Oct 21 2015

Brazil 2015: Trip Wrap-Up – Seven Days in Rio, A Lifetime of Memories

by at 10:17 am

By Amanda Hunter:

Whatever the SIM students thought they would experience during our week in Rio de Janiero, I think it is safe to say we got so much more. Our time in Rio was not just about our meetings with top level sports executives in high powered companies, but also experiencing sporting events of Brazil, as well as the culture and people.

Beach GroupWe were immersed in Brazilian culture from the get-go, sipping local drinks (the coconut waters on the beach were a personal favorite!) and eating at local restaurants; the crowd favorite for our group was a chicken place nearby our hotel, called Galito’s. We also had two fantastic, more formal meals. The first of which was at a Brazilian steakhouse, Porcao, where we filled up on traditional dishes. Another spectacular meal was at a pizza place where we experienced Brazil’s spin on Italian.

Interacting with the locals, or cariocas, was fantastic. Brazilians are a warm and welcoming people, and quite eager to share their beautiful city with the world. However, many of us couldn’t quite get used to their casual nature, often struggling to complete seemingly normal tasks, such as bringing us our checks quickly.

Rio OC GroupMeeting with so many important sports professionals in Rio was also an obvious highlight for the entire group. Meetings with the Rio Olympic Committee, Octagon Brazil and Fundacao Getuilio Vargas truly helped us to understand the preparations and local opinions on the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Presenters were very open with us and provided us with a wealth of insight into what it takes to put on an Olympic Games, as well as what the games will do for both Rio de Janiero and Brazil afterward.

Our meeting with CBF executives and Manoel Flores was a hit amongst everyone. The entire experience from top to bottom was much more than any of us anticipated. Witnessing a referee selection and meeting top level people within the organization was unreal in itself, but getting to see the depth of history behind football in Brazil in the CBF interactive museum was on another level. I feel as though this was when many of us finally understood the “paixao” (passion) Brazilians have for their beloved sport of football.

We had two fabulous sporting event experiences during our stay. The first of which was an especially unique one in the NBA Global Games event, featuring Brazil’s Flamengo vs. the NBA’s Orlando Magic. We had several NBA-related experiences leading up Saturday’s game. On the night of our arrival, we met with Arnon de Mello, managing director for NBA Brazil. He offered up some great insight into the Brazilian sports business and NBA’s globalization strategies. Friday night, we went to the NBA Fan Fest on Ipanema Beach, just a few blocks from our hotel. The venue was filled with excited locals, eager to get a taste of the NBA fever. Additionally, we met with NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum at the Fan Fest. Mr. Tatum was a warm and genuine individual, excited to spend time with young professionals such as us, even during a particularly busy time for him. For that, we were deeply appreciative.

The next day, we had a fantastic experience sitting courtside at HSBC Arena for the game. While basketball is still a growing sport in Brazil, the locals seemed to really embrace it. There was cheering, clapping and flag waving the entire game. While a majority of the fans in the arena were decked out in Flamengo’s red and black, we spotted a few wearing NBA team jerseys, and lots of people purchasing merchandise. The popularity of the NBA certainly seems to be making strides in Rio.

Our Sunday was a rainy and overcast one. We spent the morning exploring and buying souvenirs at Ipanema Beach’s famous Hippie Fair. We saw breathtaking works of art and crafts being sold by hardworking locals. In the afternoon, it was off to the very famous Maracana Stadium to watch Flamengo take on Internacional. We were all eager to buy jerseys and partake in the traditional atmosphere of Flamengo fans. The spirit was nonstop during the game, even during halftime and after the Flamengo loss. It was an amazing sight to witness. Football is ingrained in Brazilians, and it is evident it is the nation’s sport. I can’t recall meeting anyone that wasn’t a fan of football, although there was plenty of debate as to which team was the best.

We also visited two of the most famous places in Rio, in Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. Sugarloaf was first, and although it was cloudy, we still had a wonderful time and got a pretty impeccable view of the city from Morro de Urca and the cable car rides. On our last day in Rio, we took the Tram up to Christ the Redeemer. While it was once again cloudy, we had a spectacular view of the statue on top of Corcovado. It was the perfect way to end our trip and it truly made me feel especially thankful for the entire experience all week.

It is impossible to say what was the best part of the trip, but I believe that it is safe to say that this experience was truly one-in-a-lifetime, and it made me incredibly proud to be a Georgetown Hoya!

