Rio de janeiro: from world games to world city

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School of Policy, Planning and Development

University of Southern California


Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE)

Fundação Getulio Vargas
PPD 613 – Policy, Planning and Development International Laboratory
Professors: Peter J. Robertson, Ph.D. and

Jonathan Van Speier, Ph.D.

June, 2010

Rio's opportunity to host the 2016 Olympic games is a historic moment for the city. Coming at the end of a long list of mega-events that the city will host over the next six years, Rio will not only make its debut on the world scene, but have a major opportunity to reinvent the metropolis. As Brazil makes its ascent as a major economic power, Rio is posed to regain its role as the capitol of modern Brazil. International, sophisticated and vibrant, Rio de Janeiro can become the face of nation – the Paris of Latin America. 

There are, however, many challenges Rio de Janeiro faces as it develops into a world city. While blessed with pristine seas and mountains, the growth of the city might sully these unique natural features. Further, Rio has been hampered for many years by a reputation for crime and lawlessness, even though statistics show it no more dangerous than most American cities. Finally, as the city grows, moving around millions of Cariocas and thousands of foreigners becomes a growing challenge.

Thankfully, many of the challenges Rio faces are not unique to the city.  Other cities throughout the world, including many cities that have previously hosted Olympic Games, have faced similar problems and emerged as major centers of finance, tourism and culture.  Barcelona, once a sleepy fishing town, is now one of Europe's major hubs of commerce.  Seoul, emerging from years of dictatorship and war, is now a powerhouse of Asia.  With six years of mega events putting Rio at the forefront of world consciousness, this decade is Rio de Janeiro's chance to make its way onto the world stage.
We have provided an overview of practices successfully implemented in other global cities that can enhance the legacy left on Rio de Janeiro. By observing trends in infrastructure, including environment, transportation and housing, and attempts to improve the social equity, access to basic needs and security of the city's residents, as well as those of its visitors, Rio can better use the opportunity of the mega-events to transform itself even further than anticipated. Rio can then compliment these programs with a well-targeted marketing campaign to move closer to achieving its desired status as a powerful global destination, which, in turn, will extend the legacy of the Olympics and World Cup far beyond the actual events.


Considering that the Rio 2016 Olympics will be the greenest Olympics ever, our recommendations for sustainable development are focused on what the Olympics will bring for Rio in the long term. Apart from making the Olympics a green game, measures can be taken so as to bring long-term environmental benefits to the people of Rio. In addition, Brazil could take a lead and set up an example to the world about creating mega-events in an environmental sustainable way.

We propose that Rio be marketed as an "eco-city." An eco-city is a green city designed with consideration of environmental impact, inhabited by people where emphasis is placed on pollution prevention, reuse, recycling and efficient use of energy and water, while taking advantage of locally available sources.  Rio could be marketed as an eco-city through a vigorous advertizing campaign.  By making Rio an eco-city, i.e. a major draw for environmentally minded tourists, we strive to develop a modern & eco-friendly city in which to live and work.  Furthermore, we can draw on the examples from the Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba.  Rio can be developed and popularized as an “eco-city” using the opportunity of the Olympics to push sustainable development within the city of Rio and in Brazil as a whole.


Additionally, Rio could use the “Local Agenda 21”1 Program that can call for action at the local level involving the various groups and sections of society bringing municipalities and citizens closer together.  The successful evolution of an eco-city will depend on our developing an understanding of the ecological systems that we live with and how we need to relate to them.


Of course, there will be challenges to successfully implementing these ideas.  First, a widening gap between the rich and the poor and the associated high crime rates would frustrate and delay the evolution of Rio as an eco-city which is based on social justice, prosperity, and a healthy natural environment.  Secondly, an eco-city requires a coalition of businesses capable of responding to, serving, and generating new enlightened consumers.  The tasks will include reweaving the urban fabric along ecological lines, and planning the new urban infrastructures.  These businesses will be synergistic.  Further, the link between the natural environment and human survival, prosperity and quality of life is a third challenge to deal with.  The final challenge is the environmental destruction, which is inevitably accompanied by a decline in health and quality of life.


Implementing a clean city is a three-stage process.  The first stage is to generate awareness and application of conservation techniques.  The second stage would involve the creative reuse of what is already built.  The third stage would be plans to recycle existing roads, buildings, and landscapes into the qualitatively new forms that will mark the eco-cities' mature stage.  Special attention should to be given to the lack of public spaces such as greenery, playgrounds, and automobile parking.  In addition, within the unplanned favelas the problems include crowding, congestion, building obsolescence, unhygienic environment, misuse of public spaces (e.g. by street hawkers) and deterioration of urban facilities.

Our analysis found the following areas in need of improvements:

Physical Projects

  • Access            

  • Infrastructure  

  • Housing          

  • Sanitation

  • Drainage

  • Open spaces

  • Greenery environment                                                    

Social Conditions

  • Community facility

  • Health situation and facilities

  • Education

  • Recreation 

  • Community organizations

  • Disadvantaged 

  • Peace & security 

Economic Conditions

  • Means survival ,employment situation and income generating activities

  • Field of interest of unemployed 

  • Profile of labor force

  • Employment situation

  • Economically active places in the favelas

  • Nature of business & major economic undertakings in the favelas

  • Fund raising and financing of business

  • Development partners in the favelas

Existing Physical Conditions

  • Master Plan Structural investment area & influence areas

  • Existing land use and spatial programs..

  • Ownership

  • Open spaces

  • Apparent opportunities of the area

  • Roads and access

  • Drainage, Sanitation & Sewerage

  • Green Coverage & Environment

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