Over the next four years, the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro will dominate headlines across the globe.
Brazil’s second-largest city might not be the capital, but there are a host of reasons why it’s the most visited city in the southern hemisphere – all of which were contributing factors in the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award it the 2016 Olympic Games.
Two years prior to staging the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth, Rio will also host several matches at the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals, including the final itself at the world famous Maracanã stadium.
Rio – like the rest of Brazil – and football go hand-in-hand, so it’s no surprise that some of the most notable Cariocas – a name given to native inhabitants of the city – have made their names in professional football.
Several of them achieved so much for club and country during their careers that they are now recognised as legends of the sport.
Ronaldo – the World Cup’s all-time top scorer – and another Brazil World Cup winner, Romário, were both born in Rio. To produce one iconic striker would have been a major success, but to be the birthplace of two in such a short space of time is something quite extraordinary.
If you were to reel off a list of classic players to have worn the Brazil shirt over the years, you’d discover that a handful of them were born in Rio – including the wonderfully-gifted Zico, exciting winger Jairzinho, and scorer of arguably the finest goal in World Cup history Carlos Alberto.
Sticking with sport, three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet is one of Rio’s most famous sons. Incidentally his son, the current Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr., still considers himself Brazilian despite being born in Heidelberg.
One of Rio’s most famous tourist attractions is the world famous Copacabana Beach, where Olympic champions beach volleyball players Sandra Pires and Jackie Silva would have honed their skills. Carolina Solberg, 24, hopes to follow in their footsteps by becoming another Carioca to win a gold medal, while Bernardinho is a former volleyball player who currently coaches the men’s national team.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is also very popular in Rio, with Royce Gracie regarded as one of the sport’s most influential figures. Ricardo Arona and Jorge Santiago are two other Rio-born personalities famous in the world of MMA.
Robson da Silva, who won bronze medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympic Games and is subsequently Brazil’s most successful sprinter to date, was also born and raised in Rio, as was the swimmer Djan Madruga.
Rio is also the birthplace of Fernando Henrique Cardoso – the 34th President of Brazil who served for two terms from January 1995 to December 2002.
In the world of music, Marisa Monte is a name familiar not only with Brazilians but also tomanyacross other continents. By 2011, she had sold 10 million albums worldwide, with her story starting in Rio.
Ivan Lins is a Latin Grammy-award winning musician and still resides in his home city; Fabrizio Moretti moved from Rio to New York with his family when he was five and, since 1998, has been a drummer in the indie rock band The Strokes; Leny Andrade has had a number of hits in the Brazilian charts, and Jorge Ben Jor is known for his unique style of samba rock.
The singer Elza Soares will be a face familiar with most Brazilians, but her late husband Garrincha – one of the greatest footballers of his generation – is a name more familiar with a worldwide audience.
Rio has also produced its fair share of film directors. Walter Salles, José Padilha and Bruno Barreto all hail from the Brazilian city, while Fernanda Montenegro is an Oscar-nominated actress.
In terms of influence, few Cariocas have more than TV host and entrepreneur Silvio Santos. The 81-year-old is the owner of the television network SBT and is one of the wealthiest individuals in Brazil.
Cildo Meireles might have slightly less cash than the billionaire Santos, but he is still well-known in Rio as a talented conceptual artist, installation artist and sculptor.
Architect Oscar Niemeyer has been around considerably longer than the pair of them. Perhaps it’s the fact that he still works today which allowed him to celebrate his 104th birthday in December.
Expect to hear a lot more about Rio de Janeiro and its famous inhabitants over the next four years.
By: Robert Swan