Rio de Janeiro

Again, this time in Rio de Janeiro, we had to call on our weather god. The day before our event on Corcovado, it was raining heavily.

We made good use of the time by preparing carefully with the great team at the Rio Convention and Visitors Bureau, headed up by Paulo Senise and working closely with Savio Neves, whose official title is the Director of the Corcovado Train – he is the one who runs the monument. A very detailed plan was written up, only to be completely thrown to the wind the next day, during the event itself. However, we did not expect anything else. We were in the most Latin of Latino countries, with all the enthusiasm and energy for which the Latinos are famous.

One of the aims of the New7Wonders campaign is to bring emotions to the man-made monuments. That is one of the reasons for being “on the road” with the World Tour.

Rio made it really easy! The ceremony began with a the national anthem played by a military band, and everyone present sang with their whole heart – this was the first time that a national anthem was played and it really suited the mood, proud in a very positive way. Then an apparently very famous chorus sang the famous samba song about Rio called Samba do Avião and, once again, everyone joined in merrily. During the speeches that followed, I was impressed that basically every segment of Brazilian society was called upon to get with the program and vote – from the educational system to the parks to the chamber of commerce. One special guest made a very moving speech at the end: Jairzinho, one of Brazil’s most famous football players. A very quiet, modest man, especially for someone who is a legend in one of the sport’s most passionate countries, “The Hurricane of 1970” called on Brazilians to vote and show their pride in this important, spiritual monument. And the best is that Jairzinho wore jersey number 7 and scored 7 goals during the World Cup that Brazil won – one in each game, a record he still holds!

The very enthusiastic Cardinal Scheid almost seemed to forget for a moment that he holds such an important function in the Catholic church (only the Pope ranks higher than cardinal), becoming a natural champion (spontaneously in German, English and French, plus Portuguese!) for the New7Wonders campaign and for the “Cristo,” as the people of Brazil call the Christ Redeemer statue on top of the Corcovado (“hunchback,” because of the tallest mountain in Rio’s shape).

During the certificate ceremony, the Cardinal made some interesting plays on the mountain’s name, saying that Corcovado comes from the Latin “Cor quo vado” – or “Heart, where are you rushing?” Or maybe “Heart, where am I going?” I responded that Rio’s famous Carnaval also has an earthly meaning: “Il carne vale:” flesh has its value. I then assured him with a big smile that we are talking about earthy wonders, which the man-made monuments actually are, not heavenly wonders – or miracles – which are the church’s domain.

Speaking of Carnaval: Two weeks after our visit to Rio, the world famous Carnaval will start and what could be a more appropriate moment then to combine this popular event with the hugely popular monument and celebrate this great and truly moving statue with some hot samba?! And hot it was … the samba musicians and dancers inspire natural vitality and strength like no other human beings in action. It is almost scary what power is released by the sound of the drums, and it is totally contagious. About half a minute into the dancing, sweat was all over me … il carne definitely vale when it comes to samba! And I still wouldn’t know where my heart should have gone with all the beauty around me.

Spiritual and earthly events have to be well separated in Brazil. Whilst the cardinal was still on Corcovado, no samba! Personally, I have to admit that, to my big surprise, the time spent with his Excellency, the Cardinal of Rio de Janeiro was, in a very different, intellectual way as much fun as the physical pleasure to dance samba with the famous “Rio Grande” Samba school. The “Cristo” definitely embraces all, the heavenly and earthly symbols and pleasures.

Paulo Senise, who I had first met at a the Berlin International Tourism Fair back in February 2006, was one of the first official representatives of a country who reacted spontaneously with great excitement at the New7Wonders campaign and, a year later, continued to show the same support for the campaign. He created and prepared, together with his team, an efficient, fun and powerful media event for the “Cristo” and the N7W World Tour. Not many people that were so spontaneous came through when it meant work. It shows that he let himself be moved by his emotions. I am glad that he and his team were highly rewarded by the huge media resonance that the amazing morning on top of the Corcovado created all over Brazil and way beyond.