Written by Staff Writer Staff Writer CNN London, By Daria Sinha, CNN Written by Staff Writer CNN London, By Daria Sinha, CNN
In the face of decades of agonizing poverty, racism and inequality, Brazil is witnessing a remarkable renaissance.
But, as the country prepares to host next year’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, cities are quietly beginning to rethink their approaches to urban planning.
In Rio de Janeiro, one of the most iconic landmarks is nearing completion, despite a pre-construction budget that is the envy of its contemporary peers. With more than 100 cranes, the vast new Maracana National Stadium is already on the skyline and will host the World Cup final and an Olympic beach volleyball match.
“I think the impression is that people appreciate what’s going on but they don’t want it to last. They want it gone,” Roberto Augusto Silva, director of Urban Development at the Moacir Foundation, told CNN.
The stadium’s complex construction scheme has drawn criticism from local residents and architects, with complaints ranging from excessive cost overruns to improper design and the illegitimate appropriation of public land. Many have argued that the stadium’s unveiling marks a “whitewash” of Brazilian history.
“There’s no slavery in the new stadium in Maracana. And there’s no slavery in this monument either — and also in the new Maracana ” due to the slavery policy of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2008.
The current pride and joy of Rio’s sporting complexes, the new Maracana is nothing if not controversial. – Silva
Part of what makes the Maracana so controversial is its future use. Alongside the main stadium, constructed in 1950, the Maracana is also housing eight other “secondary” stadia, the largest of which is a state-of-the-art rugby center.
Though they sit close to the Ato Boldito da Carioca (Main Carioca) neighborhood, which towers over the broader Olympic precinct, the stadiums were originally designed with use of the surrounding land in mind.
But Brazil is currently gripped by a steep economic recession that has the potential to reverse much of the positive change underway. The projects were conceived while the country was enjoying a period of fast-paced economic growth, and have since been built largely with public money.
“They represent the expense of waiting. And they represent the persistence of the dictatorial Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,” Silva said.
Athletes make their way to the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro before the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5, 2016. Credit: Carlos C. de Alcala/AFP/Getty Images
Lula da Silva was president from 2003 until his term ended in 2011. Under his leadership, the nation’s economic fortunes rose steadily after a period of uncertainty. Brazil became one of the world’s most vibrant emerging economies, with rapid urban expansion lifting millions out of poverty, and healthcare, education and public safety providing more opportunities than ever before.
But with other investments, a dizzying wealth gap emerged. Public attention was also interrupted by several high-profile incidents of sporting violence, such as the last minutes of the World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Germany in Belo Horizonte in 2014.
Under new leadership, the next two terms of Brazil’s federal government could spell a sharp decline in public investment. Brazil’s current president, Michel Temer, has spoken of reining in spending, reinstating a moratorium on loans to private companies and reducing its spending deficit.
Boldito da Carioca, Brazil, 2012 Credit: Airbnb
Projects for which the federal government has already committed to expenditure are being scrutinized and could be cancelled or revised. Rio’s Olympic Infrastructure District is one example. The city-wide revitalization scheme was originally conceived with the goal of creating a new gateway that could serve as a gateway to both Rio de Janeiro and the city of Guanabara Bay, which hosts the sailing events.
And some critics are concerned that the Maracana Stadium could suffer from an impending loss of public support.
“Once football is out of the Olympics (and) out of the World Cup, I don’t think there’s going to be much of a need for it, and it will disappear in a few years, maybe even the couple of months after the Olympic Games,” Carlos Rangel, a Rio-based developer and the architect for the design of the Maracana, told CNN.
Further, if investments like the former Social Security Retirement System the stadium is built with — whose $1.67 billion price tag also remains under scrutiny — and large developments like the Beto-Marinho road and Carioca port are drawn to the site, Rangel predicts the stadium could lose focus.
Briefly resurrected by the