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.

 
 
 
 

Which pairs of capital cities are the closest together?

Vienna, which is quite close to Bratislava, but not quite close enough. Image: Thomas Ledl

It doesn't take long to get from Paris to Brussels. An hour and a half on a comfortable Thalys train will get you there. 

Which raises an intriguing question, if you like that sort of thing: wich capital cities of neighbouring countries are the closest together? And which are the furthest away? 

There are some that one might think would be quite close, which are actually much further part. 

Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital, sits on one side of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, while Montevideo, Uruguay's capital lies on the other side. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

But at 207km apart, they're not really that close at all. 

Similarly, Singapore – capital of, er, Singapore – always sticks in the mind as 'that bit on the end of the Malaysian sticky-out bit'. But it's actually pretty far away from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital. A whole 319km away, in fact:

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Thinking of 'countries that cause problems by being close together', you inevitably think of South Korea and North Korea. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

And while Pyongyang in the North and Seoul in the South are pretty close together, 181km just isn't going to cut it. 

Time to do some Seoul-searching to find the real answer here.

(Sorry.)

(Okay, not that sorry.)

Another place where countries being close together tends to cause problems is the Middle East. Damascus, the capital of Syria, really isn't that far from Beirut, in Lebanon. Just 76km:

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Seeing as Lebanon is currently host to millions of refugees fleeing the horrors of Syria's never-ending civil war and the atrocities of Daesh, or Isis, this is presumably something that authorities in Beirut have given a certain amount of thought to.

Most of the time, finding nearby capitals is a game of searching out which bits of the world have lots of small countries, and then rooting around. So you'd think Central America would be ripe for close-together capital fun. 

And yet the best option is Guatemala and El Salvador – where the imaginatively named Guatemala City is a whole 179km away from the also imaginatively named San Salvador.  

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Another obvious place with lots of small-ish countries is Europe – the site of the pair of capitals that drove me to write this nonsense in the first place. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

And in fairness, Vienna and Bratislava do make a pretty good showing of it. Austria's capital sits on the Danube; drift downstream, and you swiftly get to Slovakia's capital. As the crow flies, it's 56km – though as the man swims, it's a little longer. 

There are more surprising entries – particularly if you're willing to bend the rules a little bit. Bahrain and Qatar aren't really adjacent in the traditional sense, as they have no land border, but let's just go with it. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Manama, Bahrain's capital, is 140km away from Doha, the centre of the world's thriving local connecting-flight-industry which moonlights as Qatar's capital. 

Sticking with the maritime theme, Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago is 152km from St George's, Grenada. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Good, but not good enough. 

Castries, the capital of the Carribbean country of St Lucia, is 102km north of Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Better, but still not good enough. 

Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts and Nevis, inches ahead at 100km away from St John's, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda.

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

But, enough teasing: it's time to get down to the big beasts.

If you ask Google Maps to tell you the distance between the capital of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it comes up with a rather suspect 20km. 

 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

A short distance, but considering the only thing separating the two is the River Congo, something's up: Google places the centre of Brazzaville a little north of where it should be, and the centre of Kinshasa many many miles south of where it should be, in some sort of suburb.


So, in true CityMetric style, we turn to train stations. 

Though such transport hubs may not always perfectly mark the centre of a city – just ask London Oxford Airport or London Paddington – in this case it seems about right. 

Kinshasa's main train station is helpfully called 'Gare Centrale', and is almost slap-bang in the middle of the area Google marks as 'Centre Ville'. On the other side of the river, 'Gare de Brazzaville' is in the middle of lots of densely-packed buildings, and is right next to a Basilica, which is always a good sign. 

 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

And when marking that distance, you get a more realistic 4.8km. If you want to be really keen, the ferry between them travels 3.99km, and the closest point I could find between actual buildings was 1.74km, though admittedly that's in a more suburban area. 

Pretty close, though. 

But! I can hear the inevitable cries clamouring for an end to this. So, time to give the people what they want. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

If you ask Google Maps to tell you how far away the Holy See, capital of the Vatican, is from Rome, capital of Rome, it says 3.5km. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

If you set the centre of Rome to be the Palatine Hill, the ancient marking point for roads leading out of Rome, that narrows to 2.6km.

 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Fiddle a bit and put the centre of the Vatican as, well, the middle bit of the roughly-circular Vatican, that opens up a smidge to 2.75km.

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Mark the centre of point of the Vatican as the approximate location of St Peter's Tomb within St Peter's Basilica, which is after all the main reason the Vatican is a thing and not just a quirky suburb of Rome, and 2.67km is your answer. 

Though obviously in practice Rome and the Vatican are as far away as one single step over the railings at the entrance of St Peter's Square, which fairly blatantly makes them the closest capital cities in the world. 

But that would have been a very boring thing to come out and say at the start. 

Oh, and if you hadn't worked it out already, the longest distance between a capital city and the capital of a country it shares a land border with is 6,395km. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

I know it's tough for you, Vladimir and Kim. Long-distance relationships are a real struggle sometimes.

I can't make a pun work on either Moscow or Pyongyang here, but readers' submissions more than welcome. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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