Olympic Torch Relay unites Brazil’s north-east

Picture by Rio 2016/Andre Luiz Mello

The Olympic flame spread the Olympic spirit of inclusion, respect and peace as the Torch Relay neared the end of its journey through Brazil’s north-east regions.

On its last day in the state of Rio Grande do Norte on 6 June, the flame was welcomed by the Juraci Soares marching band in the town of Lajes. And among the Torchbearers was parish priest, Father José Roberto Rocha, who has launched several social projects in the area.

“It’s a pleasure to receive the Olympic flame here in our city, to illuminate our work and spread the Olympic spirit and its values,” Father José said, who was applauded in the town’s square. “It’s an opportunity to show peace, unity and respect.”

For other Torchbearers, it was a moving moment. Claudia Alarcón, who works for a women’s entrepreneurship association which gives opportunities to women at risk, said: “I’m trembling with emotion after holding the torch!”

In the town of Angicos, some 5,000 people turned out to join the relay, which was celebrated with performances of Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeira, and regional music, forró. Monsignor Francisco Pinto, 90, who has dedicated almost 60 years to the priesthood in the city, said: “I never thought that the torch would pass here, much less that I would carry it!”

The 35th day of the Olympic Torch Relay ended in Mossoró with a traditional June celebration, before heading to the state of Ceará where 470 torchbearers were waiting to play their part.

From former Olympic athletes to prominent women’s rights campaigners, the torch was passed across a cross-section of local heroes as it travelled towards the state capital, Fortaleza. Juliana de Faria, a local journalist, was among the Torchbearers on this leg of the Relay, as was Maria da Penha, a Ceará native, who inspired a breakthrough law against domestic violence in Brazil.

Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay Day 36
Picture by Rio 2016/Fernando Soutello

Bodybuilder Tereza Augusta de Carvalha, 28, also championed the message of inclusion as she carried the torch. “Brazilian women are increasingly gaining ground in bodybuilding, especially because they are getting better results than the Brazilian men,” Tereza, who has returned to training after the birth of her son, said. “But of all the competitions I participated in, I cannot think of an emotion like carrying the Olympic torch. I never imagined it in my wildest dreams."

The torch relay convoy ended its 36th day in Fortaleza on the famous Iracema beach before heading towards the city of Sobral. On its journey, the flame was carried by Ricardo Nascimento, of the Weibe Tapeba people, with the blessing of the tribal elder, Raimunda.Ricardo said: “It’s my birthday and my gift was unforgettable: to unite the meaning of fire to indigenous peoples with the Olympic flame. This is twice as powerful and rewarding.”

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.