Cariocas love sports - from football to paragliding, and everything in between. Every beach, forest and body of water in Rio de Janeiro attests to the fact that Cariocas are in the midst of an enduring love-affair with sport and fitness.
I LOVE RIO explores the sporting recreations of the mountains, beaches, sea and air, providing advice and tips on how to get involved, as well as fascinating stories and useful tips. Professional and popular sports are covered alongside modern trends such as slack-lining and stand-up paddle, as well as information on hikes, classes, local teams, gyms and competitive events.
THE MOST DIVERSE URBAN GYM IN THE WORLD
Being a sunny city blessed by a warm climate, Rio de Janeiro is the perfect place to develop a solid sports culture, as people are drawn to the streets by the optimal temperature. Sunny days, heat, and blue horizons created an intensely outdoor culture, where sports and activities play an important role in everyday's life in the city.
Beaches for swimming, forests for hiking, and mountains for climbing make of Rio de Janeiro one of the biggest, most fun, most diverse, open-air gyms in the world. Sporting events throughout the city are the ideal setting for Cariocas to combine their passion for sports with their predilection for socializing and the grandiose spectacle.
People of all ages gather along the shores of many beaches, day and night, playing all sort of sports - surf, beach soccer, volley ball, foot volley, gymnastics, jogging, and even weigh-lifting, just to name a few. Youths learn soccer all along the beaches, while the elders enjoy free gyms and exercise in classes courtesy of the city's prefecture.
Blue waters energize during the day, and mesmerize at sunset - always welcoming surfers, body boarders, swimmers, and divers. The white sands of a hundred shores feel like velvet when playing volley, beach volley, fresco ball, beach soccer, and Rio's all time favorite sport "altinha."
Green urban forests are home to beautiful waterfalls, small lakes, and trails passing through some of the richest ecosystems on earth - rich of flora, fauna, and unforgettable corners of Atlantic rainforest. Lakes and lagoons reflect the skyline, and are outlined by paths made just for biking, skating, jogging, and running - with no other thought than the moment itself.
Rocky hills invite rock-climbers to earn privilege views of stunning landscapes, islands, and unique perspectives of the city below. Peaks so open and high to give the sensation of flight - to hikers, or to the brave who jump and hang glide next to the tropical birds who own the skies of Rio.
As a public and democratic space, Rio's beaches are the ideal setting for people from all social backgrounds and abilities to come together and enjoy sporting recreations. Reluctant to simply sit and soak up the sun's rays, most Cariocas opt for a more active and mobile engagement with their surroundings and have adapted and developed a number of different sports that are perfect for the sandy terrain.
One sport which is played at almost every beach in Rio, regardless of size and demographic, is "futebol de areia," or beach soccer. At larger beaches, such as the "Praia do Flamengo," and in areas of the Western Zone of Rio, there are nets and portions of the sand dedicated to the recreation. Altinha, or "little high," is a game in which a ball is passed in the air between circles of players, using feet, calves, knees, shoulders and head. The golden rule - that the ball remains air bound at all times - lends the sport its name.
Another celebrated sport is Volleyball and courts can be found lining the beachfront at almost all of the beaches in the city, where professionals and amateurs come to flaunt and hone their talents.
There is also a wide assortment of water-based sports which Cariocas and visitors flock to Rio's shores for. Swimmers congregate in groups for mass swims and competitions, while surfers and body-boarders take to the rough, clean waters of the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood, and further afield to nearby Recreio – as well as the trendy beaches of the districts of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.
At the moment, Stand-Up Paddle is the fashionable water recreation in Rio: a sport that involves standing on a board while using a paddle to glide through the waves. The activity offers tranquil exercise accompanied by unique views of the natural landscape, easy to practice and also enjoyable on lakes and lagoons.
No longer associated with the macho and rebel culture of the 70s and the 80s, standard Surf still remains an important part of Rio's counterculture - and grew a large following due to the gorgeous beaches engulfed by the city. Local surfing groups devote time and efforts to create competitions to bring together national and international surf champions along Rio's famous beaches.
The beaches represent one of Rio's main touristic attraction, and the locals make great use of them. Yet, soccer has the highest following in the general Carioca sports culture - deeply ingrained in people's minds, it has grown to be a part of daily life. It is by far the most appreciated sport in Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro is no exception.
Soccer has the special characteristic of overcoming social differences, and can be played just about anywhere - perhaps the reason why it became so popular worldwide as it did. In fact, in favelas as much as in luxurious districts, the main sports events revolve around it.
