RIO DE JANEIRO – The rain that fell during the last night of 2011 and stopped just a few minutes before 24 tons of fireworks were shot off didn’t stop 2 million people from attending Rio de Janeiro’s main New Year’s festival, an event that was confirmed to be the largest of its kind in the world.
The partygoers at the so-called Reveillon on Copacabana beach, their white garments contrasting with the colors of their umbrellas and raincoats, enjoyed a 16.5-minute fireworks extravaganza as well as musical performances on four stages.
Although there was a light but persistent rain, which forced many tourists and local residents to seek refuge in nearby bars and other establishments along Copacabana beach, the drizzle stopped about 11:30 p.m. allowing many people to hurry and find empty spots from which to watch the fireworks display along the 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of Brazil’s most famous beach.
The number of people on hand for the show had been estimated pretty accurately by authorities, but fewer folks turned out than in previous years for the Reveillon.
Police confirmed that about 2 million people gathered at the site, allowing the World Travel Guild tourism association to claim that the Copacabana Reveillon was the world’s largest New Year’s Eve festival.
“I come from New York. I was at parties in Asia, Europe and Oceania, but nobody organizes a New Year’s party like Rio de Janeiro,” Ian Erix, a representative of World Travel Guild, said after witnessing the gigantic fireworks display of some 22,000 individual fireworks.
The fireworks were launched into the sky from 11 barges moored a few yards off the beach by the Barcelona-based Spanish firm Pirotecnia Igual, which once again won the public bidding held by the Rio mayor’s office to stage the New Year’s Eve show.
The seven first aid stations set up at Copacabana attended to about 250 people, most of whom had consumed too much alcohol or had sustained minor cuts, but there were no serious incidents, the health department said.
The Copacabana celebration was followed this year, for the first time, by hundreds of tourists from the terraces of the homes in the Rocinha “favela,” or shantytown, Rio’s largest slum and one which was “pacified” by the police about a month ago after decades of domination by drug trafficking gangs.
Sao Paulo’s main New Year’s Eve party also drew about 2 million people in Brazil’s largest city under rainy skies to central Paulista Avenue. There, too, numerous musical groups performed and the public was treated to a 13-minute fireworks display to welcome the new year.