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Archive for August, 2010

Brazil has been beset by negative tales of gangland warfare in recent days, but it hasn’t dampened the spirit of the Brazilian people to show the world the beauty of Brazil.

Nice article in today’s Miami Herald by Mimi Whitefield about what the future holds for the country.  I, for one, can’t wait!  http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/21/1786659/brazil-getting-extreme-makeover.html

 

The Miami Herald

Brazil getting extreme makeover in preparation for Olympics

By MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.com

   In this computer generated photo illustration released by Comite Rio 2016 is seen a view of the Flamengo Park for road cycling in Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro is hoping to bring the Olympics to South America for the first time, promising to transform the region and captivate the world with well-organized games near the city's stunning beaches and famous landmarks. (AP Photo/Comite Rio 2016)
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In this computer generated photo illustration released by Comite Rio 2016 is seen a view of the Flamengo Park for road cycling in Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro is hoping to bring the Olympics to South America for the first time, promising to transform the region and captivate the world with well-organized games near the city’s stunning beaches and famous landmarks. (AP Photo/Comite Rio 2016)
Traffic rumbles over an elevated highway that cuts off the waterfront from Art Deco government offices. Many of the old buildings in the port area are abandoned and others are marred by graffiti and shattered windows.Fast forward six years to 2016, when Rio de Janeiro is to host the Olympic Games: 

The elevated highway is gone. The Museum of Tomorrow, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, stretches out to sea along the Praça Mauá pier. Historic buildings have been renovated. And a variety of shops, restaurants and cultural sites at the downtown port welcome Olympics fans.

Today, a banner at the site optimistically proclaims: “A new city is being born.” As Brazil prepares to host the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, nothing short of an urban renaissance will do.

A lot is at stake. Brazil hasn’t hosted a World Cup since 1950, and this will be the first time a South American city has hosted an Olympics. It will be Brazil’s moment in the sun — an opportunity to show the world that this so-called emerging economy has come of age.

About 60 percent of the sports venues are already completed because Brazil hosted the 2007 Pan American Games and — with an eye toward capturing the big prize — built those facilities to Olympics specs.

But billions of dollars of sports-driven projects from port renovation and airport overhauls to the construction of major highways, transit systems, stadiums and an Olympic Village complete with a beach are planned. Besides accommodating the influx of fans, athletes and officials, the goal is to leave a lasting legacy for Brazilians.

LONGTIME PROBLEMS

Many of the Olympics-related projects are designed to fix problems that have festered in Rio for decades: massive traffic snarls, the derelict port area and poor connections between the four areas of the sprawling city that will be Olympic venues.

But the double dose of the World Cup and the Olympic Games has provided the incentive — and money — to get them done.

After Brazil beat Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid to win the bid for the 2016 Games, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes flew to Barcelona to meet with Pasqual Maragall, mayor during the 1992 Olympics in that Spanish city.

“He was the one who gave us the perspective that we have to use this as an opportunity to serve the city,” said Felipe de Faria Góes, secretary of development for Rio de Janeiro and the city’s point man on the port project.

There will be lots of money sloshing around. The budget for the Games will be about $15 billion, with the city of Rio contributing about a third. A Ministry of Sport commissioned study shows the impact on gross domestic product from 2009 to 2016 will be $11 billion, and the Olympics and Paralympics will create nearly 121,000 jobs a year in the seven-year period.

And the second phase of Brazil’s National Growth Acceleration Program, which includes preparation for the Games, opens up some $220 billion in opportunities for foreign investors from 2011 to 2014.

INTERNATIONAL INTEREST

That is piquing the interest of corporations around the world.

Some 180 business executives, trade commissioners, bankers, lawyers and government officials — from Brazil, the United States, Canada, Japan, China and Latin America — for example, gathered in Rio in June to hear about investment opportunities.

Those at the Rio event organized by Infocast, a California company, included some of the world’s largest companies — Bechtel, Odebrecht, KPMG and Deutsche Bank — but there were also smaller players exploring the opportunities.

“I’m looking to find just the right niche for New Zealand companies,” said Jessica Acherboim, regional manager for New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.

Among those she was scouting for: a metal framing company that makes retractable roofs.

By the end of the three-day conference, heads were spinning as Brazilian officials ticked off their plans for transforming the city:

• Transportation: Three major highway/bus rapid transit routes that will connect the four main Olympic venues with each other and ease traffic to the international airport and Rio’s rapidly growing western suburbs are in the works.

The BRT routes will feature six lanes for cars and dedicated lanes for buses, which will stop at fixed stations where riders have paid fares in advance.

The federally financed $447.5 million TransCarioca route, which cuts across the city from south to north, will require relocating about 3,000 families in the densely populated — and poor — northern suburbs at a cost of about $171 million.

