By Alexander Ponsen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Tucked behind the trees that line the buzzing Aterro highway lies one of Rio’s many marvelous public spaces, the Parque do Flamengo, offering a vast range of sporting and leisure options as well as a regular calendar of special events.
One such event took place on Sunday June 20th when the park hosted a triathlon competition for athletics enthusiasts seeking a different kind of physical challenge, including tackling the questionable waters of Guanabara Bay. The Olympic-style triathlon, organized by Trimax Sports, which combined 1.5km of swimming, 40km of cycling and 10km of running, is one of many such regular events that takes place within the green open space, including the end of the grueling Rio Marathon on July 18th.
In addition to such sporting events, the Rio Prefeitura sponsors frequent, less physically exerting free concerts, where the likes of UK DJ Fatboy Slim and more celebrated local stars have put on shows beside the water.
The park’s permanent offerings include four kilometers of bicycle and jogging paths that weave their way along its length connecting Botafogo to Centro. There are public football fields, basketball, tennis and beach volleyball courts, exercise stations with free weights, and a skate park complete with colorful graffiti art. There is even an area expressly designed for flying remote-controlled airplanes, which gets remarkably busy with enthusiasts on weekends and holidays.
The park was completed in 1965, designed by the eminent landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and boasts over three hundred species of trees. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Guanabara Bay and distant undulating rock formations including the Pão do Açúcar, it is hard to imagine a more picturesque public sporting space.
Jessica Muniz, 21, and her friend Julianne Tenório, 20, both of whom live in nearby Botafogo, come primarily to cycle and stroll. “I like this park because it’s very family-oriented,” says Muniz. “On weekends entire families come with their children, dogs, it’s a great space.”
“I consider this the best park in the entire city,” says 20-year-old Marcos Ferreira. Ferreira lives in Campo Grande, and like many Cariocas, travels a good distance to enjoy the park’s offerings. It’s the great selection of sporting options that draws him. “I come at least once a week to play basketball, to skateboard, or even just to stroll.”
Late afternoon is an excellent time to visit. The setting sun casts a pinkish hue across the mountains and sky and the faint buzzing of airplanes overhead coming in to Santos Dumont airport and cars in the distance combine with the gently crashing waves and singing birds to create a truly serene atmosphere.
To complement your physical exercise, and if you still have the energy, you can even expand your cultural horizons by taking in the Museu de Arte Moderna at the park’s north end, just a few minutes walk from the Cinelandia metro station.
Parque do Flamengo is accessible by footbridge across the avenue from the adjacent neighborhoods. Several metro stops – Flamengo, Largo do Machado, Catete, and Gloria – all provide easy access to the park’s facilities, in addition to countless buses passing along the Praia do Flamengo road. For more information on the park visit the Prefeitura website.