During the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, people around the world gather in homes with friends and family to help celebrate the sports of the world. But an enthusiastic culture in Brazil prefers to move the party outdoors. Street bars and beach bars are the local hot spots, and cariocas come from far and wide for game day to enjoy the company, have a drink, and chat the night away.
One beach in particular, Copacabana, is more than just a location with 4 kilometers of white sand, rolling waves, and a good time. Even on normal day, Copacabana is a melting pot of Brazilian cultures. During the Olympics, a heaping portion of Germans, Swiss, Americans, Dutch, Chinese and other nationalities turns Copacabana into a cultural buffet.
“On the sidewalk you can see a lot of different cultures,” says Paula Del Trejo Paiane, a student at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo. “They come in together and they blend so perfectly with the environment.”
A stroll down the patterned mosaic sidewalk unveils some of the most unique humans of the world. Aspiring athletes play pick up soccer on the beach. Musicians serenade their music and artists show off their portraits. Bartenders prepare caiparinhas and chop the ends off coconuts to serve coconut water in the husk. Beachgoers buy Rio-themed sarongs. A woman sets up her stand and braids hair next to a couple of cheerleaders who flip and fly through the salty air.
Every step reveals the smells of grilled seafood, chicken and beef. Any and all walks of life express themselves freely, and for the people of Brazil, Copacabana is a judgment-free dream, an escape from reality and a place of peace. And although the sun may set in the distance the party never stops.
“It is just a part of our culture to always be surrounded by other people,” Paula says. “We always like to get loud and like to have fun. The bar is the best place to do that because when you’re alone at home watching a soccer game and there is a goal, you want to celebrate but it’s only you. We like to be with a lot of people and have fun.”
Copacabana envelopes the Olympic mission of promoting peace through the power of sport and inclusion. The beach contains so many separate individuals but together they are a community, a group of people who understand that their diversity is not wrong. It is an opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive together.
Paula Del Trejo Paiane, a journalism major at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in Sao Paulo, served as Portuguese translator and Rio field producer on this story.
Outdoor bar at Copacabana beach in Rio during the Olympic Games, August 2016. Photo by Ashley Osiecki