer that unavoidably has some limitations in its planning and vision for the city. In reference to the preparations for the mega-events in Rio de Janeiro, and from the perspective of the real challenges that the technical professionals affront, Paula Camargo presented the de facto limitations of the urban planner: neither every possible impact could be previewed, nor the proposed interventions pretended to resolve chronic urban problems. The struggle lays to the maintenance of the system’s functioning given the already existing infrastructure. The task is even more challenging in the preparation of those mega events.


Is the mission of attracting and organizing mega-events in a city sufficient and effective for a sustainable future?

An intense period of investment frenzy due to expectations for economic development and growth was followed by a period of stagnation and state government inertia leaving many of the Olympic and Paralympic venues out of the reach of the youth of Rio de Janeiro to which they were initially destined. A teacher in public schools from Deodoro, a region of the west zone of Rio de Janeiro where four venue were installed, explained that the events triggered the need of the local students for a stronger identification with their urban environment by exploring their historic and cultural background, but they are restrained from access to the venues that are left unused.

William F. Boudakian de Oliveira, Diretor Executivo da Rede Esporte pela Mudança Social (REMS), a civil society initiative under the support of Nike and UNDP, emphasized that individuals and associations that believe in the social aspect of the sports are challenged by the lack of institutional and financial support. His valued criticism was based on the punctuality of the mega-events: a wide spectrum of public policies and funds are redirected with the specific mission, the organization of a punctual celebration for sports. Yet, such a glorious event neglects to introduce sports in the daily life of the local communities, and thus fails to bring a significant and systematic change at local and regional scale. Instead, the formation of the future citizens through sport must be attributed to the professionals that systematically work with their limited resources within communities to empower vulnerable young individuals and provide them with a sense of identity and purpose. Indeed, REMS within a decade of action witnessed the potential of sports communities and the social ties among the athletes in creating a solid and alternative basis for the young people to develop their personality. In this context, more attention to the Brazilian youth and public investment in sports may bring a multiple positive effect on those age groups.

In this process the reestablishment of citizenship and belonging is important. Active participation and ownership in the commons may change drastically the face of the city in the years to come. Suzanne Gaerte, da Federação Alemã dos Esportes Olímpicos (DOSB) brought insights from the German sports society and pointed out that voluntary participation in community based sports centers are important for the dissemination of a positive change in the society. In agreement with the 2030 Agenda, this dual integrated vision and the potential transformative role of sports in the societies is being further explored and supported by the International Olympic Committee which is prioritizing and mainstreaming this vision into the requirements for future candidate cities.

Pertinent monitoring and accountability in governance and international cooperation are necessary conditions for progress towards the sustainable development goals. The 2030 Agenda strongly emphasizes the importance of participative and integrated decision-making in respect and recognition of the potential contribution of all local stakeholders, even of most vulnerable. The belief that citizens are ‘trapped’ in a de facto negative and pessimistic culture (rather untrue for the Brazilian culture that exhibit a rather resilient and empowering attitude towards life) or that are unfit to reflect upon development strategies in their cities, reflects a top-down paternalistic mind-set in governance, and is indicative of a limited interaction with civil society.

Read part one of this blog post here.

Photos by Alline Ourique.