Brazil on a Roll

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Brazil is on a roll, and its star city of Rio de Janeiro is the hub of all the action. Already the ninth largest economy in the world, Brazil may well reach the rank of 5th by the time the Olympics make their debut in 2016. Now is a good time to get to know Brazil because the 14.4 billion dollars scheduled to be spent preparing the country to host the Olympics is likely to forever change its face.

Did we mention that Brazil is also hosting the 2014 World Cup? The two sporting events have the nation bursting with pride, the tour operators and hoteliers working overtime and the city struggling to upgrade the nation’s tourism infrastructure. The International Olympic Committee chose Rio over Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo, and the Brazilians seem determined not to let the opportunity pass without giving it their best.

Rio may be the world’s most misunderstood city. Ask someone who has never been and they basically know Carnaval, an iconic statue of Christ, bikinis bursting with attitude and that the town is ringed by favalas. But there is so much more to Rio and the world is about to discover the energy of a town fueled by samba and soccer.

The tourism infrastructure of Brazil is strong. There are dozens upon dozens of resorts and hotels of the four and five star category and a building frenzy is underway to accommodate the tourists that will arrive pre-, during, and post-World Cup and Olympics. The largest soccer stadium in South America, the Maracanã soccer stadium will be getting a face lift. Two years ago Brazil hosted the Pan American Games and much refurbishment was undertaken by the government at that time. Interestingly, Google and Brazil struck a deal to launch an ultra-sophisticated tourism deal featuring YouTube and Google Maps mash-up via the Google operated social networking site, Orkut.

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The world is about to discover all of this and more. Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful coastal city, with problems, yes, but with a life and energy that has always drawn travelers from the world over. The dramatic mountains, the tropical coastal jungles and Sugar Loaf are all too magnificent to be ignored for long by North Americans, much to the dismay of the Northern Europeans who discovered Rio long ago and claimed it as their own bit of tourism turf.

Don’t doubt that the Brazilians can pull off their extreme makeover. The country’s multiple discoveries of a vast deepwater oil reserves the past few yearsmay provide Middle Eastern style wealth to much of the nation.

One fortunate effect of the improving economic conditions of the country is an increased improvement in living conditions of the general population and an quickly expanding middle class. While the Favelas are still there with their attendant poverty and violence problems, the government is on a dash run to invest in cleaning up the shantytowns and to improve the basic environment of the hundreds of thousands who live in them. As those efforts get underway, even tourism has begun to take hold in the Favelas and visitors find their way into some of the safer streets and bars there, accompanied by guides and guards.

Brazil is on a roll certainly enough. A good tour operator can get you there ahead of the crowds, providing you a glimpse of the old Brazil. You know, the one that exists now, before the World Cup and the Olympics make Rio de Janeiro as cosmopolitan as any of the great capitals of Europe.

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