Rio ‘fluidity’ enabled small businesses to thrive

Published: 24 August 2016 at 10:34

A street stall in Rio de Janeiro

‘Relaxed’ Olympics allowed independents to trade alongside corporate giants

The Olympic Games in Rio succeeded where London 2012 failed in allowing small firms to thrive around venues where the action was taking place, according to an expert in tourism at Anglia Ruskin University.

Michael Duignan’s #RioZones Project carried out qualitative research in the Brazilian city around venues such as the Maracana stadium, the Olympic stadium and the Copacabana Beach Volleyball Arena.

The study found that the relative fluidity and freedom of movement among spectators attending the Games, when compared to London 2012, plus an easing or lack of enforcement of trade regulations, contributed to local entrepreneurs and small businesses being able to trade freely close to venues.

Duignan, working alongside University of the West of Scotland’s Professor David McGillivray, found that during the Rio Games, trade regulations were left unenforced across many official event venues that would usually have been policed by official sponsors and the event organisers. As a result, unofficial stalls selling beer, caipirinhas, barbecued food sprung up immediately outside security areas, something Duignan said would not have happened during 2012 as visitors were subject to crowd management through Westfield and the Last Mile towards areas of corporate consumption.

However, the researchers also found that although trade regulations were not as strictly enforced as in previous events, Rio 2016 still exemplified territorialisation of event spaces, serving to control and visitor movement and prevent access to and from local communities, partly due to security concerns.

Duignan, Lecturer in Tourism at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“While security was tight at Rio 2016, there was more freedom for visitors to go off the beaten track and, by and large, local spaces were free to exploit the commercial opportunities when visitor numbers were high. The management of official sponsor activation spaces was rather chaotic, almost as though nobody cared too much about policing brand infringements.

“Urban public spaces were more open and free of regulation during the Rio 2016 Olympics when compared to London 2012, allowing local micro-entrepreneurs to benefit along with the corporations. Essentially this indicates a greater balancing of both global and local interests between official sponsors, cariocas, and local micro businesses: a combination of ‘Olympic Spirit’ and ‘Carioca Spirit’."