Caipirinhas in Rio after 2016 Olympics win

Last Updated: Saturday, October 3, 2009 - 21:32

Rio de Janeiro: Confetti poured over 50,000 cheering Brazilians, swimsuit-clad revelers waved green, yellow and blue flags and bartenders worked overtime serving caipirinhas to celebrate one of Rio`s proudest moments: The 2016 Olympics are coming to the Marvelous City.

Beamed live from Copenhagen to Copacabana, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge`s announcement of the winning bid elicited a huge roar from the anxious crowd gathered on the fine white sands of Rio de Janeiro`s famed beach.

"How wonderful is this? We couldn`t be any happier," 22-year-old student Fernanda Justo said. "It`s going to be like Carnival for a long time. We deserved to win the Olympics, and now we have to celebrate."

As President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sobbed with joy in Denmark along with football great Pele, bronzed Cariocas — as Rio residents are known — raised their arms, danced the samba and hugged each other on a balmy, sunny day.

The crowd unveiled a banner half the size of a football field with the city`s logo, an image of the monumental Christ the Redeemer statue, and "Rio Loves You" written in English.

Then they hit the bars to down the famed caipirinhas — a potent tropical cocktail made from sugarcane liquor, fresh lime juice, sugar and ice.

Rio`s 6 million citizens believe the games — the first Olympics for South America — have the power to transform the entire region, promote social integration and leave a lasting legacy in a city known for its striking landscape and pristine beaches, but also overwhelming poverty and shocking homicide rates.

In Rio`s sprawling slums, police and heavily armed drug traffickers openly engage in urban warfare that frequently kills or wounds innocent bystanders. Even the highway to the international airport is periodically shut down by shootouts.

But the government has promised significant improvements to get the city ready. And Cariocas are hoping to benefit.

"This is huge for Rio and for the entire country," said 67-year-old Sueli Ferreira, wearing a hat with the colors of the Brazilian flag. "It`s going to be good for the economy, good for the people. This gives us hope that things will be better here."

Silva, who gave bear hugs to members of Brazil`s Olympic delegation, called Friday a "sacred day" as he was interviewed by Brazilian reporters in Copenhagen.

"If I died right now, my life would have been worthwhile," Silva said. "No one can now doubt the strength of Brazil`s economy, its social greatness and our ability to present a plan."

He said Brazil`s passion, heart and soul helped the city outdo Madrid, Chicago and Tokyo after failed bids to land the 1936, 2004 and 2012 games.

"This is a day to commemorate because Brazil has left behind its status of a second-class nation," Silva said. "Today we`re getting the respect that Brazil has been deserving."

Winning the 2016 Olympics means more than the right to host the prestigious event, it means Rio and its 6 million people likely will benefit from the billions of dollars potentially available through new investments.

Olympic visitors will take in Rio`s stunning beaches and famous landmarks such as Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue, which gazes down at the city from atop a rain forest-covered peak.

Brazil is relying on a robust economy to fund its $14.4 billion games budget — the largest of any bidding city. Some worry, however, that persistent corruption could keep some money from going to those who need it most.

"If they do what they promised to do, it will be great," 45-year-old retiree Edinalva Kzolw said. "Rio can only benefit from this if everything is done correctly, but here in Brazil you never know. I`m hopeful on one hand and skeptical on the other."

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, October 3, 2009 - 21:32

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