Rio 2016: Olympic flame wins hearts and minds in Minas Gerais
Last Thursday – Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay – saw the flame start off its journey in Itaberaí, in Goiás state, where it received a noisy reception as children from the local schools heralded its arrival with drums and percussion. The first Torchbearer of the day was former Brazilian marathon athlete, Joacyr Verde.
“There are lots of emotions involved,” he admitted. “It’s a huge honour to be chosen as the first Torchbearer in my home town. This is a unique event in the world and also in Brazilian history, so it’s really important for the city and people of Itaberaí to have the torch relay here”, said the 41 year-old
Arguably the highlight of the Itaberaí leg of the Olympic Torch Relay saw Antonio Caldas, Brazilian writer and founder of Itaberaí Writers Academy carrying flame on a carro de boi, a traditional form of cart typical of mid-west Brazil.
“Carro de boi expresses the culture of Itaberaí. I’m very excited to be talking to people about the Olympic Games, and I’m thinking about going to Rio myself,” said the author.
Throughout the Itaberaí section of the relay, the sound of the berrante, a traditional local cowbell, rang out through the city’s streets.
After Itaberaí, the Olympic flame travelled to Inhaúmas before arriving in the state capital Goiania, where 97 Torchbearers carried it on a circuit of the city.
Following a second day travelling around Goiás state, on Saturday 7 May the flame crossed into Minas Gerais state, finishing the day in Varjão de Minas, which with a population of just 6,000, is one of the smallest cities to welcome the Torch Relay.
After leaving Varjão de Minas, the flame crossed the San Francisco River before arriving on Pirapora, a small city right in the heart of Minas Gerais State. With a population of a little over 55,000, Pirapora is known throughout Brazil for its iron and textiles industries.
The honour of delivering the flame to the first Torchbearer in Pirapora went to three local students, Victória, Rafael and Adrienne, who had won an essay competition on an Olympic theme.
They then handed the flame to former football player Luiz Henrique, who once plied his trade for Brazilian giants Fluminense and Flamengo as well as French club Monaco. And he admitted his thoughts were already turning to the football final at the Maracanã and the prospect of Brazil winning a first ever Olympic gold in his beloved sport.
“Since Argentina has an Olympic football title, we have to win it too. We have to win the gold medal in our own country,” he said.
Later, the flame passed into the hands of zumba dancer and teacher, Iguaciena Sulamita, who was responsible for choreographing the Pirapora section of the Torch Relay.
After leaving Pirapora, the flame then made its way to Montes Claros, the 26th city along the relay route, where it was borne by 85 locals, including former handball star Cristina Queiroz.
“I’m very excited,” said Cristina. “It’s a unique event. And after playing for the Brazilian handball team for over 10 years it’s a pleasure to be a Torchbearer.”
After spending the night in Montes Claros, on Tuesday 10 May, the flame is scheduled to make an early morning stop in the city of Bocaiúva, before heading for three other cities in Minas Gerais state: Couto de Magalhães de Minas, Diamantina and Curvelo.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay has three Presenting Partners: Worldwide TOP Partner Coca-Cola, which continues its longstanding support for Olympic torch relays, and local Partners Bradesco and Nissan. For further information, please visit the Rio 2016 website.