Rio de Janeiro
This is a month of spectaculars in Brazil. It began with the overwhelming tide of popular support favoring Tancredo de Almeida Neves to be Brazil's next president, and erupted in massive demonstrations of enthusiasm across the nation when the Electoral College named him the country's leader on Jan. 15.
But some Brazilians think another show here may be even more spectacular than the presidential vote. That is a huge rock music festival winding up this week in Rio.
``Rock in Rio,'' as the event is called, has brought some of the world's brightest names in rock music and hundreds of thousands of Brazilians and foreigners to this city for what some call a 1980s version of the famous 1969 festival Woodstock, held in the United States.
Audiences here dance to the sounds of Queen, White Snake, Iron Maiden, Al Jarreau, the Go-Gos, James Tayler, Rod Stewart, and others in a specially constructed $6 million ``rockdome.'' Rio's hotels are full to overflowing, with room prices at a premium and the city's services taxed to a maximum.
``Rock in Rio'' is so successful that its organizers, including businessman Roberto Medina, say it may even turn a profit in its first year. The show wasn't expected to be in the black until its third year. But that assessment was made before top names like George Benson and James Taylor and dozens more from the US and Europe agreed to perform.
There is a sprinkling of Brazilian rock stars in the list of performers, but the stars from abroad are making the big hits. Guitarist and singer George Benson has so far been the hit for most of the enthusiasts. His many interviews, his willingness to talk not only to reporters but to fans, and his almost perpetually smiling face has convinced many here that ``he is our favorite,'' as Jornal do Brasil, one of Rio de Janeiro's major newspapers reported on opening day.
About the only thing dampening the festival has been the weather. It has rained a good deal since the festival opened Jan. 11.
The rock enthusiasts haven't seemed to mind. They have shown up each day in record numbers.
British hard rock groups were part of the opening night performance and there had been fears in the press that the opening night might result in a violent reaction such as that at the 1969 Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California.
But, like Woodstock, the Rio event has been peaceful. Police spokesman Eduardo Leal says: ``The young people behaved as [we] would want -- with enthusiasm but with restraint.''
The crowd, more than 150,000 strong, sang heartily the words of the music of their favorites and shouted ``Heavy Metal,'' the name of the popular British rock group.
As the British rock group Queen closed at 3 a.m. after nine hours of music on opening night, the crowds were still going strong and headed out of the rockdrome with the music still ringing in their ears: Some of the performers played for their fans in informal performances on the roadside.
It was the sort of show Rio de Janeiro is proud to put on. The sloppy dress of those attending was at least practical and designed to withstand the rain -- jeans and T-shirts, many of them with the names of the performers printed on them.
``I wish I had the T-shirt concession,'' commented one businessman who went to pick up his two teen-age daughters. ``I would have made a mint.''
Organizers reported that the T-shirts sold at the rockdrome were selling faster than they could be supplied. By the third night of the performance, more than 150,000 shirts had been sold.
The organizers further estimate that they will sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 as the show wraps up early this week. By then, some 2 million people are expected to have attended the performances.
Mr. Medina, who claims credit for the idea of organizing the festival, says he expects the event to be an annual affair and to rival ``our popular carnival'' which this year comes in February.
``After all, Carnival is the biggest attraction around and it is time that the city had something else to be known for. Why not an annual rock festival?
``Let's bring tourists to Rio for reasons other than carnival. This is `the marvelous city' and it is marvelous for things other than carnival.''
It seems likely the the rock festival will become an annual attraction.