Samba rhythms are in full swing in Rio de Janeiro, with the Olympic torch almost ready to enter the famed Maracana football stadium to get the Games officially underway on Friday.
Brazil wants all the controversies, problems and protests forgotten. Now it is time to party!
There was certainly a carnival atmosphere in the iconic beach city on Thursday as the torch was paraded through Madureira, in Rio’s north zone, known for its traditional samba schools.
Veteran samba singer Tia Surica was thrilled to receive the Olympic torch.
“I parade in the Sambadrome (Rio’s Samba stadium), every year. But this was a surprise for me and it was very exciting, a feeling I will hold onto for the rest of my life,” she said.
Friday night’s opening ceremony, showcasing samba, will be watched by 50,000 people in the arena and an estimated 3 billion around the world by television.
The 31st Summer Olympic Games, and the first ever in South America, will run until Aug. 21.
Organisers are hoping the start of the Games will erase months of bad publicity for Rio – from polluted water to faulty plumbing at the athletes village to worries about the Zika virus – all against the backdrop of a brutal economic downturn.
Brazilian football legend Pele is widely tipped to light the Olympic cauldron on Friday night although health problems may get in the way. The 75-year-old triple World Cup winner had hip surgery in December and needs a walking stick to get around.