Rio de Janeiro, the decade of opportunities
Rio de Janeiro, picture postcard city, once capital of Brazil, second largest city in the country, has from time to time had its history marked by moments of transformation. The first was in 1808, when the unpretentious colonial city received the Portuguese royal family, and became the center of decision for the empire. It was during this period that the Botanical Gardens were established, the Bank of Brazil founded, and mansions and churches restored. In 1904, another metamorphosis: the capital of the Empire was demolished for urban reforms that reflected the ambitions of the burgeoning Republic. During this period the Municipal Theater and the National Library were built. More than a century later, the year 2011 marks the start of a decade from which Rio could emerge completely renovated.
With various major sporting events on its agenda – Confederation Cup (2013), World Cup (2014) and Olympic Games (2016) – Rio has already accumulated the experience needed for organizing all the events with good planning and security, including the successful 2007 Pan-American Games (considered the best ever) and Rio-92, almost twenty years ago. All this as well as Carnival, the huge popular festival, and the New Year festivities, organized annually for up to two million people on Copacabana beach.
The newly instituted state public safety policies, including the creation of the Police Pacifying Units (UPPs), in the city’s ‘favelas’, to strengthen the fight against drug trafficking, are giving very positive results, both in the freedom citizens now have to live a normal life in areas previously dominated by drug traffic, but also in the reduction of violence, proven already by the lower statistics for certain types of criminal activities.
The sporting events, mainly the World Cup and the Olympic Games, have made Rio a display window to the world. Add to this Rio’s natural vocation for tourism – Rio is the top tourist destination for Brazil (31.5%) – and tourism accounts for 15% of the state’s GDP, generating R$ 45 billion per year. The “Marvelous City”, as Rio is known the world over, has a tradition of hospitality and hotel infrastructure prepared to receive large numbers of domestic and foreign tourists. Along with the 28,000 hotel rooms already existent in Rio, more than twelve thousand rooms will be added during the next two years, and by 2016 the total increase will be representing R$ 1billion in investment. New hotels to be opened in the city include two for the Windsor chain, the Grand Hyatt hotel – new to the city – and one more in the Accor chain.
Having been awarded the honor of hosting these sporting events, the city of Rio is receiving major investments, with an enormous positive balance. Its industrial production grew 5.5% in November 2010, while the average national figure reduced by 0.1% (IBGE); state tax collection increased 18.8% due to this growth; from December 2009 to November 2010 production in the transformation industries grew 12.7% (Brazilian average was 11.6%), while in the period 2000 to 2009 there was a reduction of 1.9% in Rio, and the national average was positive by 17.7%.
Yet another economic fact that shows the growth in Rio after having been chosen as host for these important sporting events can be found in a survey by Global Metro Monitor (a publication of the London School of Economics and the Brookings Institution). According to the president of the Institute of Studies of Work and Society, economist André Urani, comparing the economic dynamism (measured by employment and income) of the 150 largest cities in the world in the period preceding the crisis (1993-2007) with that following (2008-2010), Rio was the city that advanced most: moving from the hundredth position to the tenth.
Widening further the perspective of growth and development in this decade are the major investments made in the city by both federal and state and municipal governments. These are investments principally in infrastructure, affecting transport, urbanization, the environment, culture and entertainment.
In transport, there are projects already in progress to facilitate access from airports and hotels to the sports arenas, such as expansion of the Metro system, with a new line linking the main boroughs of the city to the borough of Barra da Tijuca, where most of the Olympic competitions will be held. Expressways will also be built, to improve traffic flow, especially affecting access to the city’s international airport. Rio’s Port facilities will be duplicated, to enable docking of the largest and most luxurious transatlantic cruise ships in the world.
With regard to urbanization, the federal government, through the Program for Accelerating Growth (PAC), is investing in the urbanization of the favela communities and implementing environmental projects, such as the protection of lakes, recovery and improvements to parks and gardens, bathing conditions on the beaches, and 100% treatment of solid waste, completely eliminating sanitary landfills.
In relation to sports venues, culture and entertainment, Maracanã, one of the largest soccer stadiums in the world, built for the 1950 World Cup, is undergoing restoration; Rock City Olympic Park was already built, in which Rio has returned of being the main stage for the ‘Rock in Rio’ concerts; work has started on the “Marvelous Port”, a project that will completely change the appearance of the city’s port area, modernizing it and including new cultural and gastronomic ventures – the Museum of Tomorrow, with the main objective of discussing questions of the sustainability of civilization, and new museums include the Rio Art Museum, the Brazilian Olympic Museum and a renewed Museum of Image and Sound.
To summarize, we are living an exceptional moment. We have before us a decade of exuberance, which everything leads us to believe, will be of incredible growth.