American in Brasil

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Rio pulls it off!

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8-26-2016

by Mark Lassise

The Olympics 2016 came to an exciting finish with the National Teams of soccer and volleyball bringing home the gold medals.  A ton of action in Rio de Janeiro with many great story lines including the final chapter of Michael Phelps career, the most decorated champion of all Olympians.  A few sad stories involving out of control athlete’s but for the most part a success.

The games started a little off-balance for the brazilian event organizers. Extremely long lines at Olympic Park causes many to miss events or just quick as the delays turned into hours that lead to many to miss events entirely.  Food options were very limited and to complicate matters the brazil way creates another step in the process by adding a pay window where you get you voucher to then wait in another line to claim you food or beverage.  But this is out hat to brazilians and us gringos that live here.

To Brazil’s credit they did address the bigger security threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism by bringing in 50,000 National Guard Troops focused on this particular issue. They must have taken the threats from ISIS seriously after watching the attacks in France, Germany, and the US in to account.  Since the days just before the opening ceremony most of the main roads and heavily visited tourist attractions have a good military presence.  Was the ISIS threat an empty one?  Let’s pray for a safe ending for the 2016 Olympic Games.

At a place like the Christ the Redeemer Statue where normally one would find a couple of park police officers now has solid numbers in various teams.  At Engenhão Stadium where the surrounding streets normally have no security giving an assist to the violent crime weekly occurrences.  Now it has a secure feeling when you walk the streets.  Police and many Municipal Guards are stacked in groups on the corners. Most citizens in this neighborhood hope this continues after the games leave our city.  Vamos ver (Let’s see)

 

 

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Written by American in Brasil

August 25, 2016 at 10:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Rio Mayor addresses Rio Olympic security concerns

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7 -5 -2016

by Mark Lassise

Here we are 2 months out and we are talking about the same things in Rio de Janeiro as discussed last year.  Well, actually as discussed the year before last and so on and so on.  Rio de Janeiro has always had these concerns.  What is new?  Ask any resident and they will tell you the number one issue in Brazil is security.  Not Zika, nor health and education, nor water quality, nor infrastructure problems and not even the in your face corruption where millions of Brazilians Reais are stolen everyday from the public coffers can top the security issue of Brazil.  When I traveled Brazil on report for Globo Network from 2013 through to the World Cup with my journalist program “The Foreign Eye”. I met hundreds of foreigners with brazil citizenship.   Many of them had the same responses regarding their Brazil home.  One in particular was a 70 year old Japanese-Brazilian, director of the japanese Association of Recife, who put it best when he said, “Brazil would be heaven, if we had security”.

Nothing has changed, folks.  Since October 2, 2009 when thousands of Brazilians celebrated on the beaches of Copacabana at the announcement that Rio de Janeiro would receive the Olympics Games 2016, nothing has changed.  It’s business as usually here and no surprise to anyone here that projects are not finished, money is lost, security is non-existent etc etc.  Though the world media is aghast or shocked or whatever creative adjective you want to use.  But here in Brazil it is normal and basically accepted.  I learned long ago that while in Brazil you must think in reverse.  Brazil should not be expected to prepare for the world, contrary the world needs to prepare for Brazil.  The Games will come and go and Brazil will remain the same.  This is the ONLY thing that should be expected.

I return to the one thing that has me worried as I stated in a previous article and this is terrorism.  Brazil is a friendly country and should not be hated by anyone.  The only bad Brazil does in the world is in the way it treats its own people.   But in todays world terrorism knows no boundaries.   Europe, Arfica, Asia and now even the US has been infiltrated by Radical Islam with one intent, to Kill the Infidels.  Its written in scripture so it shall be.  We need to identify the enemy in order to defeat the enemy.

Unlike the World Cup of 2014 where the games were spread out over 12 cities and thousands of miles.  The Olympics of 2016 is a centralized event in one city with very tight surroundings.  Though, as the Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, states in the below video for CNN, the security of the Games will be done by the military and international forces.  READ MORE and WATCH THE VIDEO

I believe the potential targets to be outside these event locations.  If you study the latest string of terror attacks from the US in Orlando at the gay nightclub to the Paris attacks to Turkey etc.  These attacks were not at sporting or political events but at highly populated urban areas.

