One of the main Brazilian Carnival icons, the Sambódromo, is a familiar venue from samba enthusiasts. During the Olympic Games it will open its doors to athletics, marathon and archery events for Rio 2016.
Designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer – one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture in the country – the Sambódromo is the main stage for Rio’s parades during Carnival, the most traditional and popular festival in Brazil.
Every year, usually in February, the arena is taken over by floats and thousands of paraders with colourful costumes. They are cheered on by a crowd of passionate spectators. The parades are also televised nationally and watched by large audiences.
Despite the space just being inaugurated in 1984, the samba school parade traditions in Rio started long before that. The first parade took place in 1932 at Praça dos Onze, and the popular Mangueira was the winner among 19 schools.
Between the first official parade and the construction of Sambódromo, the Carnival was held in many different places in Rio.
In 1978, the parade was moved to Marquês de Sapucaí street. Five years later, Rio de Janeiro’s state governor, Leonel Brizola, ordered a project to transform the provisional structure to a permanent arena, keeping the parade on the same street and highlighting the cultural importance of the event.
Since then, Sambódromo has been the definitive space for the annual parades of the Special Group, composed by the top-tier schools, and the access group, the second division.
But Sambódromo is not only about samba. Outside the Carnival season, the Apotheosis Square, an area located at the end of the parade route, is occasionally used as a concert venue.
In 1993, Nirvana performed at the Hollywood Rock Festival, which included the iconic “Come as You Are” in the setlist.
In 1998, the Rolling Stones and special guest Bob Dylan excited fans for an entire concert, especially during the performance of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Most recently, in 2011, pop music took over the Apotheosis when Britney Spears included Rio in her Femme Fatale tour.
In 2016, the Olympic Games will write its name in the Sambódromo’s history. To stage Rio 2016 events, the venue underwent structural work and new stands were installed.
From August 6 to 12, Sambódromo will host all events of the Olympic archery competition, including the preliminary qualifying rounds and the finals. The venue will seat 7,000 spectators. Crispin Duenas and Georcy-Stéphanie Thiffeault Picard will represent Team Canada in the sport.
On August 14 (women) and then again seven days later on the final day of the Games (men), the venue will host the marathon events. The competitors will begin and finish the marathon at the Sambódromo. The athletes, including Team Canada’s Reid Coolsaet, Krista DuChene, Eric Gillis and Lanni Marchant, will be supported by 30,000 seated spectators.