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Oct 21 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 7 (10/19/2015) – Cristo Redentor

by at 10:00 am

By Jenn Frey:

CR1Today our Georgetown SIM group said goodbye to beautiful Rio. However, before heading to the airport we made one last stop and memory. In true tourist fashion we bussed, trained, and stair-climbed our way to the base of the infamous statue of Christ the Redeemer. Since our arrival on Monday, the “Cristo Redentor” has watched over our every excursion from its perch atop Corcovado Mountain.

With our cloudy views from Sugar Loaf earlier in the week, the group waited with high anticipation for our visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue. This would be our one last shot to personally witness the breathtaking panoramic views of Rio we had heard so much about. Needless to say, there was a daily weather check leading up to our visit and some nervousness as the “partly cloudy” and “rainy” status’ lingered.

Trem do Corcovado

Trem do Corcovado

When the bus dropped us off it seemed like the rain would hold off for our outing. Unfortunately, the fog and clouds persisted.  Yet, it didn’t deter our enthusiasm. As we boarded the Corcovado train, at the street level station, we couldn’t even see the statue because it was shrouded in cloud cover. Not quite knowing what to expect, the little red train left the station and the group began their ascent up the mountain. For about 20 minutes the train meandered up the steep mountainside through the tropical rainforest of Tijuca Forest National Park. It was interesting to learn that the Tijuca Forest is the largest urban forest in the world. There were moments in between the thick jungle foliage that we were able to capture impressive snapshots of Rio below while simultaneously trying to ignore the terrifying vertical drop-offs just on the other side of the tracks. It was a relief to reach the top platform where we got our first good look of the day at the Christ the Redeemer statue. It was an amazing moment.

CR3Since 1931 the Christ the Redeemer statue has been the guardian of Rio. Not only was it built as a symbol of Christianity and peace throughout Brazil, but it has become an iconic statue throughout the world as well. In 2007, it even became one of the “new” Seven Wonders of the World. Standing 2,300 feet above the city, the Christ is 98 feet tall, in addition to its 26-foot pedestal, weighs about 700 tons and has an expansive 92-foot wide arm span. One hand points to the north side of Rio and the other hand points to the south side; designed to embrace all of the city it looks out over. The statue is an engineering masterpiece of reinforced concrete with overlaid soapstone and modeled in a simplistic Art Deco style.

CR4In a collaborative effort, the statue was designed by French sculptor Paul Landowski, and engineered by a Rio local, Heitor da Silva Costa. The idea for a statue on the mountain was first proposed in the 1850s, but the project was rejected. Later, in 1920, the Catholic Circle of Rio collected donations and again suggested the building of the statue. This time the idea moved forward because of the believed “Godlessness” among the population at that time. The statue took nine years and roughly $250,000 to complete. For being 84 years old the Christ statue seems to be enduring the test of time with minimal damage and restorations having taken place.

CR5After getting off the train, the group was given about 45 minutes to climb a few flights of stairs up to the base of the statue and take advantage of the minimal crowds of tourists. I think for the first few minutes we all just stared a little awestruck at the Christ and reflected on how this was truly a once in a lifetime occurrence. We had fun figuring out the best angles to capture the colossal statue in all its glory and how to time them just right to catch the best moment of clarity through the mist. Fair amounts of “selfies” were also perfected… Through breaks in the fog we spotted slivers of the city below. We can only imagine that on a sunny day these views would have been even more inspiring.

CR6There was thankfully no brake failure on the train as we descended the mountain. More importantly no cameras/phones were lost to the jungle cliffs outside the open train windows from our enthusiastic picture taking. And then just like that, we were back on the bus being whisked away to the airport

In chatting with some of the local Brazilians throughout the week, they would always ask if we had gone to see the Christ the Redeemer statue yet. It is unmistakably considered a must see upon anyone’s travels through Rio. No matter what religion, the people are incredibly proud and respectful of this iconic statue. It was a pleasure to be able to see it in person and an invaluable closing adventure to our Brazil study abroad.

