Brazil showed its passion for the Olympics as the Torch Relay travelled across the north ahead of Dia dos Namorados, the Brazilian equivalent of Valentine’s Day.
Thousands filled the streets of Massapê in the state of Piauí as early as 7am on 9 June to give the Olympic flame a heartfelt welcome, even building their own medals podium.
“I like to think of Brazil not just as a country of football and carnival,” said Fernando Nunes, 31, who was the first Torchbearer of the day. “To be able to spread the Olympic spirit among Brazilians is a fantastic thing.”
The city of Granja also threw a big party complete with performers dressed as Greek goddesses and Olympic mascots Tom and Vinicius.
Marcio Araújo, beach volleyball silver medallist who took part in two editions of the Games, was among those to carry the torch, and said: “It’s very different to be here in the middle of the public and receive so much happiness. It took me back to the Games once again, I saw myself winning another medal.”
The Olympic flame continued across Piauí on 10 June, making its way to the state capital Teresina, carried by 167 Torchbearers.
The stunning natural backdrop of Brazil’s varied landscape included the Seven Towns National Park, which features seven rocky peaks while replicas of the Olympic torch were standing at the park’s visitors’ centre.
Maria de Sousa, a guide at the park, said: “I love the park, I work here and I help preserve this place, which is so important to the environment. To promote such a beautiful place is very important.”
The day was topped off with a lively celebration in Teresina with square dancers lining the route while in front of the São Benedito church, the Parada de Cinema collective presented an Olympic picture show.
On Saturday, the flame reached Palmas, the capital city of Brazil’s youngest state in its geographical heart, Tocantins.
Alceu Catapan, who was inspired by Athens 2004 to found the Athens Athletics Association in Palmas, was among the Torchbearers.
“It’s an emotion without limits,” he said. “I don’t know how to describe it. If I couldn’t watch the Olympics in person in Greece, today, they have come to me.”
Finally, the Olympic flame reached São Luís in Maranhão on 12 June, which is also Brazil’s Valentine’s Day.
The city hosted a traditional June party with events taking place in eight places, including cultural performances such as the Afro-Brazilian dance, tambor de crioula, and folklore performance, bumba meu boi.
Jaqueline Maria Gomes Caldas, 12, who overcame personal difficulties to triumph at school and in football, was the first to carry the Torch in Maranhão.
“It’s very emotional for me and for all of my family,” she said.
“For all the players who play with me and all of Maranhão, because I represent all of them as well, I thank you very much.”
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.