By Paige Cornwell
Last year my birthday so happened to fall on the day of the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games. I had been living in São Paulo for about a month by the time my birthday came around, so I decided to go to Rio de Janeiro for my birthday weekend. Two of my SPLAS friends were living in Rio too, so it was comforting knowing I wasn’t going to spend my birthday alone!
Morning of my birthday on Copacabana
Having been unsuccessful at getting closing ceremony tickets for a few weeks, me and Benjy were expecting a quiet night in watching the ceremony on TV. As you can see from the picture above, it was winter in Rio and my birthday was a cloudy and rainy day – a very different reality to what I had in mind of an all-year sunny and hot Rio.
Benjy kept profusely apologising about how my first birthday abroad was turning out to be underwhelming and boring. Sitting in a café in Ipanema, we tried one last time to get closing ceremony tickets at the Maracanã Stadium. By some sort of miracle, the website refreshed and we could buy two tickets for R$100 each (£25)!
For £25, we had the best seats in the house, about 10 rows from the front – we couldn’t believe it. My cloudy, rainy, uneventful birthday suddenly became one of the most memorable nights of both my year abroad so far.
The firework display
The closing ceremony was full of all thing carioca (related to the city of Rio de Janeiro) such as Carnaval samba dancing and a medley of Carnaval anthems. It felt like they played the song Cidade Maravilhosa more than three times. For me the highlight of this night was definitely seeing the ‘warm-up’ for Tokyo 2020. I’ll never forget seeing the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe dressed as Mario jumping out of a warp pipe. For my first birthday away from my family and friends back home, it was a birthday I will never forget.
In August, I had only been living in Brazil for a few weeks, and so the ‘Brazilianness’ of the closing ceremony did not really resonate with me as much as it does now. As I write this blog post, I have lived in the city of São Paulo for almost seven months and have visited Rio two more times. Thanks to the Edith Baer bursary, I have been able to travel to Rio and many other Brazilian cities and really made the most of my time here in Brazil.