Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Fire from Brasilia to Rio

Al-Ahram Weekly

Earlier this week, the Olympic Flame arrived in Brazil and began its 95-day journey from Brasilia to Rio de Janeiro for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

On the first day of its arrival, the torch was carried in a relay by Brazilians from all walks of life as well as celebrities. The flame travelled around the Federal District of Brasilia drawing large crowds and creating unforgettable emotions for those involved. 

The day got underway with an early morning arrival at Brasilia airport, where the president of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee Carlos Arthur Nuzman carried the flame in its special lantern onto Brazilian soil for the first time since it was lit in Ancient Olympia on 21 April.

Egypt’s Sherif Al-Erian, board member of the Egyptian Olympic Committee and head of the Modern Pentathlon Federation, took part as torch bearer number seven in the one-week relay that took place in Greece.

From there, the flame travelled to the Planalto Palace – the official workplace of the president of Brazil – where President Nuzman and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff handed the lit torch to Fabiana, captain of the Brazilian women’s volleyball team. “This is a historic moment,” Fabiana said. “I’m very proud to be the first person to carry the torch on Brazilian soil,” said the two-time Olympic champion.

Fabiana was just the first of 141 fortunate torchbearers selected to carry the flame on the day, including famous sporting figures, Brazilian celebrities and regular folks, many of whom were proposed by friends for their good works. After Fabiana, the torch passed into the hands of another pair of Brazilian athletes, gymnast Angelo Assumpção and boxer Adriana Araújo who was delighted to be offered such an opportunity.

“It’s like winning an Olympic medal. This is a moment in my life that I’ll remember forever,” said Araújo, a bronze medal winner at the London 2012 Games.

Among the torchbearers was Hanan Khaled, a 12-year-old Syrian refugee who lives in Brazil. “I was so happy to carry the Olympic Torch because I would never have imagined that this could happen,” she said. “It was a very special moment. I love the Brazilian people. I feel Brazilian myself.”

The young Syrian took the opportunity to deliver a message to the refugees: “I wish that they can all live in peace, without wars and with their friends.”

Brazilian surf icon Gabriel Medina passed the Olympic flame onto Brasilia-born volleyball star Paula Pequeno, who had the responsibility of carrying it into the Cathedral of Brasilia, an iconic building designed by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Inside the cathedral, Pequeno met up with Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, creating one of the most emotional moments of the Brasilia leg of the torch relay. The marathon runner, who won a bronze medal at Athens 2004 and remains the only Brazilian to receive the Pierre de Coubertin medal, had to visibly fight back tears of joy as he received the flame.

During his section of the relay, the 46-year-old former long-distance specialist stuck his arms out like an airplane’s wings, a repeat of his famous gesture in Athens. While the torch relay generated huge enthusiasm on the ground, Brazilian Air Force jets wrote the words “Rio2016” in the sky to celebrate the official launch of Brazil’s Olympic dream.

The torch will continue on its route across Brazil, where it will pass through over 300 cities and be carried by 12,000 people before it arrives at Maracanã Stadium on 5 August.

The Rio Olympics will be held from 5-21 August.

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