Six months on, what did Rio de Janeiro gain from hosting the Olympics?

Christ the Redeemer enjoying the games. Image: Getty.

It’s been over six months since the Olympic games came to a close in Rio. With the benefit of hindsight, many are surveying the city with a critical eye, wondering whether the multi-billion dollar mega-event was worth it.

When a city is graced by the pinnacle of cultural and sporting celebration that is the Olympic Games, it also carries out a programme of ambitious urban development: from short-term regeneration to longer-term infrastructure works. Since the start of the century, such non-sporting outcomes have become a major part of the bidding process for would-be host cities.

Today, a bid to host the Olympics can provide a powerful political will for change, pool public and private money together in enormous funds, and catalyse urban development at an astounding rate.

Mixed visions

Yet event-led policies are complex. They cut across many different locations, affecting communities and businesses in myriad ways. Competing interests must be prioritised, and those with money and power are often better able to influence outcomes to their advantage than poorer, less “visible” residents.

Rio’s favelas offer a case in point. Around 23-24 per cent of the city’s population live in informal or slum housing, and many were hit with forced evictions to make way for sports facilities or transport routes. One civil society group calculated that 22,059 families were evicted across the city ahead of mega-events between 2009 and 2015 – that’s approximately 77,206 people.

Here we find that mega-events escape from the confines of democratic planning, and avoid the progressive, plural and consultative processes typically found as part of the “normal” governance of daily life. Scholars have observed that, during the planning and delivery periods, host cities symbolise “Olympic states of exception”, wherein urban policies are fast-tracked to deliver the infrastructure in time for the games.

The vision for Rio’s Olympic legacy drew a mixed response before the games even began, so now that they’re over, the city is in for some heavy scrutiny. To even the most optimistic eye, it’s clear that in places, reality falls far short of the dream.

 

2016 vs. 2017.... #snif #Rio2016 #Olympics #kanveelgebeurenineenjaar

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Venues remain without owners, part-functioning or in complete disarray. They are transforming into text-book examples of “white elephants”; flashy developments built for show, which fall out of use and become a burden on public funds once the party is over. For the residents of a city which was already struggling in the grips of economic, political and health crises, this must be especially frustrating.

A ray of hope

But while the physical remnants of the games are withering, the cultural legacy of Rio’s Porto Maravilha shines bright. Before being made-over for the games, the area had a reputation for being unsafe: abandoned buildings were blemished by broken windows, and locals avoided walking there after dark.

But now, six months on, it’s the place to be: throngs of people can be seen cycling or strutting across what was the largest ever “live site” in Olympic history. The Porto Maravilha has become a cultural hub, where locals and visitors gather to eat local street food and soak up the sights, which include attractions such as My Porto Maravilha and one of the world’s largest murals.

Of course, this kind of urban make-over can have unintended consequences. Gentrification occurs when major structural and economic changes force lower income communities out of an area, and it’s one of the biggest challenges faced by Olympic host cities, past and future.

In the case of the Barcelona 1992 games, it was found that gentrification “changed the social mix” of local communities and caused house prices to jump 250 per cent between 1986 and the start of the games. Similarly, since the Olympic park was constructed for London 2012, the thriving community of artists in nearby Hackney Wick has been threatened with displacement.

Regeneration is a two-sided coin: it can raise the standards of living for local residents – or progressively drive them out entirely. The risk is that every time Olympic developments price out locals by driving up housing costs, it makes the prospect of hosting the Olympics a little less attractive.


The truth is, much of the story of Rio’s Olympic legacy has yet to be written, and what counts as a win to some may feel like a sore loss to others. There will be businesses that continue to ride the wave of trade after the event, while creatives capitalise on the port’s new cultural scene. But there will also be poorer, more vulnerable residents struggling to find and settle into new homes. Perhaps the best way to judge is to visit and see for yourself.The Conversation

Michael B. Duignan is a lecturer in tourism management and research fellow, and Yvonne Ivanescu a PhD candidate, at Anglia Ruskin University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.


So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image: WelshStreets.co.uk.

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: WelshStreets.co.uk. 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?


And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.