The Olympic torch was raised before Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on Friday on the final leg of its journey to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, as Brazil excitedly put the final touches to seven years of preparations.
At the evening ceremony in the famed Maracana soccer stadium, Brazil will declare open the 31st summer Olympic Games, the first to be held in South America. They run until Aug. 21.
Organizers hope the start of the Games will turn the page on months of bad publicity for Rio, from polluted water to faulty plumbing at the athletes’ village and worries about the Zika virus. Having won the Olympics in 2009 during an economic boom, Brazil since slipped into its worst recession in decades.
Former Brazilian women’s volleyball player, Maria Isabel Barroso Salgado, lifted the flame beneath the outstretched arms of the giant statue of Christ that overlooks Rio’s Guanabara bay.
“May this be the moment for us to overcome difficult times and to work as a team, to make our country and our world fairer and safer, full of hope and joy,” said Rio’s Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta, flanked by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes.
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