By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Two million people filled the streets and waterfront of Copacabana Beach, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, to celebrate the new year according to authorities. The crowd watched sixteen minutes of face-melting fireworks, with the roar accompanied by a soundtrack referencing the upcoming 2016 Olympics, the theme of this year’s event.
For the celebration, two stages were installed where artists like Jorge Ben Jor, Zeca Pagodinho and Diogo Nogueira took turns performing. The samba school Beija Flor de Nilópolis, the 2015 Carnival champions, also performed, and the countdown was on the main stage, on a screen 65 meters and projections on LED lights.
Many people stayed well after dawn on the beach, including hundreds of families camping or simply sleeping in the sand. Jaciara Diniz Miranda, who was with mother, daughter and family nearby told the government press. “I went home, then came back here to go to the beach today. Decided to stay for good,” she said. It’s not the first time that the family faced this adventure. “We live far away,” he claims.
For first-timers experiencing the celebration in Rio, most were not disappointed. “It was beautiful, it was exciting, I took everything I could enjoy. I took my selfies (pictures), jumped seven ripples, went into the sea, I’m sure it will be a year of many good energies, because the emotion I felt in Copacabana will bring positive energy to 2016,” Jaqueline Vianna, who came from Vitória, Espírito Santo described.
Authorities report that overnight, 740 calls were made by the five health posts scattered on the waterfront, in most cases by excessive alcohol and cuts. In total, 46 people had to be removed to hospitals. About 220 professionals were on duty, including ninety doctors.
Public order operations, which extended until dawn, seized over 5,900 different drinks from unauthorized street vendors, along with 88 kilos of perishable food, 64 gas cylinders, apparel for sale, carts, chairs, styrofoam – and cash.
Yesterday morning (January 1st), traffic on most streets in Copacabana returned to normal, and the city opened the beachside Atlantic Avenue on the side of the buildings. The lanes along the beach remain closed as they normally are for holidays and Sundays.
Nearly 700 tons of waste were collected by the Municipal Urban Cleaning Company (COMLURB) of the city of Rio de Janeiro, after the New Year’s Eve, a little more than 680 tons of the previous New Year’s Eve. Just on Copacabana beach there were 363.5 tons, of which 48.3 can be recycled according the authorities.
The work of about 3,700 garbage collectors and COMLURB street cleaning staff started in the morning of January 1st. The work was completed at around 1PM, delayed by the many people who slept on the beach, explained the company’s president, Luciano Moreira.
“The big challenge to the clean the beach, because of the people who remain in the sand until the next day, hindering the entry of our equipment, such as tractors, that streamline the process,” said Moreira. Thus, the cleaning has to be done manually, which takes more time, he explained.
According Riotur, the city’s tourism department, Rio receives 857,000 tourists in the New Year period, which will add US$686 million to the local economy. By mid-November hotel occupancy in Copacabana and Leme was already around 83 percent. In Ipanema and Leblon is was closer to 88 percent with numbers only expected to grow closer to the date.