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Oct 21 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 7 (10/19/2015) – Brazilian Culture

by at 9:59 am

By Krystle Higgins:

There are many distinct differences between American and Brazilian culture. Prior to this trip, I was excited to step outside of my comfort zone and immerse myself in the Carioca way of life for a week. The trip started with a presentation from our gracious tour guide Giselle, who shared some universal Brazilian etiquette such as how to greet someone (with a kiss on the check) and colors to avoid wearing when attending a dinner party (purple and black, as they symbolize mourning). Throughout the week, I was able to grow in my understanding of key aspects that define the Brazilian culture.

Language – Portuguese

Fortunately, we were accompanied by Brazilian natives Giselle and Gustavo who translated for us at restaurants, bars and tour sites. We were proud of our ability to master the Portuguese word for thank you (obrigado) and used it in practically every “conversation” with a Brazilian, even though it wasn’t always appropriate or necessary. They were most likely extremely confused or weirded out, but at least we were being polite!

Currency – Real

The exchange rate from Reals to American dollars is an astonishing 3.5 to $1. I was initially alarmed when paying around 30R$-50R$ for every meal, but relaxed once I realized I was only paying a mere $10-$12. We were living large for the week!

Food/Drink:

FullSizeRender (1)One of the highlights of our trip was an amazing dinner at the Brazilian steakhouse Porcao. It was here where we ate unlimited amounts of meat in addition to a salad, sushi and dessert bar. Our hotel was in walking distance to many authentic restaurants where we could try dishes such as Pao de Queijo (cheese bread), acai and natural coconut water.

People –

The Brazilian people who we encountered were extremely warm and friendly. Despite the language barrier between us, they were patient and willing to facilitate our time in Rio. I found the overuse of the thumbs up symbol hilarious, as this gesture is not commonly used in the U.S. Brazilians are casual, relaxed and fun people. These qualities are also directly related to their punctuality and organization skills as they are known to be late and unorganized. A Brazilian will tell you that they will be somewhere in 5 minutes, but that could actually mean 30 minutes.

FavelasAlthough the middle class is steadily rising in Brazil, many of the citizens live in extreme poverty. Brazil is famous for its Favelas, which are low income neighborhoods located on the outskirts of the country’s large cities. About 20% of Rio’s 6.3 million citizens live in these crime-ridden, drug infested favelas. Favela culture is a source of inspiration in the arts as we saw many beautiful favela paintings and photographs at the Hippie Fair that we attended on Sunday morning. Recently, there has been a massive push to pacify the favelas in order to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Religion – Catholic

Although Brazil is a Catholic country, Gustavo mentioned that many Brazilians do not consistently attend church services, but do participate in the cultural rituals that are associated with the religion. With the statue of Christ the Redeemer in plain sight from most places in the city, I’d imagine that people who are deep in their faith can appreciate the constant physical reminder of an important figure in their religion.

Activities:

Music and dance are an integral aspect of Brazilian culture. On Friday night of the trip, we went to a popular samba club called Rio Scenarium and were able to dance the night away to the soulful sounds of the live band and Brazilian hip-hop blasting from the speakers. This three floor venue encompassed a lively atmosphere and was filled with samba dancers, both young and old. While we may not have mastered the dance moves, we were happy to take part in this cultural experience.

Football is extremely important to the people of Brazil and is a major part of the culture. It is often joked that toddlers in Brazil are kicking a soccer ball around before they can crawl and walk. I was amazed by the passion of the fans at the Flamengo v. International game we attended. You have to be a diehard fan of the sport when you willingly jump up and down, scream your lungs out and forcefully beat a drum for an hour and a half.

To wrap up this blog post, I will share with you the words of Rio Olympic Committee Chief Operating Officer Rodrigo Tostes on his impressions of Brazilian culture. In asking him how he plans to execute the 2016 Olympics the “Brazilian Way”, he mentioned that he hopes to present the games in an orderly and organized fashion while simultaneously celebrating and having lots of fun. He wants those who are visiting Rio for the first time to leave with an understanding that Brazilians have lots of pride and are extremely proud of their culture.

I am truly grateful to Georgetown and the SIM program for the enriching opportunity to travel and learn about the business of sport in Brazil as well as the Brazilian culture.

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Oct 21 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 6 (10/18/2015) – Beaches of Brazil

by at 9:56 am

By David Stillman:

It might be said that the lifeblood of Brazil is futbol, but the heart of Rio de Janeiro lies on its beaches.  When someone talks of  Rio de Janeiro you might start thinking about its stunning  rock- studded beaches filled with beautiful people scantilly clad in the infamous Brazilian bikini.  You will find all of these on the beaches, such as Cocacabana and Ipanema, but there is so much more to the beaches of Rio.

