Rio's Christ Redeemer to go green


Rio de Janeiro’s Christ Redeemer will be wearing the green next St Patrick’s Day, joining other world landmarks such as the Leaning Tour of Pisa and the Empire State Building in celebrating Ireland’s national holiday.

The announcement was made by Rio’s archbishop Dom Orani João Tempesta during a visit yesterday to the world famous landmark by President Michael D Higgins.

Once the formalities were out of the way, the President and Mrs Higgins mingled with tourists on the platform under the statue’s outstretched arms to take in the spectacular panoramic views of the city on a beautiful southern spring evening.

Inaugurated in 1931 the 30m high statue was elected one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. It sits atop a mountain rising out of a rain forest surrounded by a metropolis of 12 million inhabitants and over the decades has become Brazil’s most recognisable symbol.

From a height of 710m visitors look down on the city’s other leading landmarks such as the Maracanã football stadium, Rio’s own Sugar Loaf mountain and the beach of Copacabana where the presidential couple’s hotel is located.

Cristo Redentor was to have been painted green for this year’s St Patrick’s Day, but a mix-up between government and Catholic church authorities meant that on the night the statue was bathed in its traditional while light.

Though still small compared to neighbouring Argentina, St Patrick’s Day celebrations have grown in popularity across Brazil in recent years, driven in part by the rising number of young Brazilians exposed to the holiday while in Ireland studying English.

St Patrick’s Day will not be the first time the Christ’s night lighting is changed to mark a specific event. Earlier this week it was painted pink as part of a nationwide campaign in Brazil to raise awareness of breast cancer, the most common form of cancer to affect Brazilian women.

This month also saw it illuminated in the colours of the German flag to commemorate German reunification.

The greening of the Christ is part of a campaign over recent years to paint global landmarks green on St Patrick’s Day in an effort to raise Ireland’s profile as a tourist destination.

Attending yesterday’s announcement, Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons said the agency was planning a media campaign in Brazil to coincide with the statue’s greening to raise awareness in Brazil about Ireland as a travel destination.

This will be part of a greater focus by Tourism Ireland on Brazil’s booming tourism sector which will also involve the hiring of a local agent to promote Irish tourist destinations within Brazil.

“Contracting a local agent is essential if Ireland is serious about cracking Brazil’s tourism market,” said Peter O’Neill, an Irish travel consultant based in Brazil. “You need a permanent presence in Brazil in order to access its tourist market. Otherwise exercises like the greening of the Christ statue will be wasted and prove of no long-term value in raising Ireland’s profile as a destination.”

President and Mrs Higgins are due to fly to Buenos Aires this afternoon for the final leg of their three country South American trip. There they will meet Argentina's president Cristina Kirchner as well as members of the country's Irish community, the largest in Latin America.

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