We exit the train and are struck by the marvellous view over Rio. We’ve been here before, but today is an exceptionally clear day. “A great day for taking pictures,” I think to myself. We walk up a small flight of stairs under the right arm of the Christ. There are not many people on the site. A man is leaning on the balustrade overlooking the Lagoon and Ipanema. As he looks up, we recognise Eike Batista.
“Welcome to one of my favourite spots,” he says. “I wanted to meet you here, to show you one of my greatest passions: Rio. By sharing my story about Rio with you, you’ll get an insight into how I run my business; from a holistic perspective. “Let me start with my vision,” Eike says while stretching his arm to invite us to follow him and walk around the Christ statue. “It started with the idea of making Rio the most beautiful city in the world. I wanted to make the city safe, prosperous, clean and attractive. The perfect city for living and working. Cidade Maravilhosa.”
I take out my camera and zoom in on Sugarloaf Mountain, which we just passed by car. A cable car just left the ground station. I wait until it is halfway and press the shutter. “Great shot,” I think to myself. “Rio certainly has the looks to be the most beautiful city in the world.”
“That’s an ambitious vision. What was the next step?” Anouk asks.
“To achieve my goal,” Eike says, “I needed to involve more people, raise the stakes. But how? How could I get politics involved? And how could I engage the man on the street?”
I’m trying to think of a good answer, but I come up blank. “I hope the questions were rhetorical,” I think to myself.
“Then I saw the light,” Eike says while raising his index finger. “The answer was in the Olympics. If we could get the Olympic Games to Rio, then we’d be on the international stage. It would also give politics the necessary push. So I decided to invest a lot of effort into the bid for the Olympic Games.”
“Clearly you chose the right way to go, as the Olympics will indeed be here in 2016,” Anouk says. “And everybody is talking about it, from politics to the man on the street. And not only in Rio, or even Brazil.”
“That is exactly what we needed – to create a good climate for investors,” Eike says. “We got the train rolling.”
We walk on, following the balustrade, until we’re overlooking downtown Rio and Guanabara Bay. I look through my camera and focus on Santa Theresa. This is where we took the historical tramway over the Lapa bridge up on the hills and where we had a great lunch overlooking the busy city centre. I focus on the bay, adapt my shutter speed and click. “Nice shot,” I think out loud.
“Okay, so you got everybody’s attention,” Anouk says. “What were your next steps?”
“So Rio was on the international stage, and everybody was focused,” Eike continues. “The time was right for the operational part. This plan included over one hundred things to deal with; good challenges, including cleaning the Lagoon, restoring Copacabana to its original glory, renovating the downtown area, upgrading the port area, building a new modern art museum, improving the city’s infrastructure, and many more.”
I scan the city through my lens and see an aeroplane taking off from Santos Dumont Airport. More to the left I see the port area, which is being completely renovated while keeping the old look and feel intact. I continue to the left and zoom in on Maracana football stadium. “What about Maracana?” I ask.
“Maracana was built to host the World Cup football in the 1950s,” Eike responds. “It is being completely renovated for the World Cup in 2014. When it’s finished, it will once again be the stadium the whole world is jealous about.”
“What about the favelas?” Anouk asks. “Are they also part of the master plan?”
“I’m not a great believer in treating symptoms,” Eike responds, ”I believe more in stimulating the local economy and creating jobs. The master plan will create prosperity, also in the favelas. You don’t give a hungry man a fish, you teach him how to fish.”
We’re passing under the left arm of the Christ statue and behind the Corcovado mountains we can see the Tijuca Forest, stretching as far as the eye can see. “This is the world’s largest urban forest, covering some 32 km2,” Eike says pointing at the mountains, “the original rainforest covered the entire Brazilian coast when the Portuguese set foot on land some centuries ago. Tijuca Forest is therefore something we should protect.”
“So what makes you so successful?” Anouk asks.
“It all starts with passion,” Eike responds, “passion is my power. From there it’s like the full circle we made overlooking Rio de Janeiro. This is also the way I look at things. A 360-degree, holistic approach. Add perseverance and you can make things happen.”
I turn my camera on Eike and zoom in on his face and push the shutter. “The power of passion,” I think to myself.
© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands2 February,2013