What really makes the beaches the heart of Rio is that much of the city’s recreation can be found on these beaches.  You do have you sunbathers lounging about worshipping the sun, but there is so much activity going on around them.  Down this almost endless coastline are countless beach volleyball courts, sand futsol courts,  and soccer courts. At all hours of the day you will find the locals actively competing in sports.  In addition to these, you can witness more adventurous souls hang gliding from nearby peaks and landing on the beaches.

Finally, Rio is enjoying a sort of sports renaissance at this time (2014 World Cup & 2016 Olympics), and it is just as apparent on these beaches.  On Cocacabana beach the beach volleyball venue for the 2016 Olympics is well under way. This week at Ipanema beach NBA Global held a fan festival on an impromptu basketball court complete with grandstands directly on the beach. Everyday you can feel a buzz in the air with all these events taking place..

Rio breathes through her magnificent  sandy beaches and pulsates with each crashing wave on her sacred shores.

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Oct 19 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 6 (10/18/2015) – Flamengo Match at Maracana

by at 4:23 pm

By Alex Dove:

Flamengo vs Internacional

Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janiero. 10/18/15. Kick Off 4pm.

Having grown up in England, football has always been a huge part of my life. I love attending any live sporting event, but nothing gives me the same thrill and exhilaration that a great football match does. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to attend matches at some of the most historic football venues around Europe, such as Highbury (Arsenal’s old stadium), The ‘Old’ Wembley and the San Siro (Milan) to name just three. I never believed I would get the opportunity to attend a Flamengo game at the famed Maracana Stadium, so when the itinerary of the trip was laid out for us and I saw we were attending a match, I immediately got that feeling on match days of pure excitement!

IMG_2533On Saturday we were fortunate enough to have tickets to the NBA Global Games at the HSBC Arena in the Olympic park where Orlando Magic played Flamengo. We were all surprised and impressed by the noise generated by the Flamengo fans. I was taking in the atmosphere from the HSBC Arena, but my mind couldn’t help but think about what the atmosphere would be like at the Maracana with 20,000+ passionate football fans.

A 45-minute bus ride took us right outside the Maracana where we were greeted by a sea of red and black. Flamengo is Brazil’s biggest club with 40 million fans throughout the country. 1 in five Brazilians is a Flamengo fan, which reminded me of Manchester United in England, but I put those feelings aside and quickly purchased a jersey inside the stadium to fit in with the locals!

IMG_2537Despite being the largest club in the country playing in the Maracana that can hold 72,000, the game had an attendance of 28,000. Unfortunately the quality of football was not what we expected; however, the biggest take away were the Flamengo fans. We enjoyed a spectacular atmosphere for the entire 90 minutes, despite Flamengo conceding the only goal of the game in the 20th minute. It was incredible to see such a passionate set of fans continuing to support their team despite losing and not playing the standard of football which they are accustomed to.

At half time a few of us attempted to join the Flamengo fans in the general admission ‘fan club’ sections to really experience the local atmosphere. But as we attempted to get through security they checked our tickets and crucially heard our accents and quickly sent us back to where we came from!

Sitting in the Maracana I could not help but reflect on the legends of the game that have played here and most recently Germany’s victory over Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final. I can only imagine the amount of noise a full stadium of passionate Brazilians would generate! Seeing a game at the Maracana was a once in a lifetime experience for me which I will never forget and a bucket list moment I can happily tick off!

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Oct 19 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 6 (10/18/2015) – The People of Rio de Janeiro

by at 4:17 pm

By Alex Marsh:

Over the past week, it was my task to observe the people of Rio. As a naturally observant person, I jumped at the chance to take in the culture, quirks, and tendencies of the Brazilian people.

As a somewhat experienced traveler, I have come to appreciate the unique characteristics of cultures from around the world. Escaping the United States from time to time is something that everyone should experience, and an adventure in Rio is a once in a lifetime experience. As for the people of Rio, they are a special, interesting, and beautiful people that I’ve come to truly appreciate.

image1 (3)In general, the people of Rio are warm and welcoming. Prior to our trip, we were warned of all the danger and crime throughout the city and to be wary of thieves and pick-pocketers. Since we have been here, I have never felt unsafe in any situation and the locals we have met have been nothing but helpful and nice. We met a group of teenagers on the rocks while waiting for the sunset, and they were laughing and talking with us about “Obama” and “Bush” and “Bin Laden”, which was quite interesting. They even jumped in a picture with us!

