By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After three months and traveling 20,000 kilometers around Brazil, the Olympic Torch arrived early today (Wednesday,August 3rd) in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The symbol of the Games has been carried through more than 300 cities in 26 states and the Federal District by 12,000 individuals, including athletes, celebrities, enthusiasts and even a handful of estrangeiros (foreigners) in Brazil.
The Olympic torch was in Niteroi last night and crossed the Guanabara Bay to Rio on a yacht crewed by seven Olympic medal-winning sailors from Brazil: Torben and Lars Grael, Clínio Freitas, Isabel Swan, Nelson Falcão, Marcelo Ferreira and Ronnie Senfft. The torch is on its way to the Maracanã Stadium for the 2016 Olympic Games Opening ceremony on August 5th.
Arriving at the Naval School this morning, the Olympic flame was delivered to Mayor Eduardo Paes, in an official ceremony that was attended by the state governor in office, Francisco Dornelles, and the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Carlos Arthur Nuzman.
Paes was the first carrier of the Olympic torch in the city and will give it to Rebeca Morais dos Santos, 9th grade student at the Experimental Olympic Gymnasium Juan Antonio Samaranch, in Santa Teresa. Morais will carry the torch to the new VLT tramway station near the Santos Dumont airport, where the flame will continue on to the Cinelândia. After passing in front of the Municipal Theatre, the path will continue to Samba City and from there onto Baixada Fluminense for the day.
On Thursday, which will be a newly announced city-wide public holiday in Rio, the relay will visit the Olympic zones in Barra da Tijuca and Deodoro in the west of Rio, as well as famous tourist areas such as Ipanema and Copacabana. Surfer Rico Souza will be one of the chosen torchbearers, and other Brazilian sports heroes to carry the torch include world football champions Cafu, Carlos Alberto Parreira and Mário Zagallo.
The passage of the flame was marked by protests over the current political environment in Brazil and also by some individual incidents. In Porto Alegre, two people tried to interfere with the relay to extinguish the flame. In Guarulhos (SP), one person was arrested after trying to break into the confined space.
David Drummond, a Canadian expatriate living in Rio – who happened to be carrying the torch in Guarulhos as well – explained, “Having lived in Rio for eight years it is really my adopted home. The opportunity to carry the torch and actually be a part of the Rio 2016 as more than a spectator is something I will always treasure.”
Adding, “The torch relay really brings the country together and I could feel the excitement of people’s anticipation for the games as I carried the torch. Just a really incredible experience.”