01.18.10

RIO DE JANEIRO – OLYMPICS 2016

Posted in Brazilian Culture at 04:36 pm by admin

Though I find it hard to believe that Brazil is finally going to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2016, I am thrilled at this news and have heard from many Brazilian friends who share my excitement.

It’s unbelievable to me that no South American city has ever hosted the Summer Olympic Games. I am sure that all South Americans share in Brazil’s pride and they are hopeful that, in the future, they will have the same opportunity and honor.

This accomplishment will tell you how much Brazil has progressed since I was a young girl growing up in Florianopolis. In my adult life, I try to visit Brazil about every five years. I am always impressed by the progress. My Brazilian family, who had been very poor in the 40’s and 50’s, had never dreamt of having financial security or attaining social status, but today most Brazilians live in beautiful homes and own one or two automobiles. Twenty years ago I visited a cousin in Brasilia and saw his beautiful home with a swimming pool in the back yard and several newer cars in the driveway. Brazil has a growing middle class and the standard of living is escalating.

Of course, there is still poverty. The favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro are plainly visible from the luxurious hotels of Copacabana and Ipanema. I will blog later telling of life in the favelas.

The most common question I am asked now is: “Will Rio de Janeiro be safe for the tourists during the Olympics?” Many people tell me stories of recent visits and how they were advised not to leave their hotel at night. This always surprises me. Three years ago Bill and I stayed in Copacabana at Carmem’s home, the same woman I mention in the prologue to Divine Betrayal. We stayed with her for over a week, and jogged daily on Copacabana Beach, only four blocks from her home.

Copacabana Beach is full of vendors, café’s, many sand sculptures, and artists etc…. It is a fun place to walk and it is always bustling with activity. On Sundays they block off part of the busy street to accommodate the runners, bike riders, and leisure walkers. At no time was I approached or harassed by a vendor. They often smiled and said “Bom Dia” (good morning). This was not so years ago, when the minute you walked out of your hotel, five to 10 children approached you asking for money or trying to sell you candy or gum. I’m happy to report that this did not happen on my most recent visit. Even the licensed vendors didn’t harass the passersby.

At night my husband Bill and I often walked about a mile from Carmem’s house to a music store with live Jazz concerts. We never felt any danger. But I took one important precaution: I left all my jewelry at home, even my wedding ring. I never donned fancy purses, or wore fancy clothes. Bill dresses like the Brazilian men, which is very casual and easy to imitate. The main thing is not to look like a rich tourist.

There are police stations on every corner of Avenida Atlantica, the street in front of Copacabana beach. I am sure that during the Olympics these corner police huts will be multiplied on every street near hotels and places where tourists will be staying. I believe Rio will be a safe place to visit and even so, I hope the tourists will use common sense in their appearance and remember that there is suffering and poverty close by. It is important for visitors not to flaunt their wealth.

Warmly,

Graceann, author of Divine Betrayal

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