Occupy All Streets: The Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the Competition Over Urban Futures
Mariana Cavalcanti, Bruno Carvalho and Vyjayanthi Rao (editors)
The announcement of Rio’s winning bid to host the 2016 Olympic games imprinted a distinctive temporal structure upon city politics, urban projects and disputes. Similar to other cities that hosted recent Olympic games, the urgency of a final deadline altered the usually extended, intermittent temporality of large public works, expediting (re)development projects of massive proportions run by shady PPPs, producing heaps of futile debris, delayed projects and waterfront ruins. Here, as elsewhere, spectacular city building in strategic areas is only made possible by way of massive displacements and evictions, forceful or otherwise – which is important, for the cross cutting speculative dimension of urban politics of the Olympics also produced new arenas for manufacturing all sorts of consent.
This book is not exactly about the 2016 Olympics project in Rio de Janeiro. It is about some of the particular practices, images and imaginaries of speculation that the Olympic project ushered into the public scene of the city and the private life of its citizens. Speculation is to be understood beyond the usual definitions that situate it as a category of analysis of the economy and economic practices. Here we conceive of speculation as a situated “habit of thought that connects, enchants, and wreaths what is with what might be – imagined not only as risk but also fantasy, desire, potential” (Rao 2015) – and so often as all of this at once. This volume is not concerned with confronting the project blueprints to reality, with tallying the gains and losses of the “Olympic” city or with demonizing the (admittedly perverse but given) logic of capitalist accumulation that enables the entire process. It is less comprehensive than incidental: the essays here take different dimensions of the embattled run-up to the Olympics to elaborate the particular temporality of expectation/anticipation of an open ended future that engenders large institutional schemes, makeshift arrangements, and daily practices of speculation that occur at and on different scales of actions and analysis.
It is these imaginings – and the conflicts over them — that the essays making up this book explore, engage and examine; it is mainly concerned with the particular imaginaries and imaginations that 2016 Olympic project produced or those of the past and future to which it connects. It tries to put together a story of Olympic urbanization wherein the failed, dropped or undiscussed imaginaries or projects of Olympic Rio can momentarily inhabit the same statute of reality as the city currently under construction. Thus it is less concerned with providing a comprehensive account of the projects and predicaments of the Olympic city than with taking up analytical tangents that expand in time and space the very idea of producing an “Olympic city” lends itself to. The book can then be read as an incidental cartography of some of the –- necessarily ephemeral — visions of the city that could have been, of the virtualities of the imagination that were triggered by the widespread, multiscalar speculation unleashed by the 2016 Olympic project, and of the subjects that acted and wagered on it.