RIO DE JANEIRO, Brasil – As the summer is coming to a close for those in the Northern Hemisphere and the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games are now behind us, we cannot help but anticipate the excitement that will ensue in another four years in the shimmering landscape of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Being the first South American city to ever host the Olympic Games we had the opportunity to witness the transformation of a city during the Rio+20 Earth Summit preparing to host 2014 FIFA World Cup Games and 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The series of mega events brings Brazil’s will to become a modern economic powerhouse on the center stage of the international developing community. However, Brazil’s success is threatened by how it will resolve its social and environmental problems, and maybe most important the public’s fear to its blood shed routines in their urban landscape. On picturesque mountains of Rio de Janeiro scale favelas or shanty towns in organized chaos of urban areas.
As I took part in some of the side events today on sustainable transport, a cognitive dissonance was created in my mind. It happens quite often that brilliant ideas somehow do not marry so easy with everyday reality. Even at Rio+20. People from all over the world – large global multinationals and the most powerful countries – have gathered at Rio’s Athletes’ Park in the city outskirts. The topic under discussion – bright new ways of managing the concrete spaghetti that feeds the daily maneuvers of urban inhabitants.
Friday June 15, Rio De Janeiro, Impanema district. My first walk around the town leads me to the “favela” or shanty town close by. It is located on a hill, so I take the elevator to the top. From the elevator, the view across Ipanema and Cocacabana is breath-taking. The favelas of Rio are like islands, most often located on the numerous hills of Rio city. Noticing the security standing at the entrance of the favela, I worry that my adventure may be reckless for a foreigner traveling alone.