So, logic tells me that possible targets would be one of the many tourist attractions here in Rio i.e., Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the new downtown Museum of the Future or The Cathedral. These places will be full of tourist from around the world and definitely have little to no security.  I have been a part-time tour guide for seven years and have been to all these places.  My most recent was a visit to the Christ Statue one month ago.  I was not surprised to find only one senior park police officer greet us at the park entrance.  He smiled, moved the orange cone, and waved us through.  At the base of the tour site, where you park and buy tickets there was only one police car.  This will not change with all the focus on the 5 different events areas I am sure the tour spots will be left to their usually security methods.   Rio is one of the most visited cities in the world and gets by with this lack of security all the time.  It’s Rio, people come here for fun in the sun. good vibes and great “selfies” with the best natural backdrops.  Though, Brazil does not pose a risk to ISIS or any other terror groups currently advancing across the global map.  I think we should be a bit concerned this time around.

I hate thinking like this but isn’t it necessary?

Written by American in Brasil

July 6, 2016 at 11:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Could the Christ Statue be a target for terrorism?

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Cristo Redentor Statue

6.1.2016 – Mark Lassise Editor

In light of the corrupt nature of Brazil and the COUP that just took place.  I am deeply concerned with the potential for terrorist attacks during the Olympic Games that will be held in 2 months here in Rio de Janeiro.  There is a mad dash to finish a dozen infrastructure projects and I feel a serious lack of focus on building security at the Airports, tour stops, hotels and venues.  I have lived here for 7 years and traveled all over Brazil as a journalist.  It is not to difficult to get access if have are a foreigner and look important.  If that doesn’t work you can get anything you want in Brazil for the right price and that is straight up truth.  Brazilians will tell you there are two Brazils; one for those who have money to buy access and those who are stuck in the system.  I hope not to offend but I know this country and I will now gear most of my reports towards this issue.

Brazil is a relatively neutral player in the global governance and terrorist fight.  They have not directly created enemies with Radical Islam.  Though, the lifestyle here is not in any way in line with Sharia Law.  Therefore it is safe to say the most Christian society in the world is at risk. Especially now with the Worlds largest sporting event coming to Rio de Janeiro in August 2016.  I just led a tour to the Christ Statue a few days ago and I thought to myself this seems to be a likely target for ISIS or anyone that supports killing Infidels. Then I started to look at the security.  I have to say there was a lot of ticket takers and workers but no police presence except the one Park Police officer at the gate of Tijuca National Forest.

I can tell you from experience in my production endeavors.  When I was filming the Wingsuit Pilots of Brazil in 2013.  We climbed the Corcovado mountain through the forest and cable car tracks, and found a spot just under the Christ the Redeemer Statue.  We filmed the preparation and the exit jump of our featured athletes (video below).  The whole process took about 4 hours.  We were there from before sunrise until 8:00am.  The athletes jumped from the base of the statue, landed on the military base grounds with no problems.  Me and my crew climbed down the way we came by way of the cable car tracks and forest paths.  Not one authority stopped or questioned us.

DONT GET ME WORNG, I love freedom and liberty to do what you want just as long as you are not hurting others while doing what it is you desire.  This is Liberty and Freedom at its core BUT we have an enemy that will exploit this if not careful and aware of our defenses. The Christ the Redeemer Statue is the largest symbol of Christianity in South America and seems like a good target.  I hope I am wrong but when in a war it is necessary to think like the enemy.

Stay Informed! Stay Vigilant!

Tchau For Now!

An UPDATE on this video. We lost a great guy Fernando Brito last week to a wingsuit accident. He is one of the pilots featured. God Speed my Friend, it was a pleasure to climb the mountains of Rio de Janeiro with you.

100 days until the Olympics 2016!

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5.21.16 Mark Lassise – editor
larger view

Wow! So, its been almost 7 years since I moved to Rio de Janeiro. A ton has happened and my life has gone through many changes. I started a new chapter in my life on a path that lead me to the jungle of Sao Conrado in the Tijuca National Forest. I had the best view of Pedra da Gavea and heard the joyous sounds of tourists flying through the skies by way of Hang-gliders and para-gliders for 5 years. Now I have a family and planning my move back to the States after the Olympics.

It’s interesting to read my thoughts and feelings from my post dated Oct 3rd, 2009. I had no idea what Rio or Brazil were all about but was ready to dive in and I did. No regrets.

IMG_0353One of my accomplishments here was to be the host and producer for a nationally televised series called “The Foreign Eye” during 2013 and 2014 for the Globo Network of Brazil. they sent me to all the cities of the World Cup to meet foreigners, check progress on infrastructure and stadium construction projects. I will write and share videos of my many adventures in the coming weeks as the Olympics approach. Hopefully, I can help navigate the city for many foreigners that need assistance.

