Brazilians look on London 2012 with envy, but vow to throw a better Olympics party in Rio
Next hosts know they have a hard act to follow
Rio de Janeiro
Monday 13 August 2012
Even before their Mayor received the Olympic flag from Boris Johnson last night, the citizens of Rio de Janeiro could feel the gaze of the sporting world begin shifting their way.
Brazilian flags and Union flags have hung side by side in bars over the past fortnight, and newspaper cartoons have depicted a glossy, barely-dressed Brazilian carnival queen in place of Elizabeth during the 2016 Opening Ceremony.
Last night, the anticipation reached a new pitch. The success of London 2012 has added a dose of anxiety into the mix. "The near-perfect organisation has made a big impression, suddenly leaving Rio with an even greater weight of responsibility," said the newspaper Extra.
But overall, the mood is one of enthusiasm. Brazil is determined to showcase itself as a country moving from the developing to the developed world. The glimpse it offered last night recreated the infectious enthusiasm of Rio's carnival: the city's best samba schools featured alongside 82 drummers, the gritty rapper Bnegao and Renato Sorriso, a street sweeper who became a Brazilian folk hero after videos of his dance moves at Carnival went viral.
"We are very excited," said Cristiano Boccolini, a nutritionist who works for the municipal government. "I went to the dentist and they were showing the volleyball. Even with my mouth open the dentist was checking the TV channel. That's the spirit I am feeling here."
And it isn't just Cariocas, as residents of Rio are known. For Marcelo Pedroso, director of international markets at Embratur, the Brazilian Tourist Board, the country is living through a beautiful moment: "The feeling is that the whole country is getting ready to welcome the first Olympic Games to be held in South America," he said. A poll by the Octagon, a sports marketing agency, found that almost half of Brazilians have been watching the London Games daily.
Eduardo Paes, Rio's Mayor, knows there are challenges ahead. But he was upbeat during his trip to London for the Olympics. "People complain, they don't believe it will be done," he said. "But Rio will deliver."
While some question that optimism, looking anxiously at London's well-oiled machine, most are more relaxed about what they see as the inevitable differences we will see at the Rio Games. The reputation of the UK in Brazil is of a regimented, orderly society whose trains always run on time, characterised best by the expression Hora Britânica, or British Time, which is synonymous with punctuality. That, Cariocas acknowledge, just isn't really them.
"There's a strange mix of envy and pride here in acknowledging that here we are less organised and will probably have to factor in a degree of lateness," said Daniel Irby, who works at the Maternidade Herculano Pinheiro hospital in Rio. "But we will throw the better party."
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