By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In “O Caminho da Tocha” or the “Path of the Torch”, written by Henrique Eduardo Alves and published in Folha de São Paulo, the Minister for Tourism recalls the thrill and emblematic images of the Olympic torch passing through British towns and cities ahead of the London Games in 2012. He goes on to say that it is now Brazil’s turn to capture the world’s imagination.
Rio 2016 will be the first Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in South America and having hosted other major events such as Rio+20, World Youth Day, a visit from the Pope and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Olympics will benefit from the country’s organizing experience and will offer the public an “unforgettable experience”.
Brazil received 736 athletes from 32 nations for the World Cup. By contrast, over 15,000 from 205 nations will arrive for the Olympic Games in August next year. Though the majority of events will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Alves points to the opportunity the torch relay will offer to show other parts of the country.
“Imagine the visual effect of a kaleidoscope made up of tourist attractions of fragments of images of more than three hundred municipalities that will receive the Olympic flame during its tour of all regions of the country. A full plate to delight the thousands of tourists for the games and the five billion spectators that will watch the competitions all over the world. It will gain visibility in a way no advertising campaign can,” he wrote.
Brazil is hoping that Rio 2016 will attract many foreign visitors to the country. The government has already eased visa restrictions, allowing U.S. passport holders ninety days in the country without a visa until September 18th 2016. Alves told the press he hoped the Games would give Brazil a chance to strengthen its relationship with North America and extended an invitation to the world to visit.
“I feel very comfortable and safe in making a public invitation: come to participate in this moment of transformation of our country and experience the Olympic and Paralympic Games with us,” he said in October.
In 2014, 656,800 tourists came to Brazil from America, just over ten percent of the 6.43 million international visitors the country received that year. A weak real against the dollar is encouraging visitors from abroad while Brazilians are increasing choosing to holiday within their own borders.
Between January and September this year, Brazilians spent US$4.4 billion less abroad compared to the same period last year. The difference between what they spend abroad compared with the amount foreigners contribute to the national economy is at a five-year low, recorded at a deficit of US$9.8 billion between January and September 2014.
The torch relay will begin its 95-day tour of the country, beginning in Brasília on April 27th 2016. The Olympic Games will take place between August 5th – 21st and the Paralympic Games will go from September 7th – 18th 2016.