Wouldn't You Like To Be On A Beach In Rio Right Now? Maybe Not!

by BILLY GRAY · February 10, 2010

On the cusp of its bacchanalian Carnival, Rio's mayor is cracking down on all the fun that made the city's beaches an international destination. A coastline devoid of food vendors and volleyball (and with new port-a-potties!) seems incomplete. But, no, I'll still say it beats blizzardy New York right now.

Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes has implemented a "Shock Order" campaign to clean up the legendary Ipanema Beach. The shoreline now includes orange garbage bins and portable loos. Not too tragic. But as Alexei Barrionuevo writes in the Times, it gets worse:

""For.. less obvious safety reasons, beachgoers are prohibited from playing paddle ball or kicking a soccer ball near the water’s edge between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pets at the beach? Forget about it."

Paes also put the kibosh on the sale of traditional oceanfront delicacies like shrimp, steak and boiled corn. And in the most outrageous, blasphemous development, enforcers have confiscated caipirinhas.

It all brings to mind crackdowns in other cities on some of their signature elements: murder in New York, brothels in Amsterdam and pollution in Beijing in the lead-up to that city's hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. (Rio's pick as the host of the 2016 summer games is cited as a major incentive behind this and other cleanups.)

And while I've applauded other efforts to reign in Rio's chaos in anticipation of those delicate Olympians (like the program that enrolled prostitutes in design school), this seems to endanger some cherished, harmless traditions of the locals in what the Times describes as their ultimate "social hub."

On the bright side, it reminds us all that the also-ran Winter Olympics are starting up in just two days in Vancouver (since no one seems to be talking about that). And, however briefly, it takes my mind off the blinding, wind-driven snow that has me seeking shelter here at home.

[Photos Courtesy of André Vieira for The New York Times]