A main concern I had going into this trip, or any trip outside of the US, was the language barrier and how interacting with the locals would play out. No one on our trip speaks Portuguese, although some have been trying to use Spanish to get by, which has not been going well. The people of Rio have been very patient and helpful when us Americans walk in and try to buy a sandwich we cannot pronounce. It has become commonplace for us to just smile and point until they nod their head in understanding.

One of the more unusual quirks we noticed was shopkeeper’s reluctance to give change, or accept large bills. You would try to pay with a larger bill and they would just refuse to accept it. Maybe they didn’t have the change? Maybe they just didn’t feel like dealing with making change? We weren’t really sure, but it was just an odd tendency we noticed.

While all of these aspects defined the citizens of Rio, the main characteristic that every single person we met shared was their love and passion for football. There is no fan base in the US that compares to what we saw this week. Being a football fan is ingrained in their culture. It is in their blood. It is in their bones. They live and breathe football to a level that I just cannot fathom. It is remarkable to see the love each and every one of them has for their own club, and the Brazilian National Team. You could even see the passion at the basketball game last night, and that wasn’t even their favorite sport. Brazilians love their football and I’m beyond grateful to have seen that in action.

The Brazilian culture is fascinating and the people of Rio have been amazing hosts for the past week. From their patience with tourists, to their casual laid-back attitudes, to their love for football, they always manage to have a good time. They cheer, laugh, and play all through the day and into the night. Everyone on the trip agreed that we have yet to see a single native who didn’t have a smile on their face, which just goes to show how amazing the people of Rio de Janeiro truly are.

The world is arriving in 10 months and the people of Rio de Janeiro will be waiting with open arms.

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Oct 18 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 5 (10/17/2015) – HSBC Arena / NBA Global Games

by at 12:25 pm

By Brittany Gilbert:

image2Today our group had the opportunity to attend the NBA Global Games exhibition game between Flamengo and the Orlando Magic at HBSC Arena. This was the third NBA Global Games event hosted here; the games preceding this one included the Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards (2013) and the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Miami Heat (2014). The arena is located at Olympic Park in the region of Barra de Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This arena has been used for concerts and sporting events since its completion in 2007. Events that have been hosted here in the past include the basketball and gymnastics events of the 2007 Pan American Games as well as games of the Flamengo club basketball team. The arena can hold approximately 14,981 people for sporting events and 18,768 people for concerts.

image1 (2)From the outside, the arena looked relatively new and clean. The logistics associated with entering the arena were a bit confusing as the staff is very strict with where one can enter the arena based on the seated section printed on the ticket. In the U.S., one can usually walk through any gate to enter the building, but must find their respective section on the concourse to get access to their seat. After navigating our way into the arena, I walked around the concourse for a bit before the game. While doing this, I noticed quite a few differences in the arena compared to the arenas that we have in the U.S. These differences included:

  • Very dim lighting on the concourse, not as exciting to walk around
  • The concessions and stores, if any, were mostly temporary set-ups
  • Concession stand prices (food and beverages) were consistent with prices outside of the arena ($2 for a drink, $1.50 for a hotdog, etc.)
  • Walls were not covered with advertisements or sponsor recognition, lots of blank space that could be used to bring in revenue

image3I also noticed quite a few interactive stations that were set up along the concourse such as:

  • NBA apparel “store” (very chaotic)
  • Photo opportunity with the NBA Finals trophy
  • Interactive basketball games
  • Mascot photo opportunity

Originally, we all would have been making our way up to the nosebleed seats in section 326 of the arena, but thanks to NBA Brazil’s Managing Director that we met with on Tuesday, Arnon de Mello, we were able to sit courtside for the game. Once in our seats, I was able to observe the NBA game and all the processes that took place throughout.  There were many differences between the HSBC Arena and a typical arena in the U.S. Some of the differences were:

  • 4 HD TVs took the place of where a scoreboard in the U.S. would be (hovering over the court)
  • 2 temporary scoreboards set up at each of the baseline areas
  • No HD screens circling the arena (potential advertisement space)

image4Regardless of these differences, I thought that the arena and staff provided a great experience for the fans. This was the first NBA Global Games that included a team from Brazil vs. a team from the United States. You could sense the passion from the Flamengo fans as they sang fight songs and chanted all together throughout a majority of the game. During timeouts and halftime, all eyes were on the floor for a promotional activity, or on one of the screens as there were many interactive video opportunities (kiss cam, celebrity appearances, best dancer, etc.) for fans in the audience.

