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Whether or not major sporting spectacles like the Olympics and the World Cup are truly driving positive change, these mega events at least have the world watching (which, in turn, should drive change, right?). This is an extract from Future Cities.

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This is an extract from our Future Cities series, where we explore how major destinations are using smart design to shape the city of the future. In this installment, we look at how Rio de Janeiro is using event tourism in hopes of improving its infrastructure and re-urbanizing its favelas.
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Major Events are Driving Tourism and Change

Major events drive change for urban areas around the globe. They boost tourism and create new opportunities for residents, create new infrastructure and rejuvenate dilapidated and underserved areas. They can also disrupt the natural flow and normal routines for cities, causing a real burden to inhabitants like increased traffic congestion and security concerns.

Rio de Janeiro is no stranger to major event tourism. Rio’s Carnival has been a staple in the community dating back to 1723, bringing in close to one million tourists every year.

In 2004, when Brazil won the bid to host the 2014 World Cup, the nation roared with excitement and optimism. Other than Brazil being a five-time champion of the Cup, the event promised an increase to the GDP and benefits for residents of the host cities including Rio.

A total of one million foreign visitors visited the country due to the World Cup, exceeding the 600,000 tourists originally anticipated. In total, 60% of Brazil’s World Cup visitors were in the country for the first time, and 95% of visitors said they would return again. That’s the good news for the future of Brazil’s tourism.

But the World Cup was also a source of controversy for Rio’s residents.

Many residents from Rio’s poorer areas were displaced due to construction and a number of infrastructure projects fell behind schedule, were left unfinished, or were left in financial deficit.

The challenge for Rio now is to work out the kinks for its next major sporting event: the 2016 Olympics.

City and country officials remain optimistic. According to Brazilian Tourism Minister Vinicius Lummertz, Rio’s residents will feel the positive benefits long after the Olympic athletes leave the Olympic Village.

“In addition to the construction and renovation of sports facilities that will host competitions and construction of the Olympic and Paralympic Village, Brazil has invested and continues to invest in various infrastructure projects related to transportation, modernization of the port region, preservation of the environmental and social initiatives,” Lummertz told Skift.

One of the direct benefits includes the works related to the Porto Maravilha — which translates to “marvelous” — a program revitalizing Rio’s port area, which has suffered from degradation since the 1960’s.

Currently in development, the project aims to become a leisure and cultural hub for residents and tourists, adding new space for housing and businesses and improving quality of life with ancillary services like garbage collection, paving, and lighting. It’s also restructuring streets and replacing High Perimeter Road with a network of modern expressways and tunnels, allowing the region to reintegrate with the rest of the city, according to Lummertz.

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Future Cities is a collaboration between Skift and MasterCard, exploring how major destinations are preparing for the new age of urban mobility. From connected infrastructure to smart technologies, this series looks at how global cities are creating seamless and personalized experiences for visitors and residents. 

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Tags: future cities, Rio de Janeiro, tourism

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