Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Rio preparing big party for Olympic announcement
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Rio is preparing one of its traditional parties for Friday's announcement of the 2016 Olympic host city.
About 100,000 people are expected at Copacabana beach to watch the International Olympic Committee vote in Copenhagen, hoping for a celebration after the winner is finally revealed.
City officials even declared Friday an optional public holiday so more people can participate in the festivities and support the bid.
A top contender to win the Olympics, Rio faces strong competition from Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo.
"We'll be rooting from here," said 42-year-old security guard Valdeci Ramalho. "I think this time it will be Rio's turn. And if we do get it, you just know that people will go crazy here. Everybody wants these games to happen in our city. We deserve it."
When President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, football great Pele, three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, former FIFA President Joao Havelange make their final appeal in Copenhagen, the Cariocas -- as Rio citizens are known -- will be watching live on two big screens at Copacabana, site of huge New Year's celebrations and other festivities throughout the year.
Several live concerts, beginning Friday morning, at the beach are also planned and expected to keep the party going until the announcement.
Popular singer and guitarist Lulu Santos will be one of the main attractions during the day, along with DJs and drummers of the Salgueiro samba school, winner of this year's world-famous parade at the city's Sambadrome.
Five-time Olympic sailing medalist Torben Grael and Beijing long jump gold medalist Maurren Higa Maggi already have confirmed they will attend Friday's festivities, along with beach volleyball medalist Shelda Bede and judo medalist Flavio Canto.
Organizers are preparing to display a 27,000-square-feet banner -- nearly half the size of a football field -- with Rio's logo and the words "Rio Loves You."
Steady rain has been falling in the city since Tuesday, but officials said the weather is expected to improve by Friday and shouldn't keep people from watching the live announcement from the beach.
Rio de Janeiro tried to host the Olympics three times before -- in 1936, 2004 and 2012 -- but never made the final stages.
"I'll definitely try to be there to give my support," 44-year-old police officer Manaceis Jose do Carmo said. "It would be great to Rio. Can you imagine how things would improve here because of the games?"
Bid leaders and Brazilian officials say the city, country and entire region will be transformed if Rio brings the Olympics to South America for the first time.
Rio entered the final month of the campaign with a slight edge following a positive report from the IOC evaluation committee.
The report praised the city for having support from all government levels, a stable economy and strong public backing. Local critics, however, say the bid's $14.4 billion budget -- the largest among the four cities -- could be better used in other areas.
The city's lack of infrastructure and safety concerns were mentioned as drawbacks, but the bid is boosted by the popularity of charismatic Silva and Rio's unrivaled natural beauty, including the Sugar Loaf mountain, the Christ the Redeemer statue and Copacabana, which will be packed with anxious supporters on Friday.
"There is no reason to be against the Olympics here," said 56-year-old doorman Isaias da Silva. "I think there will be more money, more jobs. It's going to be good for everybody."