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

A post shared by Victor Den Heijer (@victordenheijer) on

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.

 
 
 
 

Two east London boroughs are planning to tax nightlife to fund the clean up. Will it work?

A Shoreditch rave, 2013. Image: Getty.

No-one likes cleaning up after a party, but someone’s got to do it. On a city-wide scale, that job falls to the local authority. But that still leaves the question: who pays?

In east London, the number of bars and clubs has increased dramatically in recent years. The thriving club scene has come with benefits – but also a price tag for the morning clean-up and cost of policing. The boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets are now looking to nightlife venues to cover these costs.

Back in 2012, councils were given powers to introduce ‘late night levies’: essentially a tax on all the licensed venues that open between midnight and 6am. The amount venues are expected to pay is based on the premises’ rateable value. Seventy per cent of any money raised goes to the police and the council keeps the rest.

Few councils took up the offer. Four years after the legislation was introduced, only eight local authorities had introduced a levy, including Southampton, Nottingham, and Cheltenham. Three of the levies were in the capital, including Camden and Islington. The most lucrative was in the City of London, where £420,000 was raised in the 2015-16 financial year.

Even in places where levies have been introduced, they haven’t always had the desired effect. Nottingham adopted a late night levy in November 2014. Last year, it emerged that the tax had raised £150,000 less than expected in its first year. Only a few months before, Cheltenham scrapped its levy after it similarly failed to meet expectations.


Last year, the House of Lords committee published its review of the 2003 Licensing Act. The committee found that “hardly any respondents believed that late night levies were currently working as they should be” – and councils reported that the obligation to pass revenues from the levy to the police had made the tax unappealing. Concluding its findings on the late night levy, the committee said: “We believe on balance that it has failed to achieve its objectives, and should be abolished.”

As might be expected of a nightlife tax, late night levies are also vociferously opposed by the hospitality industry. Commenting on the proposed levy in Tower Hamlets, Brigid Simmonds, chief executive at the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “A levy would represent a damaging new tax – it is the wrong approach. The focus should be on partnership working, with the police and local business, to address any issues in the night time economy.”

Nevertheless, boroughs in east London are pressing ahead with their plans. Tower Hamlets was recently forced to restart a consultation on its late night levy after a first attempt was the subject of a successful legal challenge by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Kate Nicholls, chief executive at the ALMR, said:

“We will continue to oppose these measures wherever they are considered in any part of the UK and will urge local authorities’ to work with businesses, not against them, to find solutions to any issues they may have.”

Meanwhile, Hackney council intends to introduce a levy after a consultation which revealed 52 per cents of respondents were in favour of the plans. Announcing the consultation in February, licensing chair Emma Plouviez said:

“With ever-shrinking budgets, we need to find a way to ensure the our nightlife can continue to operate safely, so we’re considering looking to these businesses for a contribution towards making sure their customers can enjoy a safe night out and their neighbours and surrounding community doesn’t suffer.”

With budgets stretched, it’s inevitable that councils will seek to take advantage of any source of income they can. Nevertheless, earlier examples of the late night levy suggest this nightlife tax is unlikely to prove as lucrative as is hoped. Even if it does, should we expect nightlife venues to plug the gap left by public sector cuts?