Urban transformation in Rio de Janeiro, hurdles of olympic magnitude? : a case study of mega-event impact on social sustainability

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: According to the UN, in 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Already 10 % of those city residents live in mega-cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, with a population of more then 10 million people in its wider area. Thus, how to change the development path of cities and how to make them long-term sustainable becomes increasingly important. Lock-ins and complex intertwined issues of; mobility, infrastructure, social deprivation, waste management and environmental degradation represent only a few aspects to tackle in urban areas. This research tries to understand whether the urban transformation that the Olympic Games implies, can be a vehicle of change to benefit Rio de Janeiro in the transition process to a more sustainable city. The collected material has been analysed through the lens of multi-level perspective, to provide a holistic understanding of urban planning issues and processes to furthermore investigate the balance of economic, social and environmental aspects, and to reveal possible trade-offs and contradictions to the issues. The principle of sustainability science aims at reaching a more sustainable future. Moreover, the outcome of this particular research provides solutions to the underlying barriers on how to resolve these for the Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro to leave a legacy of a more sustainable city and improve social sustainability. The implications of viewing mega-events as means of transforming a city for the better has potential, as the common problems with lack of economic means and investment are not present when hosting the mega events, and that creates an opportunity for change. However, the local context and long-term planning of each decision is imperative for a sustainable transformation, which additionally implicates inevitable trade-offs at least for the time being. The discussion of “what to develop and what to sustain” is nevertheless constantly part of sustainable development (SD), and has not reached saturation or a solid cure-all solution. Correspondingly, important for future Games implementation are alterations of how to standardize certain parts of the legislation within the Olympic Games constitution, to serve the greater good, but at the same time not undermining the local needs and possibilities. The main findings in this research inherit issues of hosting Olympic games containing immense top down power structures and that it puts pressure on organizers and the government to finish projects quickly with no time to take all stakeholders into account neither fulfil a balanced sustainability focus. Through the lenses of sustainability science, the field of transitioning cities and urban planning it has been demonstrated that deep-rooted cultural aspects and political focus hinder further social progress of elevating Rio de Janeiro to a more sustainable city.

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