By Anna Kaiser, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In just over a month, the city of Rio will receive an estimated two million Catholic youths, and Pope Francis himself, for the 2013 World Youth Day. In order to accommodate the influx, several public holidays have been announced during the event, as well as 149 extra flights, and 20,000 private charter buses (more than double the fleet of Rio city buses).
The event is officially from July 23rd to 28th, and the public holidays announced by the Rio city government will take place Thursday and Friday, July 25th and 26th, coinciding with the Pope’s arrival and welcome ceremony set to take place on Avenida Atlântica in Copacabana.
There will be a partial holiday on the first day, Tuesday, July 23rd, after 4PM, and another partial holiday on Monday, July 29th, before 12PM. In addition to celebrating Rio’s hosting of the Pope, the holidays and partial holidays are a strategy to break up commuting times of the pilgrims and regular workers.
However, Mayor Eduardo Paes assured, “It will be a week of confusion, but we don’t want a dead city. Commercial establishments, cultural centers, touristic attractions and malls will be open to attend to visitors. Also, parts of the city government will be open. What we want is a bank holiday. We need the city-center open.”
The mass ceremony and vigil will be held at the Campus Fidei, on the Field of Faith, in Guaratiba, in Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone). It will cause road closures in surrounding areas throughout Barra da Tijuca, Recreio, and Santa Cruz on both Saturday and Sunday, July 27th and 28th.
Authorities plan road closures in the 13 to 17 kilometers surrounding the Campus Fidei, which was constructed specifically for this event. Pilgrims will walk the distance of the closed roads to arrive at the event.
Security is always a serious concern for such a large event, but efforts from national and local authorities, as well as Vatican security forces are combining to ensure the safety of the city, its residents, the visitors, and Pope Francis.
“I do not believe that there will be any problems with security for either the Pope or the public, because we are studying the issue down to the last detail,” guaranteed commander of the Vatican Police, Domenico Giani. “I believe that I can say with confidence that it is a beautiful location that will welcome many people,” he reassured travelers about Rio de Janeiro.
Rio’s numerous security centers, emergency response systems, and newly installed surveillance equipment will be put to the test during the enormous and high-profile event. Mayor Eduardo Paes said similar actions will be taken to secure Copacabana as those that are taken during the beach neighborhood’s annual New Year’s celebrations.
The city government still has not made their expenditures for WYD public information. Many criticizers, like those protesting recently in the streets of downtown Rio and throughout Brazil, are denouncing the government’s big spending on mega-events, while circumstances are being exacerbated for many Brazilians.