By Mark Chesnut
Brazil’s original jet-set destination and one-time capital, Rio de Janeiro, is gearing up for two world-class events: The FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016. But visitors can already tap into the excitement, thanks to an array of renovations, upgrades and new attractions in the works.
Within the next two years, thousands of new hotels will open to accommodate the many athletes and spectators who’ll arrive for both events. But in the mean time, existing hotels are already sprucing up their offerings. One new name already on the scene is the Royal Tulip Rio de Janeiro, which took over the former InterContinental hotel.
Among the best-located properties undergoing upgrades is the Rio Othon Palace, which sits in a prized setting on Copacabana beach and is upgrading its meeting space. In addition, the luxurious Copacabana Palace, an Orient-Express hotel, is in the midst of a major refurbishment to its historic main building, where stars like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers have been among the guests. Also getting upgrades in Copacabana are the Golden Tulip Regente, Pestana Rio Atlantica and Copa Sul hotels, as well as the Mar Ipanema hotel, in the upscale Ipanema district.
Soccer fans can tap into some of the excitement of the World Cup long before the actual game, thanks to the visitor center at Maracana Stadium, which was originally built in 1950 and is currently undergoing a massive renovation to bring it up to speed for the 2014 event. The multi-floor visitor center showcases the history of the exciting games that have taken place here, and also provide a peek at the improvements under way at the stadium (it can also serve as an interesting venue for private corporate events).
Travelers looking to experience one of the venues that will be used for the Olympics, can check the schedule at the HSBC Arena, a sporting and concert complex in the fast-growing Barra da Tijuca district, where most of the Olympic events will take place. Among the biggest business-friendly hotels nearby is the Sheraton Barra Hotel & Suites.
Still to come: lots of new hotels, a spruced-up waterfront downtown and important venues including the “Cidade da Musica,” a music and cultural complex in Barra da Tijuca, the “Museu da Imagem e do Som,” an image and sound museum in Copacabana and the “Museum of Tomorrow,” designed by world-famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. He just returned from his fifth visit to Rio.