Tag Archives: rio

Is Rio Excited About the Olympics in 2016?

Here’s the thing. A few days back was the one-year-to-go point for the Rio Olympics. The Olympic committee seemed pretty confident that most things are on track for the games. Some of the venues are ready now. Some are almost ready. From what I read there only seemed to be one venue that was really struggling to meet deadlines.

But we still have a year to go. Who can forget the images from Greece before the Athens 2004 games where it seemed that venues were still being constructed days before the events were to start?

But what I find really funny is how the media – in Brazil and globally – are all saying that nobody is looking forward to the games in Brazil. Ticket sales are low. People are worried about the economic situation. The Guardian even went so far as to suggest that people in Brazil are still upset about Germany thrashing Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup last year.

What is worth remembering is that this happens before every Olympic games. Take a look back at London. Perhaps I’m biased because I am British, but it was one of the most memorable Olympic events ever in my opinion. From the amazing opening ceremony to the way the volunteers changed the way the entire city operated. It was a time to remember in the UK. Ask most people in London about the Olympics in 2012 and they will have fond memories of a month when people were friendlier than usual – there was an improvement in the way the entire city functioned and people enjoyed it.

But a week before the 2012 games it was all different. I wrote about it at the time in the Huffington Post. The press were wailing that there was no security in London, that missile launchers were being erected on buildings, that bus drivers wanted to strike, that the tube would not run, that the Olympic bus drivers had no idea how to find the stadium, and that the budget was out of control… the 2012 Olympics was generally hated by the media.

That article was published one week before the 2012 games began and my point was generally to say, “look let’s get behind this now because the whole world is watching London.”

What response did I get? Almost 100 comments on the article and every single one saying what a complete tosser I am for suggesting this. Every comment complained about the Olympics in London.

Spin forward a week to the opening ceremony and every Brit was laughing at the Queen with James Bond, Mr Bean, singing Kinks and Beatles songs. Suddenly everyone loved the fact that the entire world was watching Britain and enjoying it. Suddenly people felt proud of being British.

But this hasn’t happened in Rio yet. In fact I expect it will not happen until the opening ceremony because until the event is really underway, it’s not “real”, it’s just a future event that could always be a disaster. At least that’s what the press tells us.

So I for one am not listening to a word about how the Brazilian psyche has been so disturbed by Germany’s goals in 2014 that it is now impossible for them to enjoy the Olympics. Or that any questions of economics will make people enjoy sport less.

The sports pages are full of so much garbage. The bottom line is that Brazilians are going to welcome the Olympics to Rio next year and I hope I’m there to enjoy it with them.
Mirante Dona Marta - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Brazil: I’ll do it tomorrow if that’s OK?

Business Daily on the BBC World Service today was focused on the possible decision by FIFA to cancel the World Cup games in Curitiba because the stadium is not ready. The BBC is being cautious and waiting for the actual announcement from FIFA, but ESPN has already started reporting that FIFA has taken this decision and Curitiba is officially out of the World Cup.

Of course this would be a disaster for Curitiba. It’s a fantastic city that is clean, safe, and has buses that people actually use. A complete contrast from the edginess of São Paulo or the favelas dotted all over Rio. It’s the last place that you might expect to fail when Brazil has also been building new stadiums in places like Manaus and Cuiabá.

But what I found irksome when listening to the BBC coverage was the vox pops they used when characterising Brazil. There was a university professor who talked about the culture in Brazil that everything can be done tomorrow. There was the miserable commuter who spends hours travelling to and from work each day – on a good day. There was the small business owner who said how terribly difficult it is to do business in Brazil.

The coverage wasn’t balanced or fair. I have complained a fair few times about the challenges of living in Brazil, notably things like the bureaucracy associated with buying an insurance policy or registering a car. Simple transactions that should really be easier, but on balance I actually like it here. It sounds irritating to hear the BBC doing a cultural hatchet job on how all Brazilians are lazy, feckless, and would rather not do anything today because there is always tomorrow.

I run a business in Brazil. If a contractor delivers anything late then I don’t pay them. If they let me down more than once I will never work with them again. If they don’t deliver a quality service then I negotiate a new price. I haven’t had very many problems at all with this idea that nothing ever gets delivered on time – I had far more trouble when I ran a business back in the UK.

Small businesses in Brazil benefit from a simple tax structure. You just pay tax on the revenue coming into your company. No need for complex offsets or depreciation, just pay a fixed percentage on your revenue. Imagine if Starbucks was doing that in the UK, rather than transferring profit to Switzerland therefore reducing the local profit to nothing and therefore paying little or no corporation tax.

And small business owners get paid on time in Brazil. When I send an invoice to a client I tell my bank that I have sent it and who it has gone to AND when they are going to pay. If the company doesn’t pay then my bank will chase the company – like my own debt collection service. Imagine if small companies in the UK could rely on their bank to help them this way? Why don’t they do it?