Overall, I believe that HSBC Arena is headed in the right direction; however, they could make some very important changes to increase their revenue streams and invest those dollars back into the arena to enhance the fan experience. HSBC Arena could begin by selling their advertising space, implementing sponsor activations, building permanent concession stands, designating space for an official team store, and investing in an arena scoreboard. I believe that HSBC Arena would see immediate results from these implications as well as see a steady increase in revenues over time.

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Oct 18 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 5 (10/17/2015) – Preparation for Rio 2016 Olympics

by at 12:16 pm

By Kelley Newman:

Oh boy. That’s my reaction when I think that in 10 short months Rio will be the host of the Olympic games. With more than half a million tourists expected to visit Rio from August 5th – 21st, 2016, Olympic preparations are no small task. Not only does the city have to provide adequate venues for the almost 11,000 athletes in 28 sports, but it also has to overhaul a significant amount of its infrastructure to accommodate such a historic event. These are just a few challenges we discussed: ensuring that visitors and athletes remain safe despite the rising crime rates in Rio, providing adequate hospitality services, managing traffic, improving city sewage treatment, and expanding public transportation.

Just last year, the IOC said Rio Olympic preparations were the worst in history. Now it appears that the Rio preparations may not be as far behind as people would expect. The Rio Olympic Committee is hosting 44 test events to work out any kinks before the games begin. Besides soccer (which will be held in six cities across the country), the games will take place in four areas of the city: Barra da Tijuca, Deodoro, Maracanã, and Copacabana.

DSC08615Venue construction appears to be on schedule (relatively). In preparation for the 2014 World Cup, Brazilian officials made the unwise decision to renovate Maracanã – a historic stadium built in the 1950s for which many Brazilians feel a lot of pride – rather than tear it down and build a new stadium. This project cost double what was predicted, totaling to an $800 million expense. Normally, Olympic host cities build a large, extravagant stadium (e.g., the Bird’s Nest in Beijing) in which the opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field competitions are held. Rio is different – the opening and closing ceremonies will be in Maracanã, while track and field competitions will be in a different stadium. Maracanã (where we will watch the Flamengo soccer game on Sunday) is ready to go. However, the Rio Olympic Committee is facing challenges preparing the stadium for the opening ceremony, as there is not enough behind-the-scenes and parking space. Construction in other venues is also apparently on schedule. Nilton Santos, a large stadium that will host soccer events is finishing its roof repair project. The volleyball stadium on Copacabana Beach will be built in February. We drove around the Olympic village in Barra yesterday and saw that a few buildings were completed, but definitely not all of them.  

DSC08613Even if the venues are on track for August, Rio is facing serious problems with infrastructure. Traffic has been terrible along the 20km drive from our hotel in Impanema Beach to Barra da Tijuca (where the main Olympic venue complex is). On just a normal day, traffic on the two-lane highway connecting the south and west parts of the city can be as slow as rush hour on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. The metro line ends halfway to Barra and the city plans to have busses running the rest of the way. Where these busses will come from and whether a special bus lane will be built by August is still up in the air.  Even if the city completes its public transportation plan, it probably will not suffice to transport thousands of people from the beach through the mountains in Parque Nacional da TIjuca to the Olympic venues scattered throughout the city.

Another problem that cannot be denied is the terrible water quality in the Marina de Gloria and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where the sailing and rowing competitions will be held. In 2009, only 17% of all sewage in the Rio metropolitan area was treated; the rest ended up in waterways that connected to Bay of Guanabara and the ocean. According to the Associated Press, the water along Copacabana Beach (where triathlon and marathon swimming events will be held) is also contaminated. The Rio government promised that 80% of sewage would be treated by the time the games began. However, they’ve only managed to increase sewage treatment to 49%. Rio’s water pollution was a hot media topic in August: members of the US rowing team fell ill (apparently) due to the high percentage of fecal matter in the water and German sailor Erik Heil developed a bacterial infection on his legs, which he attributed to the poor water quality in the Marina de Gloria. Andre Coelho, with whom we met at FGV, denied any pollution in the lagoon and seemed to downplay the problems in the marina. However, we walked around the lagoon on our first day and the water looked and smelled awful. Rio will simply not meet its sewage treatment and water quality goals before August 2016. I’m interested to see how the IOC and athletes respond to this situation as we get closer to the start of the games.   

