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Rio teases with eclectic taste of 2016 Olympics

Fans of Brazil, including a Neymar impersonator, dance samba while watching the London Games from Rio de Janeiro.

LONDON: A fashion model, a street sweeper and a rap star. It’s an eclectic trio, and Rio de Janeiro thinks putting them together will give the world a taste of what to expect at the 2016 Olympics. Rio gets the Olympic flag at the closing ceremony of the London Games Sunday night, essentially starting the four-year countdown to the first time South America will host the games.

Rio organizers will use 250 dancers and musicians in an eight-minute portion of London’s farewell for a performance designed to illustrate “multicultural embrace.”

“I know eight minutes is small time,” said Daniela Thomas, one of the art directors for Rio’s role in Sunday’s closing.

“But we want to show you how sophisticated we mix things, what we do with the things you believe we are, how we mix with pop culture. So I think it’ll be the cliches reinvented, hopefully.”

They summoned model Alessandra Ambrosio – perhaps best known for her Victoria’s Secret work – to help the cause, along with rapper Bnegao and a Rio employee named Renato Sorriso, who once stopped sweeping the avenue between samba schools during Carnival and started dancing instead, fast becoming a fan favorite. He’s been part of Carnival ever since.

The way Rio sees it, the mix of people, music and dance will speak to how diverse the city believes it is, and what people will see in four years.

“Embrace is the attitude that the games in Rio will have,” said Marco Balich, the executive producer of Rio’s portion of the show Sunday.

“Embrace the world.”

When the world comes, Rio insists it will be ready.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes praised London Friday for an “outstanding” Olympics, thanking London Mayor Boris Johnson and other officials for their willingness to share information and advice on the logistical side of hosting the 17-day sporting spectacle.

Rio organizing committee chief executive officer Leonardo Gryner said again that all construction of venues will be done on time, and in time for pre-Olympic test events to be held in 2015.

“I will say that the games in London have been very inspiring to us ... The high-quality of the preparation that London put together to deliver these games is really inspiring,” Gryner said.

He also lauded London for what he called a “very successful” ticketing program, even though one of the major talking points during the opening days of this Olympics was how so many venues had so many empty seats.

“For every organizing committee, it is a challenge to deal with empty seats because you have to deal with those customers that for one reason or another won’t show up for the event or use their tickets,” Gryner said.

“And we have to come with creative ideas with how to overcome this ... And the coming city in 2020 will do even better than we will do in 2016.”

Another issue during the London Games was how the city – not the venues, necessarily, but the city itself – saw fewer people than some anticipated. Some restaurant owners said sales were well below expected levels and a number of taxi drivers complained that too few people were in their cars.

Gryner said he thinks Brazilians will embrace what’s coming in 2016. “Beijing was something different from what we saw in London and from what we saw in Athens. In Brazil, as you may know, we like a lot of parties.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 13, 2012, on page 13.

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