THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 02 2016
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by heavily armed criminal groups. The main concern is burglary and robbery. According to the Brazilian government, there were 98,038 cases of such crimes in the first six months of 2016 in Rio. That average represents more than 3,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per year. Worse than that: 31 people were killed during robbery attempts. During the Olympics and the Paralympics, there has been a heavy security presence on the streets, police, the National Force and the army. Rio’s police have a reputation for ‘shoot first’ when it comes to dealing with trouble. From January to May, 322 civilians were killed as a result of police interventions in the state of Rio de Janeiro, a 13% increase over the same period last year according to the state’s Institute for Public Security.
L Lapa: Historic Lapa is one of the
‘must see’ areas of Rio. A former red light district, it contains plenty of architectural highlights. The bars – and there are many of them – attract thousands in the evening. (Just think Wind Street in Swansea and throw in music shows and Samba at every turn). It still retains an ‘edgy’ feel – the sort of place where you take the minimum ‘cash you need’ and keep any flashy mobile phones hidden away.
M Maracana: Yes, the world famous
Maracana football stadium is every bit as impressive as you’ve been led to believe. It had a massive makeover for the World Cup two years ago. The regular football matches are currently suspended for the duration of the Games. At 80,000 capacity, it really rocks. The city’s other main stadium, the Engenhao is equally as impressive. My attempts to claim that neither is a patch on Cardiff’s Principality (former Millennium) stadium are falling a bit flat here. Football is king here and, as there have not been that many ‘star’ football games at the Principality,
Quinta Da Boa Vista. This is the
former residence of the Portuguese Royal family until the Republic was proclaimed in 1889. It has extensive parklands, with gardens and lakes. On weekends, families from the ‘North Zone’ crowd in for picnics and football games. It houses Rio’s zoo and museums.
R The Redeemer: The Cristo Redentor
Street art: near Tanque, Rio.
everyone fails to be convinced. Perhaps next year’s European Cup Final in Cardiff will set the record straight?
N Oscar Niemeyer: The architect
Niemeyer is responsible for most of Rio’s most famous buildings. The one which grabbed my attention was the Sambodromo, the focal point for Rio’s ‘Carnaval’ season. The open air arena – in essence two long stands to view the Samba parades – received a makeover for the Olympics. The scale is impressive when you consider it is only in use for a few days every year. Niemeyer isn’t the only top architect who has been at work in Rio. The architecture, both old and modern is impressive, even when some of it sits right next to the shanty town favelas. Particularly impressive is the new Museum of Tomorrow down on the revamped portside of Rio.
O Outdoor activities: The Cariocas
live outdoors. As part of the Olympics ‘get fit’ regime, outdoor gyms have sprung up at most bus stations, parks and railway hubs. Rio folk love the beach, with all its volleyball, football, football
volleyball, handball and other activities. You can surf, kayak and do all sorts of water sports. I passed on the opportunity to hang-glide off the giant Gavea rock.
P Press: The verdict on the Olympics in
the Brazilian press, TV, radio and internet media has been very positive. There have been some quirky bits in the media about Team GB. Take this one from the giant Globo news empire’s newspaper wing – “No-one really understands what’s
going on over in the land of tea and drizzle. Not even the British, most of the time. After voting to leave the European Union, Great Britain is now tearing itself apart over the fallout. Now the four countries have got together, as they do every four years, and pulled out the best performance ever in a Summer Games, becoming the first country in modern Olympic history to better their medal tally after hosting one. Wait, so there are four different football teams. Northern Ireland play together with the Republic in rugby; Welshman (sic) represent England at cricket; but at the Olympics they are one big happy family? Yep, that’s right. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but Team GB has managed to restore some British pride and even beat China for the first time since they re-entered the Olympics in 1984.’ Brazil seems to attach a lot of
importance to what goes on in GB. The Globo breakfast TV show includes three featured ‘links’ places outside of Rio – the capital Brasilia, the biggest city Sao Paolo and London. Meanwhile, in the bars and cafes,
the GB ‘four countries as one’ thing still bemuses the local Cariocas. One local was quite serious when he accused GB of cheating the system – “You have four countries competing as one,” he argued. I returned the friendly banter with two key statistics – population GB, 64 million; population Brazil, 200 million.