When we talk about the legacy the Olympics will leave in Rio, certainly there will be a physical change. Rio 2016 has been a catalyst to begin some of the much-needed infrastructure improvements in the city. Some plans have been stuck in the government pipeline for 20 years and are finally happening now that the global spotlight will be on Rio next August. A few favelas are being cleaned up, sewage treatment plants and roadways are being built– but unfortunately the city improvements may not be as significant as we’d hope. While hundreds of thousands will be in Rio to watch the games, a billion more will tune in to the games on their TVs. That’s to whom the Olympics are catered. The HD footage will show the stunning and iconic images of Rio de Janeiro like the Christ the Redeemer statue and the beautiful white sand beaches, not the trash floating in the water or the favelas looming over the city.  

We’ve gotten mixed opinions on whether Rio will be ready to host the Olympics. Following the success of the World Cup, the professionals we met with seem optimistic that everything will run smoothly. I asked Aykan Azar, the managing director of Octagon Brazil, if he thought Rio was ready. He said, “I’m a positive person; I want to say it’s going to work.” From our American viewpoints, though, it’s hard to imagine that everything will come together in just 10 months.

293 days, Rio. The countdown is on.  

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Oct 17 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 4 (10/16/2015) – Observations About the Brazilian Economy

by at 11:19 am

By Daniel Villarreal:

On January 1, 2011, President Dilma Rousseff inherited Brazil at a time in which it was growing at a rapid pace. Now, five years later, the economy is in a recession. Brazil finds itself in a position in which unemployment is rising, prices are soaring, and the country is in the middle of a political corruption scandal involving Petrobras, a Brazilian multinational energy company. Given this information, one might expect a negative outlook from organizations doing business in Brazil. Our experience and interactions with executives have indicated the opposite sentiments.

The real, Brazilian currency, is currently exchanging at its weakest rates since 2002.  Despite this looming fact, Arnon de Mello of NBA Brazil pointed out that the current drop in the value of the real has actually been beneficial for the NBA in Brazil. From a business standpoint, when NBA Brazil signs sponsors such as Budweiser and executes contracts in American dollars, it serves to their advantage financially because of the generous exchange rate between dollars and reals. NBA Brazil has been able to sustain 100% growth for four consecutive years in addition to improving their position from number 20 in to number five in NBA League Pass sales. These data touch points serve as a strong indicator that the NBA has been able to overcome recent economic hurdles in Brazil.

Moving on to Thursday morning’s meeting with the Rio Olympic Committee, I was anticipating that most of our questions would not be answered for fear of bad press. That was not the case. Rodrigo Tostes, COO of the Rio Olympic Committee, was very transparent in answering all of our questions. There is a tremendous emphasis on the legacy that the World Cup and Olympic games will leave behind in Brazil, one of which is the economic legacy that will be created. The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, claims that there are two types of Olympic Games, “One that uses the city, and one where the city uses the Games.” Mr. Paes believes in the latter, and Mr. Tostes shares those same opinions. The Rio Olympic Committee has been able to cut its budgets by 10% and in some areas, as much as 30%, further supporting the Committees desire to produce a fiscally responsible Games that will help its residents even after the Games have ended. Mr. Tostes remains positive that the Olympic Games will leave a legacy in which Brazilians can say they are “Proud to be Brazilian.”

Our next meeting was with Professor Andre Coelho, to engage in a conversation regarding the legacy of the World Cup. I think many of us expected this to be the moment in which we would hear supportive evidence to many of the negative information that we have consumed in recent months regarding the execution of the World Cup games. Again, this was not the case. In fact, Professor Coelho highlighted the fact that that a total of 27.8 billion reals were contracted and only 20 billion reals were used in order to execute the games. Given his research and supportive data, Dr. Coelho remains positive that city’s focus on transforming its image will continue to bring developments to the city even after the Games are over.

We accept the information that has been shared with us with the understanding that there are some biases that exist. Additionally, we understand that the forecasts and predictions of what is expected to result years after the mega events have passed cannot be proven at this time. The current recession is expected to last two years. What is certain at this point is that those in a position of influence in the sports industry in Brazil are optimistic the country will recover and will continue to remain a desired emerging market.