COMING SOON! A web series detailing “things to do”, construction progress and security risks in Rio de Janeiro in the lead up to the Olympic Game schedule. This series should help many tourist find their way as well as give ideas for activities and for those who can not travel it will offer a nice escape.

 

Written by American in Brasil

May 2, 2016 at 10:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

AIB “Olhar Estrangeiro” in the news …

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Mark Lassise wraps up the “Olhar Estrangeiro” before the World Cup for the Rio Times!

TheRioTimes

Written by American in Brasil

August 28, 2014 at 11:25 am

Overseas Radio Network

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8/26/2014 Today I was honored to be on the program Belize Talk Radio with lovely host, Macarena Rose!

We talked television production, real estate and life in Brasil as a foreigner …

Check it out here:

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Written by American in Brasil

August 26, 2014 at 3:12 pm

World Cup 2014 travel report

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This “Foreign Eye” blog about Brasil aids foreigners in travel during the World Cup 2014 and those moving here to for longer, to start a new life.  Since 2008 our mission is to provide good information based on in-depth discovery through our travels, experiences and stories from the foreigners living and building lives in Brasil.  Now a successful television series on Globo.

OLHAR ESTRANGEIRO

12 Stadiums

   of the

 FIFA World Cup 2014

 

Mark Lassise has a unique perspective into the stadium construction, infrastructure and culture of every 2014 world cup city.  The independent production  of “Olhar Estrangeiro” is seen on Globo’s sportv “Tá na Area” every thursday.  Mark and his Brasilian production team have traveled to the 12 host cities, some various times over the past 18 months .  This experience has given AIB a unique perspective into the stadium construction, infrastructure and culture of every 2014 World Cup city.

1

Maracanã

Estadio Do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

Estadio Do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

Let’s begin with the most historic stadium in all of South America … 

This storied stadium has seen crowds in excess of 200,000 screaming fans during the World Cup finals of 1950. It has had a couple re-constructions since then.  The most recent being the 2011-2013 reconstruct to meet the standards of FIFA and the right to host the finals of the 2014 World Cup.  Though, I have mixed feelings about the reconstruction because it lost some of its magic of the past by reducing the size 20,000 plus capacity, eliminating section “GERAL” and the addition of numbered seats.

On the other hand, the championship stadium for the World Cup Finals of 2014 is in great shape, complete with first world upgrades including; 4 big screen stadium televisions, a new club level, metro bridge, and easy access entrances.  All the games I have experienced there in the new Maracana have been safe, fun, and in order without violence.  The stadium features english markings on all signage along with the use of symbols which translate in all languages.
The atmosphere in the new  Maracanã is as electric as before the reconstruction.  The Rio club teams gather some of the most passionate fans in the world.  These games are always full of music, chants and songs all game long!
The international contests of course have a different vibe with different fans but none the less a great stadium for futebol!  Maracanã is one of the few World Cup stadiums that have an abundance of volunteers that speak english and other languages at all enterances and corridors during all FIFA games. The best part is that this is the only World Cup stadium fans can arrive in front with a short walk to the gates.
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip) !
My tip for  Maracanã is to take the metro with confidence from the South Zone. It is a consistant 20 minute ride from General Osorio metro station. One thing to note about the beaches: The Gringo price exists in Rio de Janeiro, is a good policy and part of the Brasilian culture to always negotiate! 

2

Mineirão

mineirao

Mineirão in Belo Horizonte is a classic stadium and one of the “Big 3” of Brasil!  It went through a re-construction like that of Maracanã to prepare for the Confederations Cup 0f 2013.  Mineirão expanded their “Museu de Futebol”, a very interesting step in to the past of Minas Gerais and Nation futebol history.  The stadium is awesome; big, beautiful and well lit. The lower level seats are close to field level adding to the great experience.  Again the passion of clube futebol in Minas Gerais is as high a that of Rio de Janeiro. So, the club games are at a fever pitch. Though, BH will host a semi-finals match-up which should highen the energy of the International croud in attendance. The Brasil National team has a chance and is expected to land here for this game in this round. Guaranteed to give Mineirão yet another historic game to hang onto its Museum walls.
Like Maracana this stadium has an abundance of multi-lingual volunteers at enterances and roaming its corridors during FIFA events.
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip) !
My tip for Mineirão is to give yourself 2 hours to get to the stadium.  There is a plan for a metro but there is no metro. The traffic is terrible on game days. The buses and taxes during FIFA games cannot arive in front of the stadium.  Expect up to a 2 km walk for most people going to see a game at Mineirao.  Keep in mind this holds true for most of the World Cup stadiums of 2014.