There is a very vibrant start-up culture in Brazil and loads of technological innovation taking place in the big corporates and the tiny micro-businesses. State governments are handing out cash to entrepreneurs all over the country without demanding equity in return because they are actively trying to stimulate the start-up culture and the benefits that one big success can bring to a region.

My own wife is a part of this scene. She is travelling all over Brazil meeting traditional artisans and joining them together into a collective called Gift Brazil, so they can harness the power of social media tools like Facebook to promote their traditional art and culture. Can you imagine the market a traditional artist in the middle of the Amazon might usually have for their work? Just the odd tourist wandering past perhaps… now they can be seen by the entire world.

I know that balance doesn’t make for a great story. It’s easier to get clicks on a story if you tell a miserable story, rather than try spreading the good news, but in the year of the FIFA World Cup Brazil is getting showered in bad news. Everything is late, the people don’t want it, it will all be a disaster…

Well there are some great interesting projects taking place in Brazil that are redefining how people work, people are demanding and starting to get more political transparency, and some of us are looking forward to the World Cup – even though I don’t have a single ticket for any of the matches!

Toucan eye

 

Photo by Doug Wheller licensed under Creative Commons

England v Brazil at the Maracanã in Rio

England (and Brazil) fans arriving for the match in Rio on Sunday need to be aware that there is just one venue in Rio for ticket collections on the day of the match – Fluminense football club. [map here]

If you are in Rio earlier then the ticket agent has a number of venues where you can collect tickets. All the details are here on www.futebolcard.com

If you need to get tickets on the day of the game then there are some conditions:

  1. You need to have ID that proves you do not live in Rio.
  2. You need the card you used to buy the tickets.
  3. You need to be at Fluminense FC between 10.00 to 14.00.

There is no ticket sale or collection at the Maracanã stadium on the day of the game – this is the venue for the game. And be aware that Fluminense is not close to the Maracanã so you need to get organised if collecting on the day of the game.

I’m going to the game along with some other Brits. We will probably meet in the Botafogo area of Rio at lunchtime.  Tweet me or send a message via Facebook if you want to join us!

Original email message from Futebol card:

A retirada exclusiva dos ingressos para os torcedores que não residem no estado do Rio de Janeiro, poderá ser realizada no dia da partida SOMENTE na sede do Fluminense (Rua Álvaro Chaves, nº 41 – Laranjeiras), das 10 às 14h.

ATENÇÃO: NÃO HAVERÁ RETIRADA NO ESTÁDIO DO MARACANÃ NO DIA DA PARTIDA.

Football's Coming Gnome (earlier than some expected)

Photo by Duncan Hull licensed under Creative Commons

Brazil: Don’t step outside or you might be robbed!

The other day I met a British visitor here in São Paulo. It was her third day in the city and she was travelling with a government-arranged party, visiting various cities over a two-week visit.

During those three days she had only seen the inside of the hotel, offices, or a chauffer-driven car between the two. She was not in back-to-back meetings, so there was spare time available, but her [UK-based British government] hosts had advised her to not go out alone.

Her hotel was on Alameda Santos. For anyone who knows São Paulo, that’s one block away from Avenida Paulista, one of the biggest, busiest streets in the city – a place always full of life and excitement.

I know that any new place can be intimidating. I remember my first ever visit to Mumbai and despite my initial terror at the incessant activity all around, I still managed to take a walk around the Gateway of India and a few other obligatory sights. When I spent a lot of time working in Singapore I would regularly hang out in Serangoon on Sunday afternoons watching Bollywood films on a makeshift screen in a car park – I was almost always the only white face there, but always felt welcome.

In São Paulo there is the language difficulty for visitors, there is also the sheer size of the place… the city is enormous with the greater area having a population three times the size of London. It’s also a place without the touristic features of Rio – the obvious destinations that appear on postcards home.

But some cursory research would have shown that this hotel was in one of the safest places in the city and just a block or two from the art museum – hardly the mean streets of gangland.

She was immensely grateful as I not only guided her around the city centre, but also took her on the public transport system, and to an edgier neighbourhood to try the local draft beer. It humanised the city for her.

I am going to contact the Consulate about this – maybe I can help them to produce some more up-to-date information for visiting business leaders. It’s a shame for visitors to have the ‘dangerous Brazil’ myth thrust at them even by official advisors. Sure, there has been a wave of murders here recently, but it’s gangs against cops – nothing the ordinary person sees.

I’ve never felt any sense of threat at all while living here, but maybe that’s just from following the same rules anyone should follow in a major city – especially when unfamiliar with the neighbourhood. Don’t stand out too much (Versace suit when everyone else is wearing Vans), don’t hold your iPad at arms length placing a video call as you walk down the street, and if you are out after dark then just make sure you have an idea of what the neighbourhoods are like if you are wandering around a new place.

But then, this might just as equally apply to a Brit arriving in New York for the first time, or a Brazilian arriving in London. Be sensible and you can enjoy a visit to São Paulo just like any other place!

