By Lisa Flueckiger and Matthew Elliott, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The next major event for the Cidade Maravilhosa to host is the upcoming World Youth Day (WYD), and during the official dates of July 23rd to 28th an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims are expected. The city has implemented special measures to ensure that transport and security remain as smooth as possible, especially given the wave of protests in June during the Confederations Cup.
Last month public holidays were announced for July 25th and 26th, as well as half days on July 23rd and 29th. General commerce such as shops and restaurants will stay open, there will be no service in Rio’s banks on the 25th and 26th, and on the 29th, they will open from 12PM.
Special transport operations will be underway as Rio Metro (subway) announced a plan to manage to the Pope’s visit to Copacabana from 12PM to 5AM on Thursday, July 25th and Friday, 26th.
On both days access to the system will be permitted only through use of a specialized time card using the same system as during New Year’s Eve. For the outward journey an hourly slot can be bought between 12PM and 7PM, the return journey then can be made anytime between 7PM and 5AM using the specialized ticket.
The ticket card can be purchased from 9AM-9PM until July 17th at stations Pavuna, Del Castilho, Maracanã, Saens Peña, Praça Onze, Central, Carioca, Glória, Flamengo, Botafogo and Siqueira Campos. From July 18th until 24th, the card will be marketed only in stations Pavuna, Maracanã, Praça Onze, Central, Carioca and Glória.
Prices will be the same as usual, with R$3.20 for single and R$6.40 for round trips. For each day 231,900 tickets have been made available, including 13,000 free tickets for elderly passengers and those with disabilities.
Airports in Rio expect an increase of sixty percent in movement and are preparing by reinforcing their personnel from check-in to security. Authorities say customs and police will see an increase of staff between sixteen and 193 percent, depending on their area.
The long-distance bus fleet has been increased with 20,000 additional vehicles coming to Rio for WYD. Operations against illegal buses are also underway and the ANTT (National Agency for land transport) has created a website, where pilgrims can check the legitimacy of their bus.
Hostels are already fully booked according to the Hotel, Bars and Restaurant Union, as most pilgrims are looking for less expensive accommodation. The average bed prices during WYD are reportedly around R$85 a night, but pilgrims who booked early could have found rooms for as low as R$25 per night. Hotels in the city are to sixty percent booked.
The city’s security will be especially tight throughout the event with 10,000 armed forces personnel combining with over 12,000 civil police, an increased volume due to demonstrations. There will also be hundreds of plain clothed officers according to authorities.
The police will also rely on technology and coordination as General José Alberto da Costa Abreu who will oversee the operation, explained. “It is impossible, for example, to frisk people, the control that has to be done is by perception of risks, to avoid large groups of protesters taking control,” he elaborates.
Not only for security, but to monitor the general course of events, a Risk Management Center has been established which will operate 24-hours and also work with the information of volunteers in the streets. They will use smartphone and mapping technology to register what is happening in the city and have pictures available in real time.
World Youth Day and the Pope’s visit will serve as another trial for Rio’s security and infrastructure before the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics and test the city’s ability to deal with an influx of foreign visitors.
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