Work started on a subway link in late June that will connect Ipanema and the rest of Rio’s hotel district to Barra da Tijuca, site of the Olympic Village and events such as swimming and diving, track and field and gymnastics, and to the planned TranOeste BRT route.

A new toll road, TransOlimpica, that would connect Barra to Deodoro, the venue for shooting, equestrian, pentathlon and fencing events, is in the planning stages. A light rail that will connect the domestic airport, Santos Dumont, to the renovated port is also planned.

“Transportation is our biggest challenge,” Góes said. “But we have a deadline and we have to deliver.”

• Porto Maravilha project: Probably the most ambitious urban development project in Brazil, it seeks to transform a gritty, dark port into an area of museums and cultural institutions, attractions, restaurants, renovated historic buildings and homes by 2015.

To fund the overhaul in lighting, water and sewer systems and streets, put in new landscaping, redo the Mauá plaza and pull down the elevated highway, the city plans to sell development rights to private investors and plow the money back into infrastructure improvements, expected to reach $1.7 billion.

Private owners who want to develop their land, for example, would buy certificates corresponding to the size of their project. A public auction will determine the cost of the certificates.

Over the next 28 months, the city also is offering significant tax exemptions and reductions for those who build in the waterfront area.

A station for a planned $18.7 billion bullet train between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo also is slated for the port area.

Companies from around the world are competing for the train contract, and the winning bidder will be announced Dec. 16. The train is expected to be running for the Olympics.

• Airports: Ricardo Teixeira, president of the Brazilian football federation, has made it clear what is on his mind: “The three main priorities we have are airports, airports, airports” since teams, fans and officials need to be moved around the vast country during the World Cup.

The ride in from Galeao, Rio’s international airport, to the beachside hotel district clearly isn’t the first impression city fathers would like visitors to have of Rio. The trip can take well over an hour, and sometimes traffic along Linha Vermelha or Avenida Brasil shuts down completely when residents of the favelas, or shantytowns, that line the routes flee across the highways during police operations.

Recently, partitions featuring children’s drawings of flowers, rainbows and skateboarders have gone up along portions of the Linha Vermelha, partially blocking the view of the favelas that push to the edge of the highway.

Planned bus rapid transit lanes along Avenida Brasil should help the airport commute.

And the government recently said it plans to invest $3 billion to get its airports ready to handle World Cup traffic, building everything from new runways to terminals.

• Sports venues: Work has already begun on expanding Brazil’s Olympic training center in Barra, and housing for athletes, officials and the media will be built with private money.

The city would like to keep its investments in sports facilities at a minimum to avoid getting stuck with sports palaces that become white elephants. “From the city’s perspective, we’re much more focused on the infrastructure legacy,” Góes said.

• Hotels: Even though construction has already started on or plans have been approved for 300 new hotels, there is still an expected 20,000-room deficit for the Olympics. Brazil is planning to use cruise ships docked at the downtown terminal to cover about 8,000 of those rooms. Another 16 hotel projects are being analyzed by city hall.

Brazil also has pledged to make its Games green — mostly by taking cars off the road and encouraging mass transit but also by cleaning up the water quality of Lagoa, the lake where rowing and canoeing competitions will be held. Money also has been budgeted to bring more city services to the favelas, which often lack garbage pickup and sanitation systems.

There are skeptics — and some of them are everyday Cariocas, as Rio residents are called — who wonder about traffic as the new road system is being constructed, the quality of work if it is rushed, and how traffic will get to the other side of Guanabara Bay if the elevated highway — a main connecting road to the Niteroi Bridge — comes down.

And there has been criticism about relocations because of the transit projects.

GAME CHANGER

Not lost on Brazilian officials is the potential that hosting the world’s two biggest sporting events in a two-year span has to be a game changer, putting the “New Brazil” on the world map the same way the Beijing Olympics displayed China’s modernity and ingenuity in 2008.

The timing is in Brazil’s favor. By 2016, Brazil is expected to be the world’s fifth largest economy; it has made huge new oil discoveries; its fiscal policies have proved sound, and this year the economy is expected to grow by about 7 percent.

This is the final year of the term of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose popularity both within Brazil and outside not only helped Brazil’s winning bid but also has galvanized public support for the projects.

When Brazil won its Olympic bid, Lula tearfully said, “All we needed was an opportunity to show what a great nation we are. Rio deserves this. Brazil deserves this. The people of Brazil deserve this.”

If Lula’s hand-picked candidate, Dilma Rousseff, wins the Oct. 3 presidential election, it’s possible Lula may take on the role of head cheerleader to push for completion of the projects, said Riordan Roett, a Brazil scholar at Johns Hopkins.

The biggest challenge to staging the games will be infrastructure, said Leonardo Gryner, chief executive officer of the Rio 2016 organizing committee.

“I believe the world will be surprised with the country they’ll be discovering in 2014,” said Brazilian Sports Minister Orlando Silva.


© 2010 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

 

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