Rio de Janeiro, May 4 (IANS) The first of Brazil’s Rio 2016 Olympic torchbearers have described their emotion at carrying the fabled flame through the capital Brasilia.
The torch began its 95-day journey to Rio’s Maracana stadium after arriving on Tuesday on a specially chartered flight from Switzerland, reports Xinhua.
President Dilma Rousseff lit the flame at the Planalto presidential palace in a day of celebrations that also featured an Air Force aerobatics performance and an abseiler who, with torch in hand, descended from a helicopter to the Mane Garrincha stadium turf.
Rousseff urged the 12,000 participants of Brazil’s torch relay to relish the opportunity to create “history”.
“Hundreds of places and millions of Brazilians are united in a commitment to write a new glorious page in the history of the Olympics,” she said.
Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, a bronze medallist at the Athens 2004 Olympics, said he hoped the torch would spread the Olympic spirit throughout Brazil.
“I am so happy to have been given this opportunity,” he said. “I hope that it brings good things to the country. The Olympics are the biggest event on earth.”
Brazil’s 2014 surfing world champion Gabriel Medina said he would remember the experience of carrying the torch for the rest of his life.
“It was an honour – one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Medina said.
Adriana Araujo, Brazil’s only female boxing Olympic medallist, shared Medina’s enthusiasm. “This flame will have a contagious effect, not only on all of Brazil but on the world,” she said. “It’s something historic that will stay with me forever.”
For Veteran diver Hugo Parisi, the experience was made even more special by the fact he was in his home city.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment. This is where everything began for me. I’m here in front of my people, my city,” Parisi said.
Perhaps the most emotional moment came when the torch was passed to Hanan Khaled Daqqah, a 12-year Syrian refugee whose family has recently relocated to Sao Paulo.
“I was so happy to carry the Olympic torch because I would never have imagined that this could happen,” she told Rio2016.com. “It was a very special moment. I love the Brazilian people, I feel Brazilian myself.”
Hanan had words of solidarity for other refugees around the world: “I wish that they can all live in peace, without wars and with their friends,” she added.