The Paralympic Village: ready for the arrival of the athletes. Q
(Christ The Redeemer) statue is every bit as impressive as you see in all the iconic images of Rio. You can spot it from many different corners of Rio. Getting up close to it is something else. A 4km ride on the Corcovado narrow cog train is an experience in itself as it winds its way up the mountain. The Corcovado mountain stands at 710 metres high and is dominated by the 38-metre statue of Christ. It’s a stunning sight – and the views, as you can imagine, are jaw- dropping.
S Snacks: There’s streetfood galore in
Rio. Here are a few examples – Bolinho de bacalhau, deep fried
codfish ball. Coxinha, pear-shaped cornmeal balls filled with shredded chicken. Pastel, squares of deep fried dough
filled with meat, shrimp, cheese, banana – in short, filled with anything you want! Tapioca, crepes made from manioc
flour, filled with chicken, ham, cheese or jams.
Of the selection, I think I will be returning with the recipe for pastel.
T Transport: Rio’s public transport
system gets a lot of flak. But, on the whole, it works. It is a mix of local buses, BRT bendy buses (which occupy dedicated lanes in most cases), trains, shiny new Metro and an equally shiny new LVT light rail (tram) network. The Cariocas will quite happily deal with two-hour commutes into work on buses and trains where you are sometimes packed like the proverbial sardines. Lorry and car drivers motor along like maniacs. Bus drivers will sometimes even come to a full halt to allow you to disembark, rather than take a running jump onto the pavement. BRT drivers love to test the flexible nature of their bendy buses. And the LVT service has had to adopt motorbike outriders in order to deal with moving the service through streets packed for the Rio2016 party. As for motorbike riders, they take their life in their hands every day, zig- zagging between the lot.
U Urca: This area is home to Pao De
Acucar, Sugarloaf Mountain to you and me. The summit is 395 metres and is usually reached by a dizzy ride on two cable cars. There are helicopter rides
from the first summit. The view from the second summit sums up why Rio is called Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City). It’s a ‘must do’ for anyone going to Rio.
V Valeu. Thanks in Carioca slang is
Valeu. To say that learning Portuguese has been a struggle is an understatement. Fortunately, you can get by by making an effort with some key well-worn phrases. In most cases, the Cariocas adopt a sympathetic look which suggests, “Poor dab; he can’t speak Portugese.” Some of the slang is easy – such as Tudo Bem, which basically says ‘all is good’. One of my other favourites is ‘flo dental’, which translates as dental floss, the slang term for the skimpy bikinis they wear down the beach!
W Waterfalls: There are plenty to be
found in Parque Nacional Da Tijuca (Tijuca National Park). The park (well, it’s more of a jungle which makes Rio a bit of a doughnut city) is all that is left of the Atlantic rainforest. Access is controlled by park wardens. They count you in and count you out. There are frequent incidents of crazy ‘Gringo’ tourists getting lost on the jungle trails.
X X Factor: In short, yes, Rio has the
X-Factor. A destination to put on any bucket list.
Y Yellow Line: Local slang for the
motorway toll road which slices through part of the national park and into the heart of the city. Brazilians are generous with their time, but careful with their money as times are hard. My pals in the suburb in Freguesia almost treated the road a luxury item, preferring the slog through traffic and public transport to using the toll road.
Z Zika: The pre-Olympics hysteria
over the Zika virus was enough to convince some athletes not to make the trip to Rio. Some volunteers also decided not to attend. The reality is that Zika isn’t an issue here. There’s been a big decline in reported cases and this is the winter- time here – a time when mozzies aren’t such an issue. Those of us who listened to the proper World Health Organisation and standard advice from our local GPs knew it wouldn’t be a problem. As someone who usually provides a mobile feast for mozzies in Med countries, I am happy to report I haven’t suffered a single bite. Yet! Perhaps, I am tempting fate, but if you dress appropriately, avoid stagnant water hotspots and apply plenty of repellent, it isn’t an issue. Tchau!
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