Brazil on show
Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
Visitors remember a popular exhibit featuring Bob Marley and Jamaica at the famous TV Tower here a few years ago.
Today it's gone, like almost all traces of the island's presence in Brazil's capital, as World Cup fever rolls over other attractions - and distractions.
"No, no," explained a tower tour guide on Tuesday, pointing to photographs of celebrities who've come to this football-mad country. "Maybe Bob Marley's picture is in one of those."
It wasn't. Jamaica's image isn't obvious at the international airport or on local streets here either. Brazil's promotion of sport's biggest event dominates.
Despite fears that the world's fifth largest country of more than 200 million people will prove an unprepared host, incomplete stadiums and protesting nationals aside, it's hard to escape the impending wave of 'Copa Mundial', which kicks off today.
Cars and buildings draped with flags and huge, colourful posters regale the capital. The best of Brazil is everywhere, especially its anticipated heroes on the pitch - Oscar, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and, of course, wunderkind Neymar.
At multiple locations, from airport lounge to roadside food joints, people huddle in front of televisions for updates on a potential injury to their potential superstar on whom much of the nation's hopes for a sixth World Cup rests. Many children, playing football in public parks and streets here wear Neymar's number and name prominently on jerseys.
But other premier players are in Brazil too. So local fans ponder the fitness of Portugal's Ronaldo, Luis Suarez of Uruguay and Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure.
Meanwhile, newspapers, television and radio stations have found creative ways to pitch the World Cup - in regular programming and commercials.
Thousands of fans from across the globe, including the 32 countries competing, are here.
Football fantasy is being used to sell clothes, furniture, automobiles, candy, food and drink. Well-coifed Brazilian legend Pele gives televised interviews wearing a shirt prominently displaying the name of a shampoo.
Fans of Jamaica's CONCACAF rivals, particularly Mexico, flooded into the capital on Tuesday too, on their way to Natal for Mexico's opening match on June 13 against Cameroon. They seemed way too excited to ponder the Reggae Boyz' latest failure to make the World Cup, which could have been at 'El Tri's' expense. Not even Mexico's imposing clash with title favourites Brazil on June 17 in Fortaleza had appeared on their radar - yet.
"We're here!" some roared as their plane from Miami landed.
Across from the TV Tower looms the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha (named after the late Brazilian whose reputation once rivalled Pele's). It will host seven games, opening June 15 with Switzerland versus Ecuador.
The weather here is late-year Jamaica and perfect for football - bright with temperatures in the low 70s. Marley would've loved it.
"Sun is shining, the weather is sweet," he once sang. "Make you wanna move, your dancing feet."
To the rescue come the world's best footballers. Any discomfort for visitors here may come from the language barrier. Brazilians speak primarily Portuguese. But their smiles on the eve of the World Cup already send a clear message: "... Welcome, Joga Bonito (play beautifully or The Beautiful Game) awaits to charm you".
Like the spectacular view from the TV Tower, Brazil is on show for all to see.