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Are Extreme Temperatures Threatening Live Music Events?

When Nathalia Barbieri excitedly left her house for the Taylor Swift concert in Rio de Janeiro, she never expected her evening to turn into tragedy.

“I was jumping around, I was so excited,” she told the BBC. But only a few hours later, Nathalia fainted in the stifling heat at Nilton Santos stadium, where the concert was held.

Temperatures had soared past 40C amid a record-breaking heatwave. She passed out only minutes into Swift’s set and was rushed to an on-site medical tent.

“I was just grateful I was alive,” she said, reflecting on the ordeal.

That concert, on 17 November, claimed the life of a Taylor Swift fan: 23-year-old Ana Clara Benevides Machado, who died, reportedly from a cardiac arrest, after having been at the venue for over eight hours.

Nathalia, who was drifting in and out of consciousness, saw Ana Clara slouched on an adjacent stretcher as medics rushed around her.

Ana Clara’s death has provoked a discussion on whether concert promoters need to do more to safeguard fans in countries experiencing extreme weather conditions.

On social media platforms, attendees accused the company which promoted the Taylor Swift concert in Rio, Tickets for Fun (T4F), of failing fans.

They complained in particular about not being allowed to take water bottles into the venue and pointed out that only those near the front of the stage were given small cups of water.

A campaign has been launched by fans in Ana Clara’s memory, demanding that authorities and promoters supply free bottles of water.

“We saw a fatality happen before our eyes due to pure negligence,” reads the campaign blurb. “Brazilian consumers are fed up with being disrespected by million-dollar companies that do not care about the consumer.”

Nathalia Barbieri lying on a stretcher during the Taylor Swift concert in Rio

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, also tweeted his disapproval of the way the event was managed, and wrote that the municipality would take action against T4F.

Days after the tragedy, T4F released a statement, pointing to climate change as the culprit: “Rising temperatures caused by climate change are a reality,” it reads, and stressing that in more than 40 years of event management the organisation has ensured safety for more than 50 million event attendees. “We are all subject to adverse weather conditions, and any best practice can always be perfected.”

Fans including Nathalia were dissatisfied with T4F’s response. “We’ve been warned about climate change for more than thirty, forty years. It is not an excuse,” she said.

Content Creator Julia Alvarenga went to Swift’s second concert in Rio on 18 November. She said fans once again had to waited in intense heat to get into the stadium, where, after hours, they were eventually told that the show was cancelled.

“I thought they would cancel it that morning, because of what happened to Ana, but they didn’t,” she said. Julia says that the sudden cancellations when fans were already at the venue caused chaos: “People were overwhelmed, and we had no security around the stadium and everyone was lost trying to leave.”

The BBC reached out to T4F for comment but has not received a reply.

It is not the first time that extreme heat has marred outdoor events in South America this year.

In Chile, several acts paused their sets to assist fainting fans in the crowd at the Lollapalooza music festival as a heatwave caused unseasonably high temperatures in March.

People arrive to the closing day of Lollapalooza Chile 2023 at Parque Cerrillos on March 19, 2023 in Santiago, Chile

And it is not just heat which has disrupted concerts.

The second day of the Brazilian instalment of dance-fest Tomorrowland was cancelled due to massive storms. Videos shared on social media platform TikTok showed tents being blown in rampant winds with festival goers anxiously sheltering inside.

And one of Taylor Swift’s shows in Argentina was postponed due to heavy rains.

Bárbara Rodríguez, an academic at the University of Chile’s architecture department who specialises in green infrastructure, says that organisers should adapt to the challenges thrown up by climate change: “Climate change is foreseeable and we can adapt.”

Ms Rodríguez argues that promoters should ensure fans do not have to queue for hours in the heat and should allow them to take water into the venue.

“The producers are in charge of the controls and security,” she stresses.

She also thinks that authorities that manage the venues must consider providing “greener areas” including shaded zones and hydration points.

“it is easy to adapt existing infrastructure,” she argues, explaining that stadiums do not need to be built from scratch to achieve this.

While she cites the Pan-American games held in Chile in November as a positive example of the use of green infrastructure, she laments that much of Latin America “does not take heatwaves seriously” and lacks “regulatory bodies to advise on how to organise an event”.

After Ana Clara’s death, Taylor Swift rescheduled her second concert in Rio and released a statement on social media, “I can’t even tell you how devastated I am by this,” she wrote.

Last Sunday, Ana Clara’s relatives were pictured backstage with Swift at the last of the singer’s Brazil concerts, which took place in São Paulo. They wore white T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Ana Clara’s smiling face.

Nathalia’s memories of Taylor Swift’s Rio concert are eclipsed by the hellish experience she had of medical tents crammed with dehydrated and unconscious fans.

Since that night, she has had trouble sleeping and is still suffering trauma. She had been anticipating Beyoncé’s Renaissance show, which rumour has it may come to Latin America in 2024, but has now changed her mind.

“I don’t think I’m going to go anymore. I don’t feel good about it. Maybe later on in my life, in another country, maybe.”

Source : BBC