Olympic Torch Relay takes a trip back to Brazil’s roots

Picture by Rio 2016

The Olympic flame has shone a light on Brazil’s origins as it passed through the country’s founding state during the latest phase of the Rio 2016 Torch Relay. Arriving in the north-eastern state of Bahia on 19 May, the flame was carried to the very spot where explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral first discovered Brazil in 1500.

And in one of the defining moments of the flame’s journey so far, it was carried by members of the Pataxó tribe, one of Brazil’s indigenous populations.

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“We have been here since the year 1500,” said Raoni Vieira, one of the Pataxó torchbearers.  ”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,”

It was the Torch Relay’s first foray into the north-east of Brazil, and it was greeted with the rhythms of “Axé” – a blend of samba and reggae – popular in this part of the country.

From there, it passed through one of the smallest cities in the region, Floresta Azul, which is home to 14,000 people, almost all of whom took to the streets to mark the occasion on Saturday, May 21, led by a woman dressed as a Greek goddess.

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“We wanted everyone to participate in Floresta Azul. It is an historical celebration for our small city that was only emancipated 54 years ago. So, receiving the Olympic flame is part of our celebration too,” said Waldemar Sodré, who was responsible for organising the Torch Relay in the city.

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In Ibicaraí, the flame was welcomed with displays of the traditional Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeira, and worshippers of the local religion, candomblé, reflecting the enduring influence of the African population in the north of the country.

And as it headed towards the state capital – and original capital of Brazil – Salvador, the flame made a stop along Bahia’s stunning coast when it visited one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil in Itacaré on Sunday, 22 May

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“Itacaré is a Brazilian paradise. The Olympic flame couldn’t have missed it,” said local stand-up paddle teacher Marcio Soares.

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.