3

São Paulo

Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

Arena de Sao Paulo “Itaquerão” will host the opening game between Brasil v Croatia.  The historic stadium has been regulated to be part of the museum tour.  The new modern structure is still under construction when we past through Sao Paulo 3 months ago.  We were not granted a tour due to the heavy construction under way at that time.  This stadium will build a new history starting with the World Cup 2014 hosting 6 games including the round of 16 and the semi-finals.  Strategically located at the end of the RED line “Corintians” on the SP metro system.  It takes about 110 minutes from the Morumbi neighborhood.

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  My tip for Sao Paulo is to get out and see the city.  It is huge and like new york you can cruise around everywhere by metro.  This also makes travel planning easier because of set times.

4

Salvador

Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

Arena Fonte Nova is a new facility built on the site of the old stadium.  It is complete and has been in operation since the Confederation Cup of 2013. Home to one of the biggest rivalries in clube futebol of Brasil “Vitoria v Bahia”.  The stadium is comfortable and on top of the action with a open face enterance that looks out over the lake.  Is not the easiest stdium to get to due to the high density of traffic in Salvador.  The city is still waiting for the metro that was promised and funded 14 years ago and would have a stop at the stadium. This is a cool laid back city with plenty of foreigners.

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  The tip for Salvador is to relax and be patience.  GAMEDAY: Leave plenty of time on game day to arrive at the stadium.

5

Fortaleza

Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza

Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza

Estadio Castelao is a giant structure built in the center of a run down area that is being revitalized far from where tourists will be staying.  Unique thing you’ll see here are donkeys in the streets!  A specific activity any normal tourist will definitely miss is the opportunity to walk on water with my friend Gael from France. He has a water sport company called “Aquafly”. There are very few of these in the world and possibly his is the only in brasil.  The last time I was in Fortaleza I found this really cool Pirate Bar that offers a musical show only on Mondays…really fun time!

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)! Find a private driver to get around.  Fortaleza is full of water sports, get physical!

6

Brasilia

Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia

Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia

Estadio National is a new build on the same site as the old Stadium in operation since the Confederation Cup 2013.  A colosseum in likeness this giant stadium is a sustainable development project and the most expensive of all the stadiums costing a whopping 1.4 Billion reais.  Though, its function is alot more than to host football games.  It solar panel roof adds back up to the city grid when not in use and it also features a rooftop and ground level reservoir that capture rain water for the use in its plumbing system. Brasilia is the only planned city in Brasil and very well spaced out and segregated into sections in the north and south wings. Communication in Brasilia is strong, I always use my english here with little to no trouble.

Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  Relax! All tourist visiting for the World Cup will probably find Estadio National the easiest to get to because it is located next to the hotel section. Impossible to miss and can be seen from all directions. One can arrive at the front gates after a 15 minute walk from any hotel.

7

Recife

Arena Pernambuco, Recife

Arena Pernambuco, Recife

Arena Pernambuco is the furtherst away from anything you can get! I have been there twice and both times missed the beginning of the game! Everyone will have problems arriving there if they do not read this or have a friend that lives there.  Prepare Gringos! This is a 2:30 hour trek to your seats and PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to the metro stops!  Rodoviaria stop is the stop to get off to catch the buses that go to the stadium 2 stops before the map points out.  If you follow the map to the stadium stop at the end of the line you will find no buses for the stadium. The historic district of Recife is very cool on weekends; concerts in the park, bars and art gallery.  Check out PeRetro in the mall by the Praça Mark”0″. They have the coolest vintage shirts representing seemily every clube and national team worldwide!

Mark’s Big Dica(Tip!)! Arena Pernambuco is a big new stadium with plenty of comforts BUT it takes the minimum 2 hours to get there with a 1 km walk to enter the stadium. I would stay in the city and watch the games at a bar close to Praca Marco Zero!

8

Porto Alegre

Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre

Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre

Estádio Beira-Rio was still under construction when I arrived for my tour of the stadium.  I never got to see this one in action and at the time I was there in February, it had a swirl of controversy about preparedness.  There was a ton of work left to do and apparently now 3 months later things have worked out satisfactorily.  If Beira-Rio is anything like the new Gremio Stadium a couple kilometers down the road, things will rockin’ during the world cup 2014. The people in the south of Brasil are called “Gaúchos” and they have an extreme pride about their history and importance to Brasil.  They wave their state flag of Rio Grande do Sul higher than that of the country flag.                                                                                                                                                                  
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!  Treat yourself to a Gaúcho churrasco, and use taxis for your travel around town.

