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|| News Item: Posted 2010-11-11

Going To Rio

By Tim Clayton

(Editor’s Note: With the 2010 FIFA World Cup now over and the London Olympics bearing down upon us, all eyes will soon be on Brazil, and in particular Rio as they prepare themselves for the extraordinary _double whammy_ of hosting both the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the summer Olympic games in 2016. Australian freelance Sports Photographer Tim Clayton has spent the past four months getting to know Rio de Janeiro and discovered the harsh realities of life in the Brazilian City.)
Photo by Tim Clayton

Photo by Tim Clayton

Locals play foot volley, a hybrid game combining beach volley ball and football at Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 5th July 2010.

Call it bad luck, bad management or just blind faith in believing Brazil was going to win the 2010 World Cup, I imagined shooting joyous celebration on Copacabana Beach, the team parading around with the trophy dancing to Samba music and a nation in hysteria.

Great images, lots of sales for the next four years! I was sure I was onto a winner!

My partner and I landed in Rio the moment Brazil were knocked out in the Quarter Finals by Holland, the pilot announcing the result as we taxied to our gate. It was like a hearse arriving to a morgue, the soul of Brazil was in mourning yet again! The life of a freelance!

Gulp! How stupid am I? Of course Spain were going to win the World Cup! Why wasn’t I in Barcelona or Madrid or South Africa even! Four months later and after many experiences I am still trying to come to terms with life in Rio and still assessing the love hate relationship most foreigners have with the city.

The first barrier of course is the language. Portuguese, on first hearing, appears to be a cross between Spanish and Killer Whale and is an incredibly difficult language to grasp especially if you do not have a natural gift for languages. But you cannot get by here by relying on others to speak English, very few Brazilians do, so you are forced to make the effort and learn at least the basics to get by and to get a chopp (draught beer).

We took the usual warning of _you will get robbed_ as that only happens to others. How wrong we were! First we had items stolen from our hotel room, little things like card readers, an external hard drive, a couple of compact flash cards, the thief obviously hoping we wouldn’t notice. When we refused to pay the hotel bill until the matter was addressed the police were called. Four police arrived carrying machine guns and promptly insisted we pay the bill or WE would be arrested.

The worst was to come. My partner, shooting at ten thirty in the morning at Flamengo Beach was attacked from behind by a couple who tried to remove her camera and back pack. As she kicked screamed and punched for survival locals simply jogged past ignoring her plight. Luckily an English speaking Brazilian recognized her English tongue as she shouted _f**k off you f**king bastards” and came to her aid just in time.

A very close call, she was shaken and bruised but back shooting again three days later. Yes, it can happen anywhere. It just seems to happen here with alarming regularity. The Brazilian government has even set up a tourist police station in Leblon where you can sit and chat with other tourists about your experiences while filling out a police report. Welcome to Brazil!
Photo by Tim Clayton

Photo by Tim Clayton

Fluminense fans can't bear to watch as their side prepare to take a penalty during the Fluminense V Sao Paulo, Futebol Brasileirao League match which ended in a 2-2 draw. The penalty was missed by striker Washington at the Jornalista Mário Filho Stadium

It highlights in many ways all that you hate about Rio, especially for working photographers who have to carry gear around. You very quickly become paranoid with security, camera straps clipped and fastened to belts and back packs, hidden and held when not using and gear locked away, bolted and wired to immovable objects in your hotel room when you head out for a quick bite to eat, always concerned your gear might not be there when you get back.

Copacabana is unique in many ways; the favelas literally drips down the hillside and onto the beach so you have a complete mix of wealthy tourists and locals living in relative poverty all intermingling in the same community. It is then simply a question of odds as a small minority of people turn to crime to survive. Anyone visiting Rio I would certainly recommend staying in Leblon or Ipanema where you feel much safer and there is certainly a better selection of quality hotels, bars and restaurants.

Also curiously is the g-stringed image portrayed in the media as representative of Rio life. It couldn’t be further from the truth! There is an obesity problem here on a par with the U.S. While fruit drinks and coconut water are in plentiful supply, they are complimented by fried pastry wrapped around almost anything. Quality restaurants are rare and extremely expensive and the standard eating out treat for locals is _all you can eat_ buffet style restaurants, which in simple health terms leave a lot to be desired.

