Rio's Olympic readiness tested by Carnival
Tuesday 08 March 2011
Tourists soaking up Carnival in Rio are experiencing what might lie in store when the city hosts the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, with the tropical joy tempered by safety worries and climbing prices.
With just three years to go before the first of those global sporting events, there are no signs of any of the work needed to get Rio into shape to welcome the anticipated millions of visitors.
The 800,000 Brazilian and foreign tourists in town to fete Carnival have already filled the existing hotels, the roads are choked, and airports saturated.
All of those facilities, and more, will have to be expanded for the World Cup and especially for the Olympics.
"It's not working - the infrastructure isn't up to it," Wolfgang Eckart, a 63-year-old German tourist, told AFP as he lunched in a popular restaurant in Rio's Ipanema beach district.
To be ready for the Olympics, "they should send experts from countries which have already had the Olympics," such as his own, he said.
Victoire Guerlay, a 22-year-old French student in the same eatery, said she was greatly enjoying her first visit to Rio, though was disappointed that rain was curtailing her hopes of spending the day on the beach.
Safety was a preoccupation, though she had not encountered any problems.
"You don't carry a bag, or wear a watch - or carry a camera, which is really frustrating, because you really want to take pictures of everything, the partying, the landscape," she said.
She said she was spending around $130 a day, a relatively low amount for her budget, because she was staying with friends.
But others in the city were finding Rio's prices a little higher than expected.
"We're staying in what could be best described as a homeless shelter, for $100 a night each," said Brett, a 24-year-old US consultant on vacation with two buddies. He declined to give his last name.
"Things are much more expensive here than in Peru," he said, referring to the neighboring South American country where he was on assignment.
"I can't believe the prices to get into some of the Carnival balls - 600 to 800 reais ($360 to $480)," he said.
"We were going to get a (VIP) box at the Carnival parades but they were asking 5,000 reais ($3,000) a person, and you needed to get 10 people together," he said. "That just wasn't in the budget."
The rising cost of Carnival was confirmed by a study by a Brazilian university, the Getulio Vargas Foundation, which found that prices for things such as hotel rooms, beer, and taxis increased much faster than the country's six percent inflation rate.
Still, Brett said the relatively high prices were worth it because he felt safer in the streets, because there was less obvious poverty.
Instead his recommendation for Rio to prepare for the World Cup and Olympics was for "a bit more English" spoken by service personnel and taxi drivers.
Money and security aside, his biggest problem seemed to be that, in his experience of kissing several Brazilian women in the street parties, "the girls here gnaw on your lip."
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