9

Natal

Estadio das Dunas, Natal

Estadio das Dunas, Natal

Arena das Dunas is a gorgeous stadium, just not sure if its really needed in this military beach town.  There is no real city here that I experienced.  The attendant at the airport  INFO center told me “We now need a first world city to go around our new modern stadium”. The roads are a mess around the stadium with what seems to be dozen infrastructure projects going on at the same time, though, the city is very easy to navigate because it has one major road.  The experience at the stadium was awesome, the game I saw there was for big stakes and the fans for the “América Futebol Clube (RN)” danced and sang more than any I have witnessed during my 2 tours of all the stadiums in Brasil over the last 16 months.  It was a great vibe, I expect a great experience for the foreigners coming the Natal for the world cup!
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!   Go to the Dunas of Genipabu, take a jeep tour and enjoy the ride…One of the best experiences of my life!

10

Manaus

Arena da Amazonia, Manaus

Arena da Amazonia, Manaus

Arena da Amazonia was a huge surprise for me!  Contrary to the reports and stories I was reading on the English news sites before I went that talked negatively about Manaus.  I found an amazing city ready to host the thousands of English support that will surely be here for the World Cup!  They are many Brasilians that say Manaus does not need a stadium.  However, I found a city that now has the capacity to welcome foreigners and hold huge events for years beyond the World Cup.  Not all is perfect here, they are missing the promised lite rail train system, that was supposed to be ready along with the stadium.  This is not surprising after learning firsthand all the mysterious metro stories from many of the host cities.  The games will be awesome here, the Americans and English will feel comfortable in Manaus. Though, the club passion here is somewhat subdued compared to the futebol spirit in the rest of the cities.
Mark’s Big Dica (Tip)!   If you are going to Manaus do not miss the opportunity to take a boat ride up the Rio Negro river!  The Amazon is a life experience! Go to Ariau Amazon Towers, follow the path of Jacques Cousteau and disconnect from all that you know as reality.

11

Cuiabá

Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba

Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba

Arena Patanal is the stadium that was questioned the most by the opposition of the 12 stadium plan.  I landed there in May to what is a major construction zone; the airport to city roads to bridges and underpasses.  It took us 2 hours to navigate the way to the stadium with a dozen detours. We missed the first goal scored at the new stadium.  Though it has charm and a cool design, looking to me like a pontoon boat, there was a entire upper deck that needed seats; the lights were not operating in unison leaving the field semi-dark for 10 minutes at dusk; and the city itself is simply inside out with construction everywhere.  But the game was fun!  Cuiabá in my estimation has the worst roads to navigate because the construction is so intense. 11 of the 13 infrastructure projects are behind.  Detours are everywhere, hard to imagine when the FIFA traffic pattern rules are implemented.  The city itself is lacking and confusing. Good Luck!

 

Mark’s Big Dica!  If you are going to Cuiabá get out of the city and GOTO the PANTANAL(110kms from city) or CHAPADA DOS GUIMARAES(80kms away and visable from the city)!  Go and enjoy the natural paradises that this regoin is known by, recommended by all including the city info center.

12

Curitiba

Arena da Baixada, Curitiba

Arena da Baixada, Curitiba

I need to start off with how impressed I was to the organization of this southern-bell of a city!   Top-notch, and you can take the bus!! The first host city I was encouraged by locals to take their world renowned public bus lines.  I felt like I was back in Montgomery County Maryland where I grew up outside of Washington DC. There was not a piece of trash in the street, chilly with winter around the corner, people hustling and bustling everywhere.  However, the stadium situation contradicts the standards of Curitiba.  The inside of Arena Baixada is awesome, appears to be on a higher quality of materials used in its construction and design, than that of all the other stadiums.  With two huge support trusses that hold the roof in place. Large enough for camera crews to roam, should be some great shots if the games happen. Owned by Clube Atlético Paranaense with private investment the construction is way behind with foundation and structural phases to the press wing still underway 2o days ago when I visited.  It will definitely come down to the wire here! But great city!!
Mark’s Big Dica!  Just relax and dress warm it will be the dead of winter with frost and very seldom snow dustings. Take the CITY BUS TOUR,  the vibe of Curitiba will make any European or American feel close to home.