Copacabana, the Olympic Effect in Rio

By Jack Whibley, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The neighborhood of Copacabana is perhaps the most famous in all of Rio, going back to the 1930s through the 1980s, it represented the best of the city’s beaches and glamor. Although in the last few decades it has shared some of the spotlight, in 2016 when the Copacabana Zone hosts many of the Olympics’ most popular events, it is likely to draw the most attention again.

Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Copacabana Beach, photo by Gustavo Facci/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The Barra Zone is hosting about half the Olympic events, and the Maracanã Zone and Deodoro Zone will all have their own appeal, but none of them have the draw of one the most famous beaches in the world.

Add the existing infrastructure that comes with being a long-standing tourist destination, countless restaurants and bars, shops and transportation, and Copacabana is bound to boom.

Already a lot of changes have been felt in the neighborhood, as Paula Sant’ Anna of Curso Mundo Brasil, a language school based in Copacabana, tells The Rio Times:

“Things have been changing a lot in the past two years in Copacabana. It is remarkable the reduction in the number of homeless and beggars, and also improvement on cleaning the streets.”

“The streets are better lighted and the shops are renewing themselves day by day. All this, coupled with increased quality of life and employment prospects of low-income residents of Copacabana, makes the neighborhood much safer.” She adds.

For the Olympic Games, a temporary stadium will be built on the beach and will host the beach volleyball competition. Just offshore, the marathon swimmers and triathletes will be competing in their grueling events. The Organizing Committee’s intention is to use Copacabana beach as a backdrop to these events and to reinforce the healthy lifestyle for which Rio is known.

The real estate market in Copacabana has responded to the attention, and Martin Stockl of Rio Management, a company specializing in apartment and corporate rentals, told The Rio Times: “Since 2008 there has been a surge in real estate prices, double digit increases year over year were not uncommon to be seen in Zona Sul [South Zone] areas.”

Brazil Beach Volleyball, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Copacabana beach will host beach volleyball at the 2016 Olympics, photo by akiwitz/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The type of clients searching for property in Copacabana are also having an impact on the market. Stockl added, “The market has changed significantly in the last couple of years, and there are a lot more corporate type requests with higher monthly rental budgets. These types of clients are looking for high quality accommodation with the same amenities that they are accustomed to back at home.”

Stockl considers though that the arrival of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics may not have the ongoing dramatic effect that some have predicted.

He continues, “Since income has not risen at the same pace [as real estate prices] it’s very hard to think that this type of growth will continue.”

“With the upcoming events it’s likely that prices will stay stabilized with possible single digit increases however I feel that there will be a correction at some point.”

The apartment rental prices in Copacabana have risen around 25 percent for one to three-bedroom apartments respectively in the last two years according to data from Zap Imóveis (compared were the latest data from April 2013 to April 2011). In real terms that means R$9 to 11 more per square meter.

Purchase prices have risen a little more with 27 percent for one-bedroom apartments, 31 percent for two-bedroom apartments and almost 34 percent for three-bedroom apartments from 2011 to 2013. Even with all that, Paula Sant’ Anna predicts, “With the games, […] Copacabana will have a new face, moving from a traditional and decadent neighborhood to a modern one, living [with] the times.”