Landmark Rio statue to go green for St Patrick's Day


RIO DE Janeiro’s Christ Redeemer statue will be wearing the green next St Patrick’s Day, joining other world landmarks such as the Leaning Tower 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 to the famous landmark by President Michael D Higgins, who is on an official visit to three countries in South America.

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 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 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 Sugar Loaf mountain and the Copacabana beach, 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 white light.

Though still small compared with those in 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 statue’s night lighting has been 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. Earlier this month it was illuminated in the colours of the German flag to commemorate German reunification.

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

Attending Wednesday’s announcement, Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons said his agency was planning a media campaign in Brazil to coincide with the statue’s greening to raise awareness 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 hiring a local agent to promote Irish tourist destinations within Brazil.

President and Mrs Higgins were due to fly to Buenos Aires yesterday for the final leg of their three-country South American trip.

There they will meet president Cristina Kirchner, as well as members of Argentina’s Irish community, the largest in Latin America.