Researchers weigh risks of Zika spreading at Rio Olympics

Simon Romero, Rebecca R. Ruiz – New York Times, 01/28/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — With about 500,000 people expected to visit Brazil for the Olympics here this year, researchers are scrambling to figure how much of a risk the Games might pose in spreading the Zika virus around the world.

Infectious disease specialists are particularly focused on the potential for Zika to spread to the United States. As many as 200,000 Americans are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics in August. When they return to the Northern Hemisphere and its summer heat, far more mosquitoes will be around to potentially transmit the virus in the United States.

Brazilian researchers say they believe that Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects, came to their country during another major sports event — the 2014 World Cup — when hundreds of thousands of visitors flowed into Brazil. Virus trackers here say that the strain raging in Brazil probably came from Polynesia, where an outbreak was rattling small islands around the Pacific.

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Brazil’s Carnival Lovers Face Sobering Moment as Country Braces for Recession

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 01/12/2016

When it comes to mood making in Brazil, there are few institutions that can match the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro.

For a week each year at Carnival, they embody exuberance with a pulsating parade of spectacular floats, gyrating dancers and bateria throbbing with the rhythms of tamborims, chocalhos, surdos and drums.

But even these professionally upbeat performers are wondering how long the party can last as the country’s economy suffers what is forecast to be the deepest recession in more than a century.

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Brazil scales back Carnival festivities as drought and weak economy persist

Bruce Douglas – The Guardian, 2/11/2015

Severe drought and an ailing economy have forced cities and towns across Brazil to abandon or scale back their plans for Carnival, which is due to start on Friday.

In Brasília, the capital, the local authorities have cancelled the samba school parade for the first time since 1983, in an attempt to plug the R$4bn (£900m) hole left in the accounts by the previous administration.

“It was a really unpleasant surprise,” said Geomar Leite, the president of Brasília’s Union of Samba Schools, said. “We had all the programme ready; the music, the costumes. We feel really frustrated.”

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Rio Olympics Won’t Help Brazil’s Economy if the World Cup Is Any Guide

Raymond Colitt – Bloomberg, 1/16/2015

The 2016 Olympics will be no panacea for Brazil’s faltering economy if last year’s World Cup is any guide. Contrary to government projections, Brazil has failed to lure to its beaches and jungles many of the 3.5 billion TV viewers that followed the tournament.

The flow of tourists to the country, which spent more to host the mega-event than any nation before it, has remained flat from a year earlier since the final match July 13, according to tour operators and an online search engine. Spending by foreign visitors fell 7.4 percent from August through November, compared with a year earlier, central bank data shows.

From the rhythms of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the Amazon forest and Iguassu Falls, Brazil boasts some of the world’s outstanding travel attractions. Yet several hurdles, from high costs and violence to poor marketing and logistics, mean many potential visitors choose to go elsewhere, said Diogo Canteras, partner at hotel consulting firm HotelInvest.

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Carnival float catches fire, killing 4 in Brazil

Stan Lehman – The Miami Herald, 02/12/2013

SAO PAULO — A fire on a Carnival float has killed four people and injured five in the Brazilian port city of Santos.

A fire department official says the float caught fire shortly after the Sangue Jovem samba school ended its parade at dawn on Tuesday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

He says three of the victims were pushing the float. A woman watching the parade was the fourth. The condition of the five injured was not immediately known.

Even the Carnival Can’t Save Brazil From a Slump

Holly Ellyat – CNBC, 02/11/2013

As raucous Latin American rhythms, colorful processions and street parties go, Brazil’s Carnival is among the best, but Citigroup’s strategy team is questioning whether the party for Brazil’s economy could be over before it’s really begun.

The five days of celebrations began over the weekend against a backdrop of national pride and optimism. The main carnival in Rio de Janeiro contributes $628 million to the country’s economy and has added around 250,000 temporary jobs. The world-famous samba parade of exotically dressed “carnival queens” and bands generated $42.8 million in ticket sales, advertising and TV rights.

But the celebrations come as economic growth slowed to less than one percent in 2012. At the same time, inflation risks are rising and the currency has strengthened – providing warning signs that all is not well for the “BRIC” economy.

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Brazil Carnival: Rooted in ancient rites of spring and pleasures of wine

Sophy Nie – Shanghai Daily, 02/06/2012

CARNIVAL comes from the Latin words carne meaning flesh and vale, meaning farewell. Thus, it’s farewell to pleasures of the flesh until after Easter.

The festival dates back to the ancient Greek spring rites and celebration in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine. Romans honored their wine god Bacchus and revelry was unrestrained. Participants often wore masks, danced and cavorted. Such Bacchanals were linked with the Roman Saturnalia, when masters and slaves would exchange clothes for a day of drunken revelry.

The Roman Catholic Church modified the Saturnalia into a festival leading up to Ash Wednesday, and it quickly evolved into a massive celebration of indulgences.

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