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Brazil

Day 52: Rio de Janeiro

 
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On the Rio Metro. Small network, huge tunnels.
Michael Palin - BrazilThe Mayor, when he eventually arrives, turns out to be a personable and enthusiastic man in his early forties who speaks excellent English. The explosion earlier is confirmed as being an accident caused by a gas leak. If this had happened in Europe, we both agree, one would have seen a much more alarmed response. Brazil, so far, is mercifully free from the threat of terrorism. It's a country that doesn't seem to have any enemies.

Eduardo Paes is a very modern politician. A qualified lawyer, he has form as the man who turned round the unprepared Pan-American Games which came to Rio in 2007. Dressed casually in a blue button-down shirt and chinos, he's very much aware of the value of public relations. Indeed he has suffered for it. His left arm is in a sling, broken when opening a new cycle lane. 'Three minutes after the press left,' he jokes ruefully.

He has an international perspective, and is modestly aware that Rio has a lot to learn from other cities. This flashy operations wall is designed by an Indian, and his liaison man with us is an Englishman born in Newcastle and now working on the Mayor's staff. He's well aware that Rio's image as one of the world's most beguiling destinations will be put to the test when the World Cup and then the Olympics roll into town. He, like almost everyone else I've talked to, thinks that whatever happens, Rio will lay on a good party. He points out something which he feels characterizes Rio, as opposed to São Paulo.

'People meet here in public places. Maybe it's because of the beach, but this a good street-living city.'

Eduardo is up for re-election in a year's time and if he wins a second term then he will be the man steering his city through the most important years of its history. Behind him, as we talk, the city's roads and railways move smoothly. But the favelas continue to fill up, rising property prices are hurting the middle class, the airport is stretched and the hotels already overflowing. Some would consider taking the helm as a poisoned chalice. For Eduardo Paes it's the one thing he really wants to do.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 52: Rio de Janeiro
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Rio de Janeiro
  • Book page no: 217

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