Rio Olympics Tourist’s delight: Samba to Copa to Maracana
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Visitors to the Rio Olympics will be able to see most of city’s famed landmarks without roaming far from the venues.
The city took pains to use its most famous spots as the competition sites or backdrops at South America’s first Games.
First stop — The Sambadrome, home of the city’s raucous Carnival parade, transformed into the venue for archery and the start and finish of the marathon.
Second stop — Beach volleyball on Copacabana, its 4-kilometer (2.5 mile) promenade flanked by kiosks serving up caipirinhas, and vendors opening coconuts with machetes.
And the soccer tournament will end at the storied Maracana stadium.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to do,” said Agberto Guimaraes, a former Brazilian middle-distance runner who oversees the venues for the Rio Games. “We really wanted to bring those sports to the heart of the city.”
In reality, there will be three Rio Games.
Most of the marquee events are in the new Olympic Park, which is being built in the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from Rio’s most famous sights. Swimming, gymnastics and tennis will be here along with many of the Games other high-profile sports.
A second venue cluster called Deodoro is going up around a military facility in an impoverished part of northern Rio. The cluster will include mountain biking, BMX, rugby sevens and several other sports.
Then there’s what could be called “The Real Rio Games” taking place in the postcard heart of the city with its familiar views of Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue.
“When you talk about Rio de Janeiro to anyone outside of this country, the picture they have is really Copacabana and the Carnival,” Guimaraes said.
Here’s a quick look at the “The Real Rio Games”:
This is where Rio’s famous Carnival parade takes place. It’s smack in the center of a rough-and-tumble neighborhood that’s transformed yearly by the all-night Samba parades, the floats, the wildly costumed musicians, and the dancers coated with feathers and sequins and little else.
The hulking venue, build by famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, features a wide runway flanked by tiers of stands rising high above the show below, very much like seating in a football stadium.
It’ll be more sedate for the Olympics. Archery requires silence.
Teruo Shinkai, the manager of Japan’s archery team who is in Rio this week for a test event, said he was used to competing at famous venues. In London, archery took place at the Lord’s Cricket Ground in west London.
“This is a real pleasure for us,” Shinkai said. “We’re happy to be here because it’s world famous, and also it’s iconic and historic. Lord’s was also well-known. But for me I knew about the Sambadrome, but not so much about the cricket.”
Soccer will be played here, and it is also the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies.
Matches will also be played in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Salvador, Sao Paulo, and Manaus — and in the Joao Havelange stadium in central Rio, which will also hosting track and field.
Despite five World Cup titles, Brazil has never won the Olympic men’s football gold medal. Brazil took silver in London, losing 2-1 to Mexico in the final.
Right next door is the Maracanazinho (The Little Maracana), which will host indoor volleyball. This will be an even hotter ticket than soccer. Brazil won gold in women’s volleyball in the last two Olympics — beating the United States each time. The men have been the silver medalists the last two times, and took gold in 2004.
Beach volleyball will be center stage, though Copa is also the venue for the triathlon and distance swimming.
Giovane Gavio, who managed the recent beach volleyball test event at Copa, said the venue captures a slice of real Rio life.
“When you walk around here on the weekend you can see hundreds of beach volleyball nets and everybody is playing,” he said. “So the Olympics are mixing history with the reality of Copacabana.”
Brazil is a power here, too. The men won silver in the last two Olympics, and gold in Athens in 2004. The women were bronze medalists in London, took silver in Athens, silver in Sydney, and were the gold-medal winners in Atlanta in 1996, when beach volleyball debuted.
Organizers will not be trucking in sand as they did three years ago in London when the event was held at Horse Guards Parade, a short walk from the prime minister’s residence at No. 10 Downing Street.
“We’ll be using the plentiful sand that already exists,” Rio 2016 organizers said in a statement.
SNTV producer Filipe de Almeida contributed to this report.
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP