By Mary Carroll, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the Rio+20 conference approaches, there is plenty of anticipation as to how Rio will handle the influx of approximately 50,000 visitors. Diplomats, businessmen, environmental activists, journalists and an estimated 150 heads of state have already booked most of the hotels, with another estimated 10,000 people camping, accommodation and transportation is set to brimming.
With the countless thousands of Brazilians who will also attend, Mayor Eduardo Paes has already proposed a three day holiday during the event in a bid to stem heavy traffic.
The budget approved by congress for the Rio+20 Conference was reported at R$430 million, of which R$190 million was planned for logistics. Diplomat Aguiar Laudemar who is responsible for the logistics of Rio+20 envisions that “Rio will be the center of the world.”
According to Laudemar it is the desire of the Brazilian Government to make it the largest conference in the history of the United Nations.
Darcílio Junqueira, manager at SindRio (hotel, bar and restaurant association in Rio), explains the difficulty of meeting demand for accommodation. Even though “most hotels have been transformed to receive tourists,” it doesn’t make matters easier that the majority of entrepreneurs and leaders have a preference for the famed Ipanema or Copacabana.
In order to reduce the travel time between Barra da Tijuca and other parts of the city, different modes of traffic flow have been considered. Laudemar admits “the problem with Barra is access” but he reassures that they will be doing a “lot of work related to transport.”
Some residents of Barra da Tijuca are concerned about the ability to minimize the impact of such a large event. As an expatriate living in Barra da Tijuca and working in Rochina, Mateen Thobani expresses his concerns “that the traffic situation will be unbearable.”
Barra da Tijuca will host the event in four main areas. Riocentro is where the plenary sessions and other official negotiations of the Conference will be held.
Athletic Park will accommodate government and private sector exhibitions. Meetings and exhibitions of civil society will be held at the Motor Racing Track. The execution of civil society activities will be hosted at the Barra Arena, as well as other locations in the city its Centro.
On the Rio+20 website, which links to bus timetables and information on how to get there, they urge visitors to “Avoid using cars to go to Conference venues” in order to reduce traffic. In complying with this, they emphasize that “you will be contributing to the objective of the Conference, which is to build a sustainable world.”