The Rest

Feb 5, 2010

Letter from…Rio de Janeiro: a streetcar named Desire

The bright lights of Rio make it feel like you’re living in a permanent fast lane with no drop-off zone in sight, writes Grant Doyle.

Peter Allen and Barry Manilow have a lot to answer for. Copacabana’s long curved beach, with its nondescript high-rise hotels and apartments might look the goods in a touched-up post card or retro MTV clip, but on the ground, the tepid seawater is not that clean, nor is the sand, you trip over potholes in the pavement and I haven’t seen a wave all week. Add to that the fact that no “baby has smiled at me”, and they call this paradise? Heavily armed tourist police patrol the beach, supposedly for reasons of security.

The wider city, however, is extraordinary. The sheer physicality of its topography, with its high-density living, its frantic pulsing samba beats, its mega energy, its kamikaze bus drivers, its smouldering heat, its tropical downpours, its blizzardly cold beers, its poseurs and pretenders constantly parading along promenades, all make it feel like you’re living in a permanent fast lane with no drop-off zone in sight.

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4 thoughts on “Letter from…Rio de Janeiro: a streetcar named Desire

  1. Simon Lee

    Who was playing at the Maracana?

  2. Barry Norsworthy

    I thought Maracana stadium held about 200.000 people ?!

  3. Grant Doyle

    Simon, Fluminense was playing Botafogo the day I ventured inside the Maracana cauldron. Fluminense supporters far outnumbered their rivals even though it was considered a ‘home’ game for Botafogo. Fluminense won 3-0 in a very lacklustre game, due mainly to it being early in the season and a sweltering afternoon.

    As for stadium capacity, yes Barry, Maracana held almost 200,000 for the 1950 World Cup final, the year the stadium was opened. And about 194,000 packed in for a local club derby between Fluminense and Flamengo, with many standing like upright sardines on packed terraces.

    But the upper stand of the stadium collapsed in the early 90s, resulting in some fatalities and many injuries. It was then converted to an “all-seating” arena, hence the revised official capacity these days of just over 100,000.

  4. wyane

    Nice tale, Grant, thanks for sharing. Nothing wrong with your instincts, you did/said exactly the right thing to the beggar. Would love to “go to Rio” myself one day, sounds just like Manila! I ran into a street person in Manila on an early morning walk (also by myself). He grabbed my arm, saying “Sir, sir this is your lucky day. You are very lucky to meet me, as if I did not see you, you would be dead … “. He showed me a pamphlet of girls I could he could introduce me to. “No thanks.” Then began demanding money.
    Yeah, whatever, I thought. The thing to remember is, they don’t want to harm you, they just want some cash and no one kills anyone in broad daylight on the street, unless there are more serious issues at stake (eg. a drug deal or extortion demand gone awry).
    Anyway, best wishes on the rest of your journey(s)!

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