London 2012: Mayor of Rio says he's scared Boris Johnson will 'do something crazy' when he hands over Olympic flag to Brazil

 

The Olympics may have just begun but Eduardo Paes has already got his eye on the end.

When the curtain comes down at the closing ceremony in just under two weeks, it will be he who picks up the Olympic flag from Boris Johnson. As the mayor of Rio, the hosts in four years’ time, his team will soon be the ones frantically trying to make sure that Brazil’s sprawling cultural capital becomes a truly Olympic venue.

“Boris did a great job,” he told The Independent on his visit to London for the start of the Games.

“He got the city into the mood of the Olympics and did great things. I’m just scared he’ll do something crazy when he hands over the flag.”

He adds of Boris: “He’s crazy.”

In many ways Paes is Brazil’s Boris. He is a plain-spoken, charismatic politician with a notoriously wicked sense of humour. But the trials London faced in staging such an event pale into comparison with the hurdles Rio has to jump.

Much of the debate with London 2012 centred around whether the capital’s transport network would cope with the influx of one million extra visitors. But at least they city had some sort of network in place. Rio is pretty much starting from scratch.

“Right now we carry only 18 per cent of our population in high capacity transportation,” he admits. “By 2016 we’re going to move to 63%. That will be a revolution. But it all needs to be built.”

The Olympic Park will be built on the city’s former Formula One racing track, a wide expanse of government owned land to the west of the capital that lies next to a lagoon. Over the years hundreds of poor and middle class families have built illegal settlements near the race track. Plans to move them on have drawn protests, but Paes insists the inhabitants will be given alternative accommodation.

“Here’s where we’re different from the Chinese Olympics,” he explains. “In a very democratic way we are putting up 500m away some very nice condominiums with some very nice apartments and we’re going to put people there. Only when they are ready. People complain, they don’t believe it will be done but it’s a compromise Rio will deliver on.”

For many outside Brazil the image Rio conjures in their minds is a pristine stretch of beach fringed by gleaming skyscrapers which are themselves surrounded by sprawling and often violent favelas of the sort portrayed in the seminal movie City of God. It is an image many Brazilians understandably balk at, especially now that an initially controversial “favela pacification” programme appears to be paying dividends.

Over the past three years specialist army and police units have deliberately pushed into some of the city’s most violent slums to take on the drug lords who have by and large put up little resistance. The state then floods the area with public services that barely existed. It’s expensive but crime and homicide rates have plummeted.

“It was like in parts of the city state sovereignty was simply not there,” he admits. “It was dominated by drug dealers. This is changing completely and it’s moving fast.”

There have been bumps along the way. Last week a police officer was gunned down in Alemao, a slum that has been supposedly cleared. But Luis Fernandez, the country’s deputy minister of sport, insists tackling violent favelas must continue. “It’s not so much for the tourists but for Brazilian people who have a right for safety,” he says. “Whereas before for very poor or destitute youngsters the role model would be the drug lord – because he had easy access to money and prestige – it’s now working the other way around.”

For Mr Paes the Olympics is an opportunity for his city to completely reinvent itself. “Rio is a nice party city in South America,” he says. “We want to great party city in South America with good infrastructure, people living well and a good place to do business. London is already on that level.”

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering