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Opinion: Is the National Stadium for all Peruvians?

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By Víctor Vich for LaMula.pe
Translated and edited by Jorge Riveros-Cayo

Opinion: Is the National Stadium for all Peruvians?
The National Stadium was inaugurated by president Alan García last Sunday, despite it has not been finished. (Image: LaMula.pe)

Beyond the accusations about the constant budget excesses, the truth is that the photographs of the new National Stadium are shocking. Not because of its modern design or the funny lights on the exterior structure of the stadium, but instead due to its eloquent remodeling that seems to have been done to benefit a minority and not to accommodate a larger amount of spectators. The excessive boxes built have been privatized in benefit of that minority that can enjoy the economic growth.

How could such an architectural design be approved? How is it possible that the remodeling of the National Stadium was planned for only the benefit of a few? What happened is incredible and shameful, not only, as I said, because of the undeniable evidences of budget mismanagements, but for the symbology of its new design and what it represents: The condescending enjoyment of those that have power to mark the difference between the rich and the poor.

Is there any questioning among our Peruvian liberal thinkers about the limits of how the capital should function and the power it serves? Some years ago, in the middle of an electoral campaign, Woodman – current president of the Peruvian Sports Institute (IPD) – was accused for being “the candidate of the rich,” not because of the wealth he actually has, but instead for representing a “vision of the world” that ignores inequality, and that seems to promote it instead, and that doesn’t seem compromised in fighting it back.

I’ll explain myself: Any stadium from any private sports club has the right to build all the exclusive boxes it can. But the National Stadium cannot follow such a model because it is a “national” site, a public place for all. Hence, its design should have had in mind to promote an experience of integration instead of encouraging hierarchy and disparity.

The authoritarianism that exists in Peru doesn’t only refer to a lifestyle but to the way public management is executed. Nowadays, we witness a “capital authoritarianism” that wipes out anything in its way. Today we observe, more and more, the oppressive presence of economic power and its unlimited exercise over cities and citizens. Far from having learned something from the last decades, in Peru we keep observing the absolute lack of interest to neutralize existing hierarchies, at least at a symbolic level.

During this last presidential campaign, we were told that in order to have “chorreo” – the dripping of the so called economic growth – first there should be a major generation of wealth. But what is actually happening is totally the opposite. The more wealth there is, the more hierarchies that appear and a more sophisticated system of social exclusion is built. The new boxes of the remodeled National Stadium are an excellent example of this. They are horrendous because they are a clear sign of a period marked by absolute tyranny of the capital, and the complicity of a State that is passively subjugated to its power.

In the past, architects had in mind the collective organization of space that, in theory, belonged to everybody. This is why, fifty years ago, the National Stadium was designed with smaller soccer fields surrounding it. It was an open and friendly place profoundly integrated with the population. Today it is exactly the opposite. It can be quite of a bad taste to say it now, but when Peruvians start to attend the games of our soccer team at the National Stadium, what we will sadly see is a sports building that will confront us, once again, with a harshly fragmented society, (maybe much more than before) and insistently hierarchical.

Regardless of the optimistic speeches that circulate about progress and development, we still have in Peru a social enjoyment to mark inequalities and to be delighted by them. In the very few days left of his administration, president Alan García keeps inaugurating hideously monumental buildings, many of them badly constructed or not finished. Is this a successful and democratizing government? “Ha, ha,” I would say as Bryce’s stupendous book title.

Víctor Vich is an associate professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) and a principal researcher at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP).  He is one of the most insightful academics in Peru today.

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