Soccer has been a major part of Brazilian culture since its migration from England in 1894. Also part of the reason for the sport's popularity and prevalence is the fact that it is highly accessible, and can be played on a wide range of terrains. Cariocas can be seen honing their skills with the ball across the city, from its sandy beaches to the winding paths of the favelas.
Rio is home to some of the most well-known and supported soccer teams in Brazil, whose games are hosted at the iconic Maracanã stadium throughout the year.
There are several championships that Cariocas follow, holding passionate alliances with various teams. The "Campeonato de Futebol Carioca," or Carioca Soccer Championship, is the Rio de Janeiro state competition, which has existed under one guise or another since 1906. The most popular and successful teams are Flamengo, Botafogo, Vasco and Fluminense.
The most important national cup is called "Campeonato Brasileiro," or Brazilian Championship, popularly known as the "Brasileirão," which was created in 1959 and has four divisions. The "Copa do Brasil," or Brazilian Cup, was founded in 1989, and has a greater number of teams representing a larger cross-section of states in the country. Champions of both of these national competitions are guaranteed a spot in the "Copa Libertadores da América," or Liberty Cup of America.
Soccer's beach variant remains especially popular, with the city serving as a beautiful backstage to many international competitions.
Rio's wonderfully diverse topography and landscape lends itself to a wide range of sporting activities. The forests and mountains offer great opportunities for hiking, climbing and endurance sports.
Along the parks, most notably on the "Aterro de Flamengo," or Flamengo Park, masses of runners, tight-rope walkers, weight-lifters, skaters and cyclists congregate to flex their muscles and sweat away the stresses of the day. Competitive runs are regularly organized across the city to bring together the large swathes of fitness enthusiasts.
Capoeira is an art form and sport which combines combat, dance, music and play and is performed to chanting and percussion. It was created in the early 16th century by Brazilian slaves of African heritage, as a way of masking fighting techniques by hiding them in dance moves. In late 2014 it was given UN cultural heritage status.
Private gyms and sports clubs abound, providing a wide range of equipment and classes to satisfy every fitness taste. The city itself promotes an active lifestyle to its residents, through advertising campaigns highlighting the value of Rio as a precious tool to stay healthy.
Dozens of public gyms for the elderly are placed across town in many parks, gardens, and even along the beaches: the government has invested in successful health and sporting initiatives to improve the fitness of its population, setting up free outdoor gyms and body weights in parks and communities, to encourage and expand access to recreational fitness practice.
Rio de Janeiro is a big city, extending through an area of over 4400 square kilometres built right beside the beach, with many lagoons, and next to fabulous hills, forests, and rocky formations - So, it is no surprise that bicycling is so much appreciated among the Cariocas, and the state has built more than 360 kilometres of urban bike paths, many of which cross some of the most coveted views in the city and surrounding areas.
As some sports are also great to watch, they become important touristic events - volleyball, yachting, motor racing, martial arts, jujitsu, and capoeira always attract the attention of Cariocas and visitors alike.
Today, Rio de Janeiro is considered one of the sporting capitals of the world – playing host to the lionesses of international sporting competition, as well as providing fertile ground for an endless stream of events and activities.
To acknowledge Rio's commitment to sport and fitness, the city played unforgettable host to the World Cup in 2014 and was chosen as the scene for the highly prestigious Olympic Games of 2016. The city hosts the annual Rio Sport Show, a fair for sporting equipment, services, gyms and clubs.
In 2015, the state hosted a number of sporting events to commemorate Rio's 450th year of existence, including long runs, and the opportunity to experiment 14 different sport and leisure events across the waterfront between the distrcits of Leme and Recreio dos Bandeirantes.
Every year, the city also hosts the World Championship of Capoeira , which benefits from the participation of seventeen countries. The competition offers Capoeira artists the opportunity to showcase their talents to a wider audience, and receive highly sought after international recognition.
The "Desafio da Paz" (Challenge of Peace) are sporting events that take place in the backstreets of Rio's most illustrious favelas, hosted by the world-renowned Grupo Cultural Afroreggae (Afroreggae Cultural Group).
The Desafio da Paz has become a cherished part of the city's sporting calendar, hosting a variety of events in communities across the metropolitan area. Underpinning the project is the desire to promote peace and the cultural and sporting fruits that a tranquil social environment offers.
A popular sporting recreation which originated in favelas is kite-flying. Young and old residents have spent years perfecting the art of constructing kites and conducting competitions in the sky.
Rio de Janeiro is sunny and warm, naturally inviting to go out and practice sports - an invite the city extends worldwide to all who wish to play.