By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Bondinho do Pão de Açúcar - the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car – celebrates its centenary this Saturday, October 27th. Indisputably one of Rio’s most iconic landmarks and most successful tourist attractions, it is also one of the longest-standing constructions of its type in the world, and the oldest in Brazil.
Depending on the season, it can attract up to 6,000 tourists every day. During the special 100th birthday weekend some 5,000 tourists are expected to descend on the attraction, located in Urca in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone), and every hundredth guest will receive a special souvenir gift. Birthday cake will be offered to those turning up between 10AM and 5PM on Saturday.
Sunday’s celebrations will be a little more poignant, with an exhibition of photographs dating back from the days of the cable car’s construction to its final inauguration.
Back in 1908 engineer August Ferreira Ramos initially had a hard time convincing investors of the audacious project’s potential, but the funding was eventually found and steel cables were fixed between the two granite hills, known as Morro da Urca and Morro Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain).
The attraction finally opened in 1912 and gained the name bondinho, despite this literally translating as “tram”. The whole cable car infrastructure has since been rebuilt twice – first in 1972 and then in 2008.
The journey is completed in two legs: the first travels 1732 feet (528 meters) to the top of the Morro da Urca, and the second goes a further 1299 feet (396m) to the top of Pão de Açúcar, which offers unrivaled panoramic views across Rio, with Guanabara Bay glistening below.
The landmark’s more prominent visitors have included U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein and Pope John Paul II, and it also provided the iconic backdrop for 007‘s Moonraker in 1979 in which James Bond, played by Roger Moore, fights his nemesis, Jaws, on top of one of the cable cars.
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.