Rio! Copacabana! Carnival! Who hasn't heard of the almost mythical splendor of Rio de Janeiro? It's one of the most venerated travel destinations in the world, and tops most travel wishlists. Its terrific beaches and stunning views, including the statue of Christ the Redeemer, attract millions from all over the world. During the world-famous Carnival, the influx reaches truly enormous proportions.
Did You Know?Rio de Janeiro's name literally means 'the river of January'. It was named so because its European discoverers entered the region on January 1, 1502. Rio is located on the shore of a bay, and the bay was incorrectly named as the 'river' of January, a name that was passed on when the adjacent city was constructed.
Aside from the commercialized tourist spots, though, Rio is one of the most important sporting cities in the world. It is a major player in the Brazilian soccer league, and its stadium, the Maracana, has hosted one FIFA World Cup Final, and is due to host another in 2014. It also used to host F1 and MotoGP races. In 2016, Rio will be the center of the whole world's attention once again, as it hosts the biggest gala of the year: The Summer Olympics.
Rio de Janeiro has a bit of a history with the Olympics, as it unsuccessfully contested to be awarded the 1936, 2004, and 2012 Olympics, which went to Berlin, Athens, and London, respectively. Fourth time lucky, the world will be waiting with bated breath to see what it can pull out of its hat. Many, though, will be looking to get a move on and trying hard for a chance to see this mesmerizing event live. If you are one of the latter, this is just the guide you were looking for!
Here are some handy tips on establishing your base in one of the largest, most populous, and most popular cities in the world.
Online facilities for booking tickets for major sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics usually begin about 12-18 months ahead. Think of it in terms of a simple rule of thumb:
Start preparing for the coming Summer Olympics when the preceding Winter Olympic games get going.
It is said that the Olympic flame has to be extinguished in one city before it moves on to another, and this could not be more accurate in terms of travel and ticket reservation.
► No official info about the pricing of the tickets has been released, except that they will average around USD 36. It's claimed that some events will cost as much as just USD 20. Though this is the quasi-official consensus, the overall uncertainty and political power plays around the Olympics Games could result in the prices being hiked at the last minute. There's no way of being certain unless the official figures are released, which is expected to happen sometime after the culmination of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Keep checking this space for details about the tickets as and when they are revealed.
► Let's just get this out of the way, sporting extravaganzas like the Olympics don't come cheap. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the city to flaunt all it can to an adoring and expectant global audience. Expect to be charged at a premium rate for Every. Single. Thing.
► Tourists from all over the world are expected to flock to this megacity in their millions. Commercial avenues always make the most of any such infrequent boosts, and one of the biggest events in the modern world is no exception. Packages for the Olympics begin at a bare minimum of USD 6,000 per week. And this does not include shopping, of course! Premium hotels, such as Fasano on Ipanema Beach, can charge more than USD 1,600 per night!
► Even the usual options of cutting down on the cost of accommodation, such as hostels, can cost more than USD 100 per night. If you are traveling alone, couchsurfing, which allows you to crash at a generous host you meet online, emerges as the best option. However, it's unlikely that you will be traveling to the Olympics alone, so you will probably need to open up the purse strings a bit, and just find a way to be okay with it.
► An excellent option of reducing the cost of food is munching on a lot of street food; street food in any country is much cheaper than established restaurants. It's natural to be a bit concerned about the hygiene, but if you see a large crowd at a particular establishment, it must be doing something right. Pick ones that are obviously favored by the locals, and instead of worrying excessively about the remote possibility of an upset stomach, just enjoy the delicious stuff!
► Another way of keeping the price down is focusing on the Olympics, and not turning the trip into a recreational vacation. By all means, explore Rio and the numerous tourist spots around it, but don't try to fit in an excursion into the Amazon rainforest into your itinerary. The fascinating Pantanal can be just as easily and much less expensively covered in a non-Olympics year.
Notoriously crime-ridden favelas
Considering that you are a tourist and have no affiliation with any gang in the notorious favelas, yes, you should be just fine. Besides, despite the frequent violence in the favelas, security at such major occasions is usually beyond par, since any tragedy reflects very poorly on the fame of the country. For a country such as Brazil, which is popular all over the world for its various tourist attractions, such an event occurring under the full glare of the global media could be catastrophic. So, for the simple reason that Brazil would want to serve its own interests the best it can, you have no reason to worry about personal safety.
In a nutshell, keep your fingers tightly crossed for the next 6 months!
► If you have been keeping up-to-date on everything related to the Olympics, you must have read about the crisis that Brazil is currently facing. Ahead of the much more urgent FIFA World Cup 2014, the final of which is to be held in Rio in July 2014, the Maracana, which is also in line to host the Olympic opening ceremony, is yet to undergo a major renovation. Protests have shot up all across the country, with people complaining about the blatant corruption and laxness in the construction. Infrastructure promised as a byproduct of the two mega-tournaments has not been provided. Contrary to earlier promises that private money would be the major source of revenue, up to 80% of the cost of the construction projects has come from taxpayers' money. Due to these issues, workers at many sites have refused to continue work, which has led to oppression and being forced to carry on with the job.
► As the world looks on expectantly, Brazil is struggling to contain the hitherto-dormant volcano of public frustration and anger. Rio being a major city in both tournaments, the fate of the 2016 Olympics depends largely on the conditions achieved during the FIFA World Cup 2014. If Brazil manages to stage an event par excellence in June of this year, hopes are that that would prop up the flagging public support. If it suffers an embarrassing failure, which it is currently projected to, the public outrage will probably reach new heights, and the 2016 Games could also be hampered by the political involvement.
As one of the most iconic cities in the world struggles to fit the bill, the world watches on, expecting and hoping for something that will pacify the protestors, please the sportsmen, and amaze the viewing masses.