Olympic Torch Relay reaches the finishing line
After bringing the Olympic spirit to all corners of Brazil in a three-month marathon, the Olympic Torch Relay finally arrived at the Maracanã to fire up Rio 2016, bringing to life the Olympic cauldron.
In a spectacular finale to the Opening Ceremony on 5 August, long distance runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was the last torchbearer, who ignited the Olympic cauldron, a stunning mirrored pyre.
The Olympian had suffered heartbreak in Athens in 2004 when he was disrupted by an intruder while in the lead in the marathon but still managed to win bronze. He has since become synonymous with sportsmanship and perseverance.
It topped off an epic journey that began in May in the capital city of Brasília.
From there, it travelled through the colourful north-east, the enchanting Amazon, the gaucho lands of the south and the metropolises of São Paulo on its road to Rio.
RIO 2016 / ANDRÉ LUIZ MELLO
The flame has surfed, sailed and soared in the hands of athletes and teachers, young and old.
Among the most memorable moments was the passage of the flame through the town of Caruaru in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco to the music of one of the most important Brazilian musicians, Luiz Gonzaga.
RIO2016/MARCOS DE PAULA
Torchbearers and volunteers sent the relay viral with their spirited and rousing display as the town enjoyed the traditional São João festivities.
The relay also recognised Brazil’s origins, visiting the spot in the state of Bahia where explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered the country in 1500.
And in one of the early special moments, members of the Pataxó tribe, one of Brazil’s indigenous populations, carried the torch.
“We have been here since the year 1500. And to carry the torch and the Olympic flame wearing our costumes is a way to celebrate the Indians in Brazil. And we, the Pataxó people, are very proud with this opportunity that shows respect for our people,” said Raoni Vieira, two times spear throw champion and one of the Pataxó torchbearers.
As well as reaching Brazil’s diverse population, the Olympic Torch Relay also highlighted the country’s natural beauties with some incredible backdrops.
From the stunning archipelago of Fernando de Noronha and the convoy of dolphins that followed the flame to the Lençóis Maranhenses and Foz de Iguaçu waterfalls, the flame visited some of the most breath-taking sites.
Torchbearers ranged from the “King” of football, Pelé, to City of God director Fernando Meirelles, who was the creative producer of the Opening Ceremony, and current Brazilian Olympians including archery champion Marcus Vinicius d’Almeida.
And as the relay reached Rio, it spent its final days before opening the 2016 Olympics visiting the most famous landmark, Christ the Redeemer, on Corcovado mountain.
Football royalty, Carlos Alberto Parreira and two times World Cup winner Zagallo, were torchbearers in Rio.
“It’s a very big privilege to participate at the world’s two biggest events,” Carlos said.
“I’ve been to nine World Cups and four Olympic Games. Being at the relay is amazing, particularly alongside Zagallo, who has been with me in so many moments.”
And after inspiring the rest of the country, the flame reached the athletes at the Olympic Village.