Q&A Maria Silvia Bastos Marques - President of Municipal Olympic Company
The state-owned Municipal Olympic Company acts as point of contact and integration between the City Hall, the state and federal governments, and the different national and international agents involved in the process of preparing Rio de Janeiro to undertake the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Maria Silvia Bastos Marques explains how the upcoming events will affect Rio, and talks about the challenges involved.
The Report Company: What are going to be the main differences between organising the Games in London and Rio?
Maria Silvia Bastos Marques: There are a lot of differences. First, the two cities are in very different stages of maturity. The mayor always says that, regarding the legacy, our model is Barcelona. Barcelona was transformed by the Olympics. London, on the other hand, is a mature city; the legacy of the Olympics there was the retrofitting of a non-central area. The city as a whole was not touched by the Olympics. Londoners did not have their lives as impacted by the Olympics as the cariocas will have had, because Rio is using the Olympics to carry out projects for the city. It is hard for us to calculate the budget of the Olympics, because it is hard to say what is for the Olympics and what is not. The two categories are intermingled. In London, they are easily separated: there’s the Olympics Village, the Olympic Park, etc. In Rio, we have Porto Maravilha, which is a project of the city that will be partially used in the Olympics, but has been planned for 30 years, and transportation, which will not be used by the Olympics, but will be used by the audience and tourists.
TRC: The Olympics are not Rio's alone; they are Brazil’s, and Brazilians will be proud of them. But with such complexity to the organisation of the Olympics, do you see the Games as a curse or a blessing?
MSBM: It is true that the Olympics are not Rio’s and that they are Brazil’s, but Rio is completely different from any other city in Brazil. Rio was the capital of the Portuguese Empire and of the Republic. No other city has that asset. The face of Brazil is Rio. Both negative and positive news about Rio impact the whole country.
Having three levels of government had always been a problem for Rio in carrying out its projects but the Olympics brought about the current alignment, which was fundamental for us to even be able to win the candidacy. Before, city projects wouldn't move forward because there was no dialogue with other government levels. Because of its past as capital of the Republic, Rio also had a problem with land property. At the port, for instance, some of the land belongs to the navy, to the docks, to the municipality, to the state. Part of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon belongs to the state, while part belongs to the municipality. The Reboucas Tunnel was under the federal government, but is now under the municipal government. Meanwhile, the Municipal Theatre falls under the state government.
Because of the Olympics, for the first time, the different government levels are discussing this complexity and trying to solve these issues.
TRC: Would you say that Rio needed the Olympics in order to solve its problems?
MSBM: That is the way I see it. That is why I came to work for this project. I see the Olympics as Rio's greatest opportunity to do everything the city needs. Obviously, this is a complex task. Working with such a number of stakeholders isn't simple. But since all of them see it as good for the city and the country, the coordination is much easier. Ultimately, every Brazilian is a little bit carioca.
TRC: How were you convinced to work at your current position? What will you do after 2016?
MSBM: God only knows. I never imagined I would be here in the first place. I was the CEO of a private company until last year. Mayor Paes and I met for the first time back in 1993, in another municipal administration, when he was the sub-mayor of Barra da Tijuca and I was the Secretary of Finance. We have always kept in touch after that period, because of our common interest in the municipal matters. Since he was elected Mayor for the first time in 2008 (he has just been re-elected) I have been much closer to him, helping informally in some matters. When he invited me to coordinate the Olympic projects of the city, it didn´t take me much time to say yes. I am very much in love with this city and, as I said before, I want to be part of this great transformation.
I joke that this is a self-centred project. I am working to improve the city I, my kids and my friends live in. Working at the municipal government, I have the experience of changing my own reality. Working for the city is great. The impact of everything you do — both for good and bad — is felt very quickly.
TRC: Public-private partnerships are being encouraged to attract private capital to Rio’s projects. What is reserved for foreign capital, and how can foreign institutions participate?
MSBM: There is foreign capital in all of these projects. It is usually associated to a Brazilian company or office. Aecom, for instance, is carrying out projects for the consortium that won the public-private partnership for the Olympic Park. We recently launched four tenders for the velodrome, the tennis centre, the aquatics centre, and handball.
TRC: Will there be more contracts?
MSBM: Yes. There is foreign capital in the majority of these projects: as suppliers, as service providers and as executors. I think foreign capital, companies and investments - and their partnerships with Brazilians - are very beneficial. For instance, we have never carried out the Olympic Games; we have no expertise in this area. we can benefit with the experience and knowledge of those who participate of former Olympic Games, like London, that used a lot of suppliers from Sydney, Athens, etc.
TRC: Will there be enough resources in Rio to finish all projects?
MSBM: The municipality has been trying to maximize the participation of private funds, through many types of partnerships – like the ones in the Athletes' Village, Porto Maravilha, Olympic Park, etc. Surely many projects are also being carried out with funds from the public sector. Foreign investments are not off the table. Each case is a different case. During this period there will be very large investments in the city, so in the future we will have to reallocate investments into operations and maintenance. We are revitalizing the whole city, and it has to be maintained. The PPP (public-private partnership) of the Port, for instance, will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the area for 15 years. There is a lot happening at once, so all types of partnerships are welcome.
TRC: If you had to choose one dream to come true in four years. What would it be?
MSBM: I have so many, but the strategic vision of the municipality is that, by 2020, Rio will be the best city to live, visit and work in the Southern Hemisphere. The greatest dream is for Rio to be seen that way. Of course it will demand many changes. The physical changes are under way, but we also want to change attitudes. This is the opportunity for us to deliver a great deal: having a great city for those who live here, for those who come to visit and those who want to work here.