Sao Paulo

Which would you prefer… pancake day or carnaval?

In the Gospels, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert and being tempted by Satan before he commenced on the teaching part of his life – the Ministry. Today in Christian societies this is marked by the celebration of Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is Wednesday next week. Many believers will give up something for the entire period – not quite fasting, but at least refraining from something pleasurable, like alcohol or meat, for the entire period.

In the UK, the advent of Lent is marked by Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day. This is traditionally when extra flour, eggs, and other food from the cupboard would all be cooked up on the final day before Lent – ensuring a feast of pancakes on the last day when such gluttony is allowed.

pancakes front and center

In Brazil it is all quite different. Brazil is far more religious than the UK – truck drivers paint thank you messages to God on their vehicles, asking for a safe journey. It is predominantly Catholic, but with a fast-rising group of evangelical churches too – almost all of them Christian though.

In Brazil there is no pancake day. There is carnaval!

Last year in Rio, almost 5m people joined in the party and it stops the entire nation for almost a week – here in São Paulo, I know that sleeping will be tough for the next week as the music goes on almost all night. This Friday, next Monday and Tuesday, and half of Wednesday are all public holidays in Brazil for the carnaval. So it is almost certain that everything will start winding down early tomorrow and nobody will return to work on Wednesday afternoon – even if that is the official end of the party… many will take annual leave on Thursday and Friday next week allowing almost a week and half off work for just a couple of days leave.

Those who take the carnaval seriously and compete for the various best dancer, best float, or best band prizes will spend the entire year preparing and leading up to this moment – it’s bigger than even Christmas and that’s saying a lot in such a Christian country.

So I guess carnaval more than trumps pancake day, but I still might get the pancake mix out on Tuesday, just to encourage a mix of both cultures. I live in a house with Morrissey pictures on the wall!

Vila_Isabel, samba & platform sandals

Pancake photo by Yesica licensed under Creative Commons. Carnaval photo by Carnaval.com licensed under Creative Commons.

Feeling safe in Brazil

One thing that people from the UK often ask me is whether it is safe to live in Brazil. The image most foreigners have of living here is of the favelas… in particular the international success of the film City of God didn’t help very much.

At face value, the crime statistics are much higher than Britain and the police in São Paulo alone shoot someone dead everyday, but on a day-today basis I don’t feel any unease living here.

When I first arrived, I was endlessly surprised by the amount of security people use to feel safe. Windows have steel bars, shops and banks have armed guards, every police officer is armed, car showrooms offer bullet-proofing as an option…

It all becomes normal through osmosis, but I still question the need for all this security. It would be nice to see a house with a garden, rather than a steel cage “protecting” the residents.

As this Reuters article states, there is an obsession with security in Brazil, but there are also some encouraging signs. The murder rate in New Orleans is five times that of São Paulo and bank robberies across the entire country dropped from over 3,000 a decade ago to 343 last year.

The Reuters article points out some anecdotal evidence, such as people freely using devices such as iPhones on a bus, something unthinkable just a few years ago. In many ways the freedom to use expensive devices such as a smartphone, laptop computer or iPod in public now feels just as it would in any other major city.

Would you walk around an unfamiliar street in New York or London late at night with your senses dulled by music from an iPod and gazing into the GPS-powered map on your iPhone? It’s pretty much the same here these days.

I was with my wife in a local bar the other day and she was telling the bar owner about our plans to move to the coast. Not just for the beach, but also because a smaller town would be safer than the city. He said he can only remember hearing of one robbery in the entire neighbourhood this year so how do we define ‘safer’ than that?

Maybe he just wanted to keep us as good customers. We are the only customers at his bar that run a slate with credit, paying him advance rather than him chasing us to settle the bill, but he sounded genuine.

As with city life anywhere, you can be a victim of crime through sheer bad luck, but most of the time you make your own luck through choices about how much wealth, gadgets, and jewellry  you display.

São Paulo may well have more crime then London, but I’m not scared to ride the bus or walk down the street. I still get unnerved by all the armed guards at banks though. If I am ever nearby when a bank robbery kicks off then I’ll be more scared of the guards than the criminals…

Hob nob robber strikes again

I’m an official London 2012 blogger!

A few months ago, I entered my details into the BT search for storytellers who could write, film, and blog the London 2012 Olympic games. About a month back I heard that I was on the shortlist and I needed to write more information about why I should be chosen.

A couple of days ago, I was told that I have the job. I will be blogging and tweeting live from the Olympics.

The preferred sports I asked to be closest too are cycling, boxing, and diving, but I have not had a full briefing yet so I don’t know exactly when I should get started and what my boundaries are.

What I do know is that this should be a great opportunity to see the Olympic games from the inside, as someone who is a part of the machine telling the world about what happens in London in 2012.

I’m really looking forward to being an Olympic writer and I already have a lot of ideas about how to start blending London 2012 with Rio 2016…

London Olympic Torch Relay Finale