A breakdown of Rio’s Olympic presentation

I offered to explain what my interpretation of the Rio de Janeiro presentation at the closing ceremony of London 2012 on Twitter and some people seemed interested. So here it is.

It all started with a street sweeper dancing in the middle of the stage. This man is not quite an actor, he is a real street sweeper called Renato Sorriso who is famous for his samba dancing in Rio. Every year he shines during carnival, but the rest of the year he sweeps the streets of Rio sporting the famous COMLURB uniform of white and neon orange. If you ever visit Rio, you will see many men and women wearing this same iconic uniform.

Renato is samba-ing like crazy and a “gringo” comes to tell him to leave, but Renato decides to teach him how to samba. The Brit (I assume he’s British but I might be wrong) fails miserably – but he should not be ashamed, not EVERYONE in Rio can dance like that. Yours truly can’t.

Carnival costumed dancers enter the stage, the crowd cheers. I’m not really sure that each costume is meant to be something, most of the time they are representative of movies, issues, landmarks, and everything possible, ever, really. But this time I think it was just a very braggy way to say WE HAVE SAMBA AND FABULOUS COSTUMES.

Marisa Monte enters the stage impersonating Iemaja. It’s okay if you did not understand a word of the previous sentence, I will explain; Marisa Monte is a brilliant Brazilian singer who has sold 10 million records worldwide. She mainly sings Brazilian popular music (MPB, very different to actual pop but that’s another blog post all together).

Iemanja is an orisha, or a sort of goddess of the religion called Candomblé. The faith of Candomblé is a kind of mesh of African religions and beliefs that the slaves brought to Brazil when it was still a colony. Iemanja is the Queen of the Seas and is believed to steal sailors to be her lovers by drowning them in sea storms. I’m not entirely sure why Marisa Monte was impersonating Iemanja in a blue dress of parasols, but I would say the Queen of the Seas is a very Brazilian character and that we are probably trying to have less ass in our international presentations.

Then BNegao starts singing a song – I’ll be honest I had no idea who he was until I did research for this blog post. Apparently he is the lead singer of a Brazilian band called Black Alien, so you’re welcome to look it up. Also, if anyone was wondering who the gorgeous, tall woman dancing samba in a long gown dress was, her name is Alessandra Ambrósio.

A song that made me smile at the TV screen was “Aquele Abraco“, sung by Marisa Monte and Seu Jorge. In the middle of the confusion of costumes and music, there was also a bit where the famous patterns of the Copacabana sidewalk were formed on the floor. They look like this:

Quite iconic but a nightmare to walk on. However, it’s good that they brought this over to London – just if you are actually coming to the Rio 2016 Olympics don’t bother bringing heels or any sort of uncomfortable shoes.

And the finale obviously had PELÉ, the legend. The crowd cheered and roared, as if his Viagra advertisement days were over. Like I tweeted earlier, we’ll always have Pelé.

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Edit: I forgot to mention the bit with all the indians. I think that’s pretty obvious though, surely? We have indian tribes all over Brazil. Many in the Amazon. That’s pretty much it.


12 thoughts on “A breakdown of Rio’s Olympic presentation”

  1. Came across your blog. Great job breaking down the Brazilian presentation at the Closing Ceremony. I just wanted to add a couple of things. FYI I’m also Brazilian, from Rio 🙂

    BNegao was singing “Maracatu Atomico” a song made famous by Gilberto Gil in the 1970s. If you want to hear Gil’s version here’s it is:

    The importance of BNegao singing it was to highlight Maracatu. Maracatu is a traditional folkloric procession from Pernambuco (a state in Northeastern Brazil). It is meant to replicate the procession of African royalty, which the slaves had recreated in their captivity. By bringing it to the Olympics, the Brazilian committee is highlighting the strong African influence is all of Brazilian culture.

    In addition, the song is called (to translate into English) “Atomic Maracatu” which brings Maracatu to modern times. In other words, the song is meant to bridge the gap between a very old folkloric tradition with modern times. I was also not familiar with BNegao, but it makes it doubly interesting that the committee gave it to a hip hop artist to sing. Again, modernizing the tradition even more.

    As for why Marisa Monte was interpreting the figure of Iemanja I have my own theory I’d like to share. Marisa is very famous for her cover of a famous Brazilian carnaval samba, “Lenda das Sereias,” from the samba school Imperio Serrano. Here’s her super famous cover:

    The song is translated to “Legend of the Mermaids” and it lists all of the important Candomble deities of the sea. It also is celebrates the sea or the ocean, as a mysterious and powerful symbol.

    It is also important to note that Rio de Janeiro has the biggest (let’s be honest, we really really do!) reveillon (Portuguese for New Year’s Eve party) in the entire country. New Year’s Eve is a very important night for followers of Candomble. They dress in all-white, and send out small home-made wooden ships into the sea along the beaches of Rio with wishes to Iemanja. If you ever go to Rio on New Year’s Eve, you will definitely see Candomble followers on the beach.

    Let’s face it, Rio = beaches. So Iemanja, as a deity of the sea, would be figure very prominently. Although I was raised Catholic, every Brazilian knows about these figures.

    Thank you 🙂

    See you in 2016!

      1. Thank you so much. I really liked your blog and am just so excited the World Cup & the Olympics will be coming to Rio in 2014 & 2016.

        Best of luck on your blog!

  2. Well, few points to clarify. The sidewalk design refers to Copacabana, not Ipanema. They are made from Portuguese pavement stones which can be also seen in Lisbon. Yemanja came to stage singing a Villa Lobos song, the most famous classical author in Brazil. The man wearing that awful suite full of lights was singuing Maracatu Atomico, famous pop song by Gilberto Gil, making also a reference to Mangue Beat movement from the state of Pernambuco. Representing Bahia, some Capoeira players, a fight that came to Brazil with slaves from Africa and that became a folcloric dnce nowadays. Also, Seu Jorge, the last male singer, was representing the iconic character of a typical Malandro, a kind of easy-living bohemian man, from the nights of Rio from the thirties and which is a common cultural reference of the city. As you can see, too much information and a lot of cliche, but the final result was not totally bad, anyyway! This is my contribution… On time: Aquele Abraco is a song by Jorge Benjor.

  3. Thank you Nicole! That was quite a nice way to explain it… 🙂 I am Brazilian and unfortunately missed watching the closing ceremonies and I am not beating myself over it! Can’t wait to find it somewhere over the internet! 🙂

  4. I was so sad because I missed the ceremony, but then, a friend of mine posted Your link. I Loved and I just want to Thank You for this!!! I’m sharing it !!!

  5. Thankyou for helping to explain that colourful burst of complete foreignness to an Aussie! Rio is going to be amazing – the closing ceremony made me think I have a lt to learn about this amazing place.

  6. Simply wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your
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