By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This past weekend, the journey of the Olympic torch continued passing through the town of Passo Fundo, in Rio Grande do Sul, on its way to the opening ceremony on August 5th in Rio de Janeiro. 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.
On Sunday, July 3rd, former Brazilian volleyball star and Olympic champion, Gustavo Endres, had a chance to re-live his former Olympic glory, running with the iconic flame in his hometown of Passo Fundo. Endres is one of the most decorated Brazilian Olympic athletes ever.
He represented Brazil in three Olympics, in 2000 in Sydney, 2004 in Athens, and 2008 in Beijing, winning gold in Athens and silver in Beijing. “It’s great to be part of the Olympic Games, this symbology. Even better still to do it in the city where it all began for me,” Endres says.
Of the Brazilian men’s volleyball team’s chances in the upcoming games, Endres said, “The men’s team has failed to win major titles, lacked a little bit of everything in the last competitions. But, the team is a favorite, very hungry. And the fact of playing at home helps a lot.”
Before arriving in Passo Fundo, the torch made a quick stop in one of the most visited and majestic natural landmarks in all of Brazil, the Iguaçu waterfalls. Iguaçu Falls, which straddles the border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, is the second most visited national park in Brazil, behind only Rio de Janeiro’s Tijuca National Park, where Christ the Redeemer is located. In 2015, 1.5 million visited the stunning falls, considered the largest waterfall system in the world.
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.