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Brazilian pride soars after first medal

2016-08-07 08:52
Felipe Wu (Getty Images)

Rio de Janeiro - First, the opening ceremony drew praise from all over the world. Then there were parties all over Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil's first medallist on Saturday.

A sweet start to the Olympics prompted the return of a familiar chant from the 2014 World Cup that had been pushed into the darkness by years of bad news. "I am Brazilian, with a lot of pride, with a lot of love," they celebrated.

With the Olympics in full swing, beleaguered Brazil is smiling again.

"We are not stupid, we know the economy crisis doesn't end with Olympic Games," 46-year-old volunteer Marcos Silveira said at a bar hours after an opening ceremony steeped in local culture and history.

"But I just want a break, to feel proud of what we can do, too. Let me enjoy these Olympics that we built to be great for all. We can do great things here, too," said Silveira, an unemployed engineer.

On Saturday, some of the proud locals watched as Brazil's women's handball team beat Olympic champion Norway.

They went on to cheer Felipe Wu to the country's first medal in shooting in 96 years - a silver in the 10-meter air pistol. A sequence of beach volleyball and volleyball victories made it up for disappointing losses in judo and women's basketball.

On the streets of bohemian neighbourhood Laranjeiras, which is more carioca than touristic, all TV sets were showing Olympic competitions, regardless of the involvement of Brazilians.

"I wasn't very excited until last night, I admit," waiter Wilson Elias said. "But it is so many people criticising us that now I want them to be proved wrong. We have our flaws, but we have our tricks, too. If I have the chance to buy a ticket for something, I will."

Reports from the ticket office at a shopping mall in one of the wealthiest areas of Rio said lines were big all day long.

On Copacabana beach, the nationalistic feel was also present in light-hearted jokes. After Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt beat Josh Binstock and Samuel Schachter of Canada in beach volleyball, 21-year-old university student Carlos Silva predicted more success for his country in 2018 in South Korea.

"Be ready, because soon we will beat you at the Winter Olympics, too. It is all ours now," he said with a strong Rio accent.

At the Sochi Games in 2014, Brazil sent its biggest delegation ever to the Winter Games: 13 athletes.

Not even news of huge lines to get in the Olympic Park, of a suspect package near the finishing line of the road cycling race or a stray bullet shot into the equestrian venue changed the positive atmosphere for Brazilian fans.

Local fans were gracious enough to celebrate a gold medal for South American rival Argentina - judoka Paula Pareto in the 48kg category.

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