Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Roundtable: The Challenge of Major Events

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The following article deals with the topic “The Challenge of Major Events” which is currently discussed at the Global Economic Symposium in Rio. The author intends to enrich the discussion at the symposium with his personal stories and ideas.

Here are some observations:

  • a quite positive vision of major events, unrealistic to some extent — or entirely;
  • a handful of speakers only talking about infrastructure such as train stations, airports, energy, etc. without any consideration for the environment or, to be honest, with just a tiny propaganda-driven interest in the environment — but none for the impact on the population that has been, and may continue to be, displaced; and
  • engineers, hotel and tourism specialists, architects, etc. without any kind of concern or, again, with just a propaganda-driven concern, for the long-term impact on tourism and on the economy/investment.

The biggest concern regarding public policies seems to be the economic/investment impact with some room to celebrate the relaxation of the laws of bidding.

Education — which we lack — and sustainability — which we pretty much don’t understand — were secondary matters in the discussion, such as the dichotomy between the 12-14 billion dollar cost of the Olympic Games and the profit that can be obtained by the host country. A good example given by one of the speakers, Luiz Sá Lucas (IBOPE), was the case of Greece, where a significant portion of its debt came from spending on the Olympics.

The real concern during major events should be how the infrastructure can help the population improve their quality of life rather than how the elites can profit. It is clear there is an absolute disconnect between the real needs of countries and their populations and what policy makers — and the companies that heavily lobby governments and policy makers — are doing or have an interest in doing.

Social change, tackling inequality, etc. are just footnotes. “Positive externalities” and profit are key words. It seems that the only concern is the direct/indirect impact on the economy; there is no concern for the long-term improvement in the infrastructure for the population beyond the commercial use of stadiums and the remaining infrastructure.

What about uses such as developing sports programs in poorer areas, just to begin with? What about urban reorganization, development of favelas, etc.? Will the community be positively impacted, or are we just talking about structures to ensure profits for the few? Judging by many of the comments made at the roundtable, the answer is “we are just looking forward to profit, and we don’t care about the environment or about the population,” at least if we consider the words of Laudemar Aguiar, national secretary of the Brazilian Organizing Committee for Rio+20.

What about the stadiums in cities such as Manaus or Brasilia where the practice of football is almost inchoate, and local teams are irrelevant? What are they for? To what end will they be used later as there is no social purpose for their buildings?

The population seeks employment and income, but after finishing the building, what are they supposed to do? In the Polish city of Wroclaw the local stadium for the Eurocup cost about 600 million euros, and now the city is almost bankrupt. Is that what we’re looking for in Brazil?

Major events are simply the best opportunity to profit — for all sectors of the economy, from contractors and the food industry to tourism, etc. But the positive impact on the population is almost nonexistent, or at least, there is no concern with the matter.

Raphael Tsavkko Garcia Twitter: @tsavkkoRaphael

PhD candidate in Human Rights (Universidad de Deusto), MA in Communications (Cásper Líbero), Bachelor in Intl. Relations (PUCSP), blogger, journalist and author/translator at Global Voices Online.