Monday, August 1st, 2016


This is Rio

Nicknamed “The Marvelous City,” Rio will serve as the first-ever South American city to host the Olympics. European immigrants discovered the city in January 1502 when Portuguese sailors happened upon Guanabara Bay. Thinking it was a large river, they named the area Rio de Janeiro, which means “January River.” Known for its natural beauty, the city is home to 23 beaches and more than 40 miles of sandy shore. Rio is divided into four zones; most of the tourist activity taking place in South Zone, which is home to Copacabana Beach and Sugarloaf Mountain. Each year, Rio hosts an average of 2.82 million international tourists.


The Land

Located on the eastern coast of Brazil, Rio borders the Atlantic Ocean. The shoreline is oriented west-east and the city faces mostly to the south. Mountains surround the city, with views from the top providing spectacular displays of the landscape. The city covers an area of 485 square miles, while the greater metropolitan area is 2,079 square miles. The city is divided into four zones: Centro (Center Zone), Zona Norte (North Zone), Zona Sul (South Zone), and Zone Oeste (West Zone). The four zones can be further divided into boroughs and then into neighborhoods.

The Center Zone is both the center of the city and its financial district. Its location corresponds to the old city, but few of the original colonial-era buildings still exist due to a series of remodeling efforts. There is no consistent architectural style and a variety of different eras are represented. One of the most notable landmarks is the Municipal Theater, which was built in the early 20th Century is an almost exact replica of the Paris Opera House.

Most tourist activity takes place in the South Zone, which is the wealthiest part of the city. The zone is home to the iconic Copacabana Beach, which hosts an annual New Year’s Celebration (Reveillon) that attracts over two million spectators. Located nearby is Tijuca National Park, which is the second largest urban forest in the world. Pontifical Catholic University, the nation’s premier private university, is located at the edge of the forest.

The North Zone is primarily residential, but it is also home to Rio’s Galeao International Airport (GIG) and Maracana Stadium. Travel between the North Zone and the rest of the city is made difficult due the mountainous ridge that runs along its border. The Olympic venues in Maracana are located within the North Zone.

The West Zone is the fastest growing area in the city, due in part to the construction of venues located in the Barra and Deodoro Olympic zones. Many new housing and office parks have been built in recent years, as well as several large shopping centers and mega-markets. In addition to extensive shopping, there is still a variety of natural beauty located in this region of the city. The West Zone is known for having the cleanest beaches and is also home to the Pedra Branca State Park, which is the largest urban state park in the world.


The Climate

Although the area surrounding Rio is tropical, hot, and humid, the weather conditions in the city are often affected by the geographical features of the region. The city’s proximity to the ocean causes coastal breezes to bring cooler temperatures. During the winter months (June to September), cold fronts from Antarctica can reach the city, resulting in frequent weather changes. The month of August averages a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and receives an average of 1.8 inches of rain. Summer months (December to March) are warmer but wetter; January averages 78 degrees Fahrenheit and receives an average of 5.3 inches of rain. The urban district of Jardim Botanico, which is located in the South Zone of Rio, records the highest amount of rain in the city, receiving an average of 63 inches of rain annually. Heavy rainfall causes severe flooding and landslides, which can be particularly damaging to the favelas built in the hills of the city.


The People

Rio is Brazil’s second-largest metropolis after Sao Paulo. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 6,320,446, while the greater metropolitan area boasted 11,875,063. Rio’s residents are referred to as cariocas, a term that originated from the Tupi Indian word that means “white man’s home.” The city is ethnically diverse, with a population of people of European, African, and mixed ancestry. Despite the diversity, neighborhoods in the city remain ethnically divided. Many people of European ancestry live in affluent neighborhoods, while many people of mixed ancestry live in the suburbs. Most pardos and pretos (people of African descent) are concentrated within the city’s favelas.

Rio’s population has historically grown as people moved from the country to the city. The strongest growth occurred in the 1950s; the city expanded by nearly 40 percent during that decade. When the capital of Brazil transferred from Rio to Brasilia in 1960, the rate of growth declined, but the population continued growing and did not slow until the 1990s, when the space in the city began to become limited. As access to the West Zone increased at the end of the 20th Century, growth has resumed. Although domestic migration is partially responsible for the population growth, the city also had a large influx of foreign immigration. In 1890, 30% of the formal federal district was made up of foreigners. In the 1930s, new government restrictions on immigration went into place, causing the percentage of foreigners to decline to seven percent by 1960.


The Government

Rio is governed by a prefeito (mayor) who, since 1984, has been elected in a popular election to a four-year term. The current mayor, Eduardo Paes was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Legislative power is exercised by the Municipal Chamber, whose members are elected through a system of proportional representation. Rio serves as the capital of the State of Rio de Janeiro, but the state’s governor and city’s mayor often are political rivals, because they are competing for the same resources from the nation’s capital Brasilia.


Rio Longitude and Latitude

At Maracana Stadium

Latitude: 22 degrees 54’44” S

Longitude: 43 degrees 13’48” W