It sure doesn’t seem like it was six and a half years ago that we hosted the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but here we go again with Rio de Janeiro hosting the games this summer.
I had the good fortune to visit Rio de Janeiro, (Portuguese for January River) in 2004 and was thoroughly enchanted by the city. I booked into a great hotel (The Windsor Excelsior) right on Copacabana beach from where I could look to the east to Sugarloaf Mountain, and to the Northwest to see the enormous Christ the Redeemer statute on Corcovado Mountain. It is a busy city population 6 million and the metro area population is 11 to 13.5 million. So here’s a little bit about Rio de Janeiro and next column, we’ll dive into the Jogos Olympicos do Rio.
We’ll start with the flavour of the Cariocas (and although they do mucho singing, dancing, and throw the worlds biggest parties (Carnival and New Years Eve) it’s not to be confused with Karaoke where everyone gets to pretend their on the Worlds Got Talent (not).
Brazil was named after a red wood known in Europe for colour so intense it was used to make dyes. The story says the red colour reminded people of the glowing coals of a brazier. The British named it brazilwood and spelled it with a “Z” (they like Zed a lot) whereas the Spanish and the Portuguese spelled it with an “S.” See where we’re going? By the time they got to South America, a stretch of land along the east coast was named Brazil or Brasil, and woodn’t you know, there is brazilwood in this exotic tropical place called Terra do Brasil, or Land of Brazilwood.
Rio de Janiero (January River) was named by mistake, according to Facts to Blow Your Sox Off: there’s no river there. The Portuguese explorer, Gaspar de Lemos arrived in Brazil at Guanabara Bay on January 1, 1502, and thinking the huge bay was the mouth of a river, named it after the month of January. Big Oops! But it wasn’t always sweetness and Carnival. The French also wanted to make the best of the strategic position of Rio in the Brazilian region and tried to make a foothold in the city, only to be kicked out after two years of intense war.
Carioca is the noun used to refer to anything related to the city of Rio de Janeiro, and particularly the residents who are Cariocas. The word comes from the indigenous Tupi language meaning “white man’s house” and was adapted from the native to the Portuguese as Carioca.
Copacabana: There are two of them. One on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, and of course the one in Rio. One suggestion is that it derived from an indigenous word meaning “view of the lake” which would also fit the beach since we’re looking at water either way. There’s another attractive suggestion: Copa means treetops and a Cabana is a tent-like structure on the beach for sleeping or changing in. Some beach umbrellas and cabanas could look like trees from above, so whatever pleases your Cariocaness, go with it.
During the late 19th century, Copacabana was nothing more than a small fishing village covered with sand, dunes and shrubs. With the construction of a tunnel through the mountain, connecting the area to downtown Rio, Copacabana began to grow. Ever since the Copacabana Palace Hotel (immortalized in the Fred Astair/Ginger Rogers movie “Fly Down to Rio” opened in 1923, there was no looking back. As the brochures say, it’s the location of the biggest New Years Eve Party on the planet, not to mention the beach-volleyball capital of the universe. Along with Ipanema next door, one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Rio, immortalized by the song, the Girl From…. is truly something one should place high on a bucket list.
Do Samba on down and enjoy Copa, Ipanema, Sugarloaf, Corcovado, the Santa Teresa Tram and all the other fab things about Rio. And for the ultimate party, come down for New Years on Copacabana Beach and stay for Carnival just before Lent. With beaches like this, what else is there for a body to be doing?
Next week, You Don’t Say goes from the beach to the Olympic venues.
Até logo. (ah-TEH LOH-goh) See you later!