Rio prepares for the Olympics

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Rio Prepares for the Olympics

Rio de Janeiro is experiencing a traumatic transformation, to prepare it to host one of the most important sporting events in the world – the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Civil construction works are sprouting up all over the city, and of course also underground – with the expansion of the Metro system.

Gamboa obras

VLT tracks being laid in Gamboa – on the left is the English Cemetery

Among the areas most affected is the City Center, where many of its historic buildings are concentrated. Also famous as the birthplace of Brazilian Samba, the city is experiencing a revitalization of the Port area, now known as “Porto Maravilha” (Wonderful Port) overlooking beautiful Guanabara Bay. One of the highlights of this area is the Praça Mauá (Mauá Square), which was first built at the start of the 20th century, during major reforms, including 1.5 million square meters of reclaimed land on which to build the Port of Rio.

Closed since 2011 to build the Rio450 tunnel, and reopened in March 2015, Praça Mauá is the first in a series of public squares that form the Guanabara Waterfront named after Mayor Luiz Paulo Conde.  Six times larger than before, the square now occupies 25,000m², compared to the original 4,000m². It emerged from the shadow of the Perimetral overpass, now demolished, to become the city’s newest leisure and residential option. Paved in granite and well illuminated, the square has special sub-surface drainage.museu amanha

The heart of the Port revitalization program, Praça Mauá looks to the future with the new Museum of Tomorrow, where the visitor is invited to examine the past, view current transformations and imagine possible scenarios for the next 50 years, through audiovisual immersion displays, and interactive installations in Portuguese, English and Spanish. www.museudoamanha.org.br

The MAR (Rio Art Museum), also in Praça Mauá, is located in two interlinked buildings from different eras – the Dom João VI Palace, and a more modern building, originally a bus terminal. The rooms in the palace are used for the exhibition, and the newer building hosts the “Escola do Olhar” or School of Vision, which is a school mainly for training public school teachers in knowledge and artistic sensibility, with art and visual culture as the core motto. www.museudeartedorio.org.br

Urban mobility accompanies the local retrofit. Cariocas and tourists will soon be able to use the VLT (Light Rail Transit) which will link the city center with the port over 28 Km of rail and 32 stops. This forms part of an integrated public transport system that interconnects the metro, trains, ferry boats, cable car systems, BRT, conventional buses and the Santos Dumont airport. The system should come into operation during 2016.

Moving up the Avenida Rio Branco from Praça Mauá, one passes historical buildings such as the Candelaria Church, the Bank of Brazil Cultural Center, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Federal Treasury Museum and the Municipal Theater.

Rio Branco

Inaugurated in 1909, the Municipal Theater is one of Latin America’s principal concert halls. It was recently totally restored, bringing to light wonderful gems such as the original painting by Italian-Brazilian Eliseu Visconti. Other important symbols of the theater were restored, including the 350kg eagle that sits atop the theater, which was gilded with 8,000 sheets of 23-carat gold-leaf.

Nearby is the bohemian district Lapa, with its famous aqueduct arches, and a large variety of bars, restaurants, show houses, nightclubs and public spaces. The district is a mosaic of 13 streets, one of the most important being the Rua do Lavradio, where on every first Saturday of the month, the Feira Rio Antigo (Old Rio Fair) is held. The fair is a mixture of the old and new – antiques and crafts, second hand stores and food stalls, plus restaurants and bars, ready to serve the more than 18,000 visitors that stroll the street during the event.  www.novorioantigo.com.br/eventos

Famous bars and restaurants in the district include Rio Scenarium and Café Cultural Sacrilégio, where authentic live Brazilian music can be enjoyed and even danced to, such as the samba, “choro”, pop music and country (“forró”). www.rioscenarium.com.br

Leaving the city center we pass Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and São Conrado, and eventually reach Barra da Tijuca, where the city has expanded towards the West, and where the Olympic Park has been built, to be the heart of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 15 different sites will accommodate the competitions for Olympic and Paralympic sports. www.rio2016.com  

An important legacy for Brazilian sport in the region will be the Olympic Training Center. After the games, the Center will have 40,000m2 available for training in 12 Olympic sports, as well as Research Laboratories in Nutrition, Physiotherapy, Sports and Clinical Medicine – the first in South America. Another important legacy will be the Golf Course. After the games the course will be made public, to encourage growth of the sport in Rio and Brazil.

The region possesses the largest convention center in Latin America, Riocentro, and there are also many beaches in the Western Zone with ideal conditions for water sports such as surf and windsurf, including  the Macumba, Reserva, Pontal and Prainha beaches. In total there are 14.4km of white sandy beaches, always well frequented by Cariocas and tourists.

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