Brasilia: Some of Brazil’s best athletes were among the first 10 people in the South American country to carry the Olympic torch, which arrived in the capital city of Brasilia from Switzerland on Tuesday morning, beginning its journey through the country.
The Olympic flame began its 95-day journey through over 300 of Brazil’s cities on Tuesday. The relay will come to an end at the Olympic Games official inauguration ceremony which will take place at the Maracana Stadium on August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Xinhua reported.
Two-time Olympic champion in volleyball at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Fabiana Claudino, received the torch from the hands of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff at the Planalto Palace (the official workplace of the president).
Claudino began her journey through the Ministries Esplanade, a large avenue where the public authorities buildings are located.
Claudino was chosen as the first torch bearer by Rousseff in honour of the women’s volleyball team who are seeking to win the Olympics for a third consecutive time in Rio 2016.
The second torch bearer, Arturo Avila Cordeiro de Melo, was the first Latin American to win the fields medal, considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics.
He was chosen to highlight the importance of education for Brazil’s development.
Going back to athletes, Angelo Assumpcao (artistic gymnastics) and Adriana Araujo, who won Brazil’s first Olympic medal in women’s boxing with a bronze medal in the 60 kg category at London 2012, were also among the privileged few that were chosen to carry the torch at the start of its journey in the South American country.
Gabriel Medina, Brazil’s first athlete to win a surfing world title in 2014 and Paula Pequeno, who was voted the best female volleyball player at Beijing 2008, also carried the torch.
The journey in the capital’s central area came to an end inside Brasilia’s cathedral where Paula Pequeno handed over the torch to marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro.
Cordeiro experienced a dramatic moment in Olympic history when he was knocked over by a religious protester when he was leading with just six kilometres to go until the finish line at Athens 2004.
Cordeiro managed to get up again and recovered to end the race in third place, rewarded with the Pierre de Coubertin medal for his Olympic spirit.
Another moment of great excitement in the torch relay was when 12-year-old Syrian refugee, Hanan Daqqah, carried the torch.
The young girl lives with her family in the city of Sao Paulo and was chosen in a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the world’s refugees.
The beginning of the relay was not without acts of protests and support as the people involved took advantage of the relay’s international visibility to show banners against and in favour of Brazil’s President Rousseff.
The president is facing an eventual impeachment process against her. Currently the case is being analysed by the Senate and if they decide to continue with the process, Rousseff could be removed from office for 180 days to allow for a thorough investigation.
A total of 141 people will carry the Olympic torch a distance of 108 km through Brasilia on a route that will include the Juscelino Kubitschek bridge, Lake Paranoa, the Mane Garrincha Stadium, the Claudio Coutinho water-sports complex and the National Park.