By Nelson Belen, Contributing Writer
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This past Sunday, June 19th, the Olympic torch traveled to the city of Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city and the capital of Amazonas state. The Olympic torch has been traveling across Brazil, bound to pass through three hundred towns and be carried by over 12,000 torchbearers who will each run two kilometers.
Sunday’s journey through the Amazon was highlighted by the Olympic flame’s visit to the Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável do Tupé (Sustainable Development Reserve of Tupé), where six different indigenous communities received the iconic flame in an emotional welcome ceremony.
“I have a very great honor. The torch means a lot because we are beings of the day. Our symbol is the sun is fire. So, this torch is our symbol. The fire is strength for us. That is why I am very glad, with goose bumps getting it,” said Raimundo Kissib Kumu Vaz, of the indigenous amazon Dessana ethnicity.
The Tupé ecological reserve is administered by the Manaus city government. Municipal Director, Itamar de Oliveira, said “It is a great pleasure to be here in this ecological sanctuary, honoring the indigenous communities of the Amazon, and also for the world to see the importance of this place.”
Later the torch traveled to through the capital city, where Haitian Abdias Dolce, who arrived in Manaus in 2010, had a chance to run with the flame. Dolce was one of 40,000 Haitians who came to Brazil following Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. “I feel at home in Manaus. The locals have welcomed me since I first arrived,” expressed an excited Dolce.
The torch relay culminates at Maracanã stadium for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on August 5th. The Rio 2016 Olympics are the first to be held in South America, and expected to bring over 500,000 international tourists to the country from August 5th to the 21st.