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Oct 17 2015

Brazil 2015: Day 4 (10/16/2015) – Confederação Brasileira de Futebol

by at 11:14 am

By Caroline Darney:

Throughout the week, we have repeatedly heard about the importance of football to Brazil. It is described as a religion. A way of life. As we prepared to visit the Confederation of Brasilian Football, or CBF, I thought I understood the magnitude and weight the national sport held.

Boy, was I wrong.

image (2)After a drive of about 45 minutes along the gorgeous beaches of Leblon and Barra, we arrived at the CBF headquarters. CBF, which is affiliated with FIFA, is the governing body of Brazilian football and responsible for not only the National Teams, but the conglomerate of 27 state federations within Brazil. Competitions Director Manoel Flores greeted our group, and then introduced the General Secretary, and Marketing Director of CBF. After some brief comments, the President of the Referee Commission joined, and told the group we would be witness to the weekly referee drawing.

Well, all would be witnessing the event except one. Me.

In a mix of utter fear and excitement, I joined two officials on stage behind a couple of trays filled with numbered ping pong balls and a big metal cage. On top of anxiety associated with being on stage in front of classmates and CBF employees, I soon learned the whole thing would be filmed and aired online.

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Following a very brief explanation of my role in this production, I was left to hope it all went smoothly. Luckily a young woman who had clearly done this before came in and stood next to me, alleviating some of my fears. I selected six balls, placed them in the cage, and spun it. The first two balls spit out by the cage were “discards” with the third being the referee that would officiate a specific match in the near future. Some paperwork was filled out, and one of the most unique experiences of my life was completed.

Mr. Flores then painted a picture of the current state of Brazilian football. With the economy stabilizing several years ago, the arrival of a “mega-event” like the World Cup led to unease amongst Brazilians as concerns regarding the budget and allocation of money arose. Why should the government be supplying money for stadiums when there are schools and hospitals severely lacking?

The World Cup was hugely successful in Brazil, and was declared by FIFA to be the most profitable of all time. Following that success, Brazilian football has started to change. Where there used to be fans worried for their safety at matches, now there are more families. The consumers want to experience the game differently. That change has occurred not only at the club or state level, but all the way up to the CBF level. CBF is structured so that each of Brazil’s 27 states has an affiliate or club within their boundary, helping to reach all corners of the country.

Their divisional breakup within their clubs creates an interesting dynamic to the game. Four divisions, Serie A, B, C, and D, make up their system. The first three divisions each hold 20 teams, with division four having 40. The smaller third and fourth divisions are handled by CBF due to the smaller clubs having a lack of bigger sponsors and television deals, although Mr. Flores said that has been shifting in recent years. Among all of the divisions, however, there is a huge deterrent to losing and a big benefit to winning. Each season, the four worst teams of the division will be relegated to a lower division, and the four successful teams from the lower divisions will jump up one rung. Teams have one year to “rebound” back to their original division before they lose their television funding quota. This extra pressure or incentive to win is compounded by the fact that there is very little to no job security for coaches. A three game losing streak is enough to get fired, let alone being relegated to a lower division.

imageThe last piece of our visit may have left the biggest impression not only on the day, but on the trip as well. After Mr. Flores concluded the presentation piece, the group watched a seven minute video entitled “We Are All Football” that attempted to convey the level of enthusiasm this country has for their national team, whether in the good times or bad. We then made our way into the museum, and had the opportunity to learn about the rich history of the only team that has won five World Cup titles. A video display on passion greeted us, followed by a video regarding the origin of the national team and their journey to their very first World Cup title. From there, interactive displays showed the evolution of the uniform, allowed fans to relive big moments through audio and video, and tested the knowledge of the most die-hard Brazilians. All five World Cup trophies were on display in a 360 degree audio-visual masterpiece, and the names of all former national team members made up a constellation on the wall. It did not stop there. Want to know what it’s like to walk out the tunnel and onto the pitch for a match? Try on the virtual reality goggles. Want to be a part of the museum permanently? Get your photo taken to become part of the digital collage on the way out the door.

Overall, the time spent with Mr. Flores and the CBF highlighted why these mega-events matter and what is important to the fans. The passion…and nobody has more than Brazil.

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