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  • Q&A with Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes


    Eduardo Paes: “I am anxious about my responsibility, which is, how will this affect the city and how can I get the most of this fantastic opportunity?”
    Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes says with the city now hosting the 2016 Olympics, his focus is making the right decisions in these early days of the Games. Paes, elected just a year ago, could have the chance to serve through the 2016 Games if he wins a final second term.

    Paes returned to Lausanne, Switzerland last week where he was a speaker at the annual World Union of Olympic Cities Forum. It was his first visit to Lausanne since June when he was part of the Rio team presenting its bid to a briefing for IOC members. Paes says he believes the momentum shifted to the Rio bid at the June briefing.

    Around the Rings Editor Ed Hula spoke with Paes in Lausanne last week.

    Around the Rings: How are things going in these early days for you?

    Eduardo Paes: I think everyone is pretty much sure that Rio can deliver good Games, the event, the 15 to 16 days, the Olympic Torch and the venues. The issue is spending the money in the right way, being effective, not only spending money, not only doing things, but doing the right things. That’s our biggest challenge.

    ATR: And how do you do that? How do you get off on the right foot? You’ve done a lot of planning already for this, but now you’re ready to take these first important steps. Do you have the decision making in place?

    EP: Obviously, when you bid, you build up an institutional scheme, but when you win, it’s different. It’s pretty much like an election. You run for mayor, you run for governor, you run for president. But when you get into there, now you have to put into practice everything you said. And obviously, reality is always different from bidding.

    ATR: This your first time back in Lausanne since the June briefing you gave to the IOC about the Rio bid. How does it feel to be back here?

    EP: Fantastic. I think it was here, the place that we made the change. People were not expecting Rio to win the bid. And I think there was a bid before -- and a bid after Lausanne. I think that people here saw that we were talking seriously, that we had the committment to do it. We had the right arguments, we had the right physical plan. So this is a very important place, especially this place.

    ATR: Do you think that is where the game changed? Do you think from this presentation?

    EP: Yes, I think we beat the other guys here. We beat three fantastic cities. That was the day. We won here. Copenhagen was like concluding the winning, but we won here.

    ATR: You met with IOC president Jacques Rogge here in Lausanne. Is this the first time that you’ve met with the IOC president since Copenhagen?
    Eduardo Paes and Rio state Governor Sergio Cabral at the June IOC briefing. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

    EP: Yes, it was the first time since Copenhagen. He’s really popular in Brazil. All the time, his image opening that envelope and saying Rio de Janeiro, goes on TV. But he’s always been kind to us since the beginning of the bid, very supportive as he was to all cities. I spoke to him before with Mr. Nuzman, and we will have to get closer and closer and get straight connection from now on. Once again, I came to say that government support, it’s even higher, people support, it’s even higher. And we are working hard to get things done.

    ATR: And do you have any plans yet from him about when he might be coming to Rio de Janeiro?

    EP: No, not yet. It’s going to be after Vancouver. I wish he could come before, but he’s got a busy agenda, so probably after Vancouver he’s going over there.

    ATR: As you move forward here, your role as a mayor, (in this overall feed?), what kind of decisions will you get to make? What kind of decisions will the federal government make? How is all of that tied in?

    EP: Well there’s this issue, the organizing committee, what do I have to do with the organizing committee? Be a part of it and give it my full support, and let the guys that know how to run the Games, run the Games. I’m talking about Mr. Nuzman, Mr. [Carlos] Osorio. That’s something that I will give the full support and I’m not very worried about. Things are going to go.

    I am anxious about my responsibility, which is, how will this affect the city and how can I get the most of this fantastic opportunity? This is what Olympic Games mean. It is a fantastic opportunity for the city to completely change. So how can I get the most of it? How can I make it a turning point to the history of my city? And the only person that can play that role is the mayor. So that’s something I am carrying on my back. Besides of all the problems I already had. I call it a problem, but it’s a sweet and fantastic problem.

    ATR: You have a smile on your face.

    EP: Probably. A problem, a sweet problem that the mayor of Madrid, Chicago, Tokyo would be loving to have, so I have it.

    ATR: But you did mention the challenges that are ahead for Rio. How much can you change the city? Rio will not be a city without poverty in 2016, for example.

    EP: Obviously not. But Brazil is changing a lot. Poverty has become much, much smaller than it was before. Poverty, 20 years ago, was everywhere. It’s not anymore everywhere. There’s the middle class growing fast. So you’ve got this country of opportunity, a country that is taking off with this Olympic opportunity. I cannot be stupid you know. I have to look twice. It won’t be, we won’t be out of poverty. We’ll still probably by ’16, have poverty. But how can we make the pace go even faster?

    ATR: What do you expect in reducing the violence that you face?

    EP: For the Olympic Games, just relax and take in and enjoy it. I mean there’s going to be no problem. That’s something that we always say. We’re not worried about violence during the Olympic Games. You worry about violence in our everyday lives, to our people, to the people, to the visitors that we get every day, every year, every week. So this is something that we’ve faced with community police work, with renovations of the favellas.

    I think the Olympic Games will help accelerate that.
    Paes says he hopes to win a second term as mayor so that he can serve during the 2016 Olympics.
    It’s good to be watched by the world. It’s good when something bad happens in Rio, it gets much more media than when it happened before. So it’s not bad.

    ATR: There is a magnifying glass over the city as the result of the Olympics?

    EP: Obviously, and for everything that happens in Rio, “Oh, they’re not going to be ready.” So it’s like we know that we are going to be, but we don’t complain against this.

    ATR: You will be able to run for re-election in 2012?

    EP: Yes, so I could be mayor in ’16 during the Olympics. It would be the end of my term, my second term, if I get the second term.

    ATR: Which would be a nice way to go out?

    EP: It would be a dream, but I have a lot of work to do. I cannot think about this right now. I must work a lot, then when I get to ’12, then I think about it. Now, I need to get things done.