But through all this negativity and fear, there are many positives about the City. The Brazilians are trying so hard to bring an element of _class_ into their culture. The Teatro Municipal has to be one of the most beautiful theaters on the planet. Recently restored it is magnificent in every sense and really is something the Brazilian people are proud of.

Talking with the locals too, you only have to mention the word football and they quickly befriend you and immediately start debating the latest football match with you. They have the same fears too and so desperately want Rio to be a safe modern city with _class_.

Gradually as you venture into different parts of town you find quality living does exist and the Brazilian people have such a positive attitude towards making things better it is easy to believe this will continue to improve! They are sick of wars, sick of fighting, they genuinely want the world to be a better place.

Venturing out of Rio, too, is also an eye opener; Buzios to the North and Paraty to the South are simply wonderful bohemian towns with a completely relaxed way of life and feel about them. Watching the sunset over the bay at Buzios while sipping on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc was a highlight, simply magnificent!

Then there is football...
Photo by Tim Clayton

Photo by Tim Clayton

Vasco keeper Fernando punches clear from Botafogo striker Loco Abreu during the Botafogo V Vasco, Futebol Brasileirao League match at Estadio Olímpico Joao Havelange, Rio de Janeiro, The classic Rio derby match ended in a 2-2 draw.

I would say I would be _on the fence_ with Rio as a place to live if it wasn’t for one thing, the football. It tips the scales completely for a football/sports photography-loving nut like me. It is simply wonderful! Rio has four teams, Flamengo, (the most famous club side in Brazil), Fluminese, Vasco and Botafogo. The fans have amazing passion for their side and great knowledge about the sport. With each side playing two games a week most weeks you can easily be at a game four days out of seven.

The quality is simply amazing. Players control the ball with astonishing ease and have strength and power to shield and then pass the ball off to team mates with such speed and quality I sometimes sit there marveling and shaking my head at the brilliant skills. It is all about the first touch. It is the beautiful game and why Brazil is considered to be the bastions of it.

I have mixed both touchline shooting with spending many a night in the stands with the fans as I shoot a photo essay _Nothing Else Matters...Football in Rio de Janeiro Halcyon days indeed! One moment springs to mind as I stood in the Vasco crowd for a home match at the decrepit Sao Januario Stadium.

Moments after Vasco had scored and the fans had burst into song accompanying the samba beat of the drums, a young Vasco fan rocked his head back and looked to the skies the rhythm of his movement pulsating to the drum beat. You could sense and feel for a few moments of that boy’s life, nothing else mattered, he was in heaven for a few seconds of his life, I shot as my eyes welled up, I was in heaven too! A moment to treasure.

Rio_s most famous football ground Maracana Stadium, is now closed for three years as it undergoes refurbishment for the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Most matches are now played at the Olympic Stadium, a _mini me_ in size of the Sydney Olympic Stadium but suffering similar problems with the football fans being too far away from the action. They are not happy!

The exciting prospect for the 2016 Olympic Games is the venue for the Canoe sprint and rowing events. This time it won’t be a two hour bus ride away from civilization but held in the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas which sits just back from Ipanema Beach, with amazing backdrops and the statue of Christ the Redeemer sitting above the course. It is sure to be a much photographed event in 2016.

The quality paper of Rio is the O globo. A modern designed broadsheet which
Unfortunately lacks quality photojournalism of any real distinction throughout its news and feature pages. It is saved only by the excellent sports section and the brilliant football photography of Alexandre Cassiano and Ivo Gonzalez.

As I jetted away for my next port of call and awaiting the calendar year to click over so a new visa is possible, I soon realized that despite all its problems Rio has that certain something, I miss it already, especially the football, my Portuguese language CD_s will be getting a good work out as I drive around New Zealand for the next few months in my Fluminense football shirt.

Start preparing for 2014 and 2016, I am sure the Brazilians are going to make it the best show on earth! Twice!

Tim Clayton is a freelance photographer after being on the staff of the Sydney Morning Herald. You can check out his work at: ;

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