The 2016 Summer Olympics will begin in Rio tomorrow. In the months leading up to their kickoff, there has been much discussion around what effect the games will have on a global city with notoriously high social and economic inequality. During the Chicago Forum on Global Cities in June, "The Tale of Two Cities" plenary session looked at the ways sprawling metropolises can ensure quality access to opportunity, education, and jobs for every citizen. Below are three clips from that panel highlighting recommendations and insights for Rio as the world watches for the next two and a half weeks.
Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
"You know, when you think about Rio, and I mean it's just a magical place, and it is true it teems with inequality, but how would you end it? Tell the people who are streaming into the city from the rural northeast of Brazil to just stay home? They're not fools. They're not making a crazy decision. Rio is the engine of opportunity. São Paulo is the engine of opportunity. The key is, in some sense, taming the demons of density. The fact that you have so many people crowding to an area means you get crime, you get traffic congestion, you get contagious disease. And this is why cities need effective government, because an abundance of space hides many sins, but once you crowd everyone together you've got to have a sensible strategy towards congestion. You need Singapore-style electronic road pricing, for example. You need smart crime strategies. I, too, am awed by what Rio has accomplished in this area, and it follows something that has happened in Colombia, but it really is amazing. This is in some sense one of the great challenges, one of the great vocations for the 21st century: making the teeming megacities of the poor world livable spaces."
Carlos Ivan Simonsen Leal, President, Fundação Getúlio Vargas
"Rio is suffering three effects of the recession: the residual recession, the recession due to the Petrobras problems, and the recession due...not the recession, but the effect that we are having the Olympics and after the Olympics the works that are being done for the Olympics will be stopped, and therefore many civil construction workers will lose their jobs. We are suffering from all of that, but the answer to all of that – the local answer that we can give – is try to keep our finances as best as we can and try to set up some long-term policies to aggregate value to labor, meaning education, but specific forms of education and incentives to research in Rio."
Tessa Jowell, Member, House of Lords
[Tom Manning, University of Chicago Law School]: "Hosting the Olympics has often been positioned as a transformative exercise, and I'm curious, in the case of Brazil, do you feel that it has, in fact, reduced the divide between the two cities of Rio, or, in fact, increased it?"
[Carlos Ivan Simonsen Leal]: "I presume that it has reduced because it has improved transportation, but I'm accustomed to measure such things in longer periods. We haven't had the Olympics yet, so put that answer [sic] to me within three or four years and I will be able to give you a proper answer."
[Tessa Jowell]: "Just very quickly, to add to that, we hosted the Olympics in 2012. The venue for the Olympics was in an area that covered five wards, three of which were among the poorest – the 10 poorest in the whole country. And we put in place measures after the Olympics to judge whether more employment, better schools, just better amenity and environment had an effect on closing that gap, and very gradually it is. But like all the transformation that we're talking about today, you've got to be in this for the long-term and you've got to be absolutely clear that tackling inequality matters in the long-term."