The beaches of Brazil are admired all over the world and at home. Brazilians love spending time with sand beneath their feet, tucking into a caipirinha or enjoying an intense game of volleyball. Given that Brazil has more than 20,000 miles of coastline, it is little wonder that the beach pervades the national psyche. Beaches are romantic, immortalised in song (Copacabana and The Girl From Ipanema spring to mind) and can dominate the atmosphere of a town or city.
Brazil is gearing up to host yet another international sporting event. The opening ceremony gets underway in a few hours and the eyes of the world will turn to Rio de Janeiro. If the World and Confederations Cups are anything to go by, these Olympic Games will run smoothly, despite the odd hiccough involving shoddy stadia and angry protestors. This is the ‘jeitinho brasileiro’ – the Brazilian way – at it’s finest: leave things until the last minute, but somehow manage to achieve decent results. As ever with Brazil, the situation is unpredictable. But what is the lowdown from Rio? Is the city ready for these Olympic Games?
My time abroad has sadly come to an end. Siberia and Brazil have given me a sensational, albeit peculiar, year. I've managed to squeeze in an array of activities, from television appearances and rides on snowmobiles, to burning on sandy beaches and experiencing World Cup hospitality. Of course, my two destinations couldn't have been more different. The weather jumps out as the starkest contrast between Tomsk and Rio, but in terms of language, culture, people and more, these two places have almost nothing in common. However, despite all this, I shall attempt to answer the million-dollar question: which did you prefer?
Latin America has a bad reputation for violence. Many people consider Brazil a dangerous place. But I wonder whether this label is just. Is Brazil as violent and dangerous as people say?
One question that seems to come up every time I go anywhere in the world is: ‘did you feel safe there?’ It can be difficult to answer because it is often when you let your guard down that bad things can happen. Even the world’s ‘safest’ cities have their dangerous spots, where any number of things can go wrong. I know that’s a bit of a cop out, but it is true. That said, there are a few places that I have felt a little uneasy and I suppose that Rio de Janeiro would make it on this list.