Friday, January 22, 2016

Rio: Where the world competes in 2016

Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the famous natural landmarks that makes Rio de Janeiro so appealing  (wikipedia)
RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZILAs a destination for the Olympic games of 2016, Rio de Janeiro, which means “River of January” in Portuguese, will be a tough act to follow when it comes to sheer natural beauty.

The “girl(s) from Ipanema” will be there along with the gorgeous women from all the other beaches in the land of three “Ss”; sun, Samba and sensuality.

The world gathers in Rio in 2016 (wikipedia)
With Rio’s alluring humpbacked Sugarloaf Mountain peering down at miles of sun-drenched beaches and the outstretched arms of the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain, Rio will arguably be the most seductive site ever for the Olympics.

Settled in 1565 by the Portuguese, part of Rio was designated a World Heritage Cultural Landscape in 1912. “Rio de Janeiro Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea” could not be a more appropriate title.

Rio’s rhythms are infectious. It is a city where beaches beckon and life centers around the sea and sand. With its symbolic black, white and red mosaic promenade representing the mixture of black, white and Indian cultures, Rio boasts the world famous Carnival with its Latin rhythms of Samba, Bossa Nova and Baineario, world class beaches like Ipanema, Copacabana, Prainha, Barra da Tijuca and Leblon and massive attractions both man-made and natural including Maracana Stadium, one of the world’s largest football (soccer) arena. It’s an ideal combination for the global athletic competitions of the Olympic Games.

Even without the sports of summer (which will be winter in Rio when they take place), Rio is one of the most visited countries in the Southern Hemisphere.
Christ the Redeemer is an unforgettable sight watching over the city of Rio de Janeiro  (wikipedia)
With an arm span of 92-feet, the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer is impossible to ignore. Created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa between 1922 and 1931, Christ the Redeemer has been protecting Rio for nearly eight decades and, in the process, earning itself the title of one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.”

Situated atop Corcovado Mountain amid the Tijuca National Forest, the statue has become a symbol of Christianity to the world and a cultural icon of both the city of Rio de Janeiro and the country of Brazil. It is easily reached by taking the Corcovado Rack Railway.

Rio's beaches are world famous -- Sugarloaf Mountain is in the background (wikipedia)
Among the most popular natural wonders of Rio is Sugarloaf Mountain which is only one of several granite/quartz monoliths rising from the waters Guanabara Bay. Overlooking Rio’s famous beaches, a panoramic cable car takes visitors between the peaks of Pão de Açúcar and Morro da Urca every 20 minutes.

“Sugarloaf” gets its name from the heyday of the sugar cane industry in Brazil in the 16th century. At that time, blocks of sugar were placed in cone-shaped molds for export to other parts of the world. Sugarloaf Mountain resembled those molds and the rest is history.

Mosaic sidewalks are a historic symbol  (wikipedia)
Rio wouldn’t be Rio without its famed 2 ½ mile stretch of crowded sand that nestles beneath luxurious high rise hotels and the natural splendor of its mountains. While bikinis consisting of little more than a few pieces of string add to the sensuality and ambiance that is Rio, the city did not get its first nude beach until 2014.

Even so, it’s a good bet that beach volleyball will be among the most popular events when the 2016 games get underway.

By August the world-famous Carnival will be months in the past, but never fear, there’s a great, and far less crowded, alternative. Though Carnival itself is centuries old, the Samba Schools of Rio have only been around for about 100 years.

Immigrants from Bahia brought the Samba to the slums of downtown Rio in the 1920s. Known as “Little Africa” they established numerous houses devoted to religious ceremonies and dance.
Nowhere is the Carnival more famous than in Rio, but the Samba Schools are a great alternative (wikipedia)
Though the name “Samba Schools” implies the instruction of dance, the schools are actually clubs where various neighborhoods practice for months in preparation for the Carnival parade. Rehearsals are open to the public for a small fee and there you can get the flavor and atmosphere of Carnival without the throngs of humanity.

Copacabana is just one of Rio's beaches  (wikipedia)
Vegetarians beware, a trip to Brazil is not complete without visiting a traditional Churrascaria. This is a meat lover’s paradise where rotisserie-style chicken, beef, lamb, duck and pork among other meats are served in an endless parade of servings until everyone at the table calls it quits.

Don’t forget to wash it all down with Brazil’s national cocktail known as a Caipirinha. This sugarcane derived alcohol is similar to a Margarita only about three times more lethal.

Rio at dusk with its silhouetted contours and breathtaking natural beauty  (wikipedia)
If the world doesn’t know about Rio yet, it soon will when the Carnival of the Olympics takes us to South America.