Olympic August: Christ the Redeemer

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Christ the Redeemer surveys the teeming city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the blue waters of Guanabara Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Credit: © Marchello74, Shutterstock

Tonight, the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Millions of people around the world will tune in to watch the pomp and circumstance of the parade of the national teams as they enter Rio’s famous Maracanã Stadium. More than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations will carry flags, sport the latest fashions, and wave to the cameras and the roughly 80,000 people watching from the stands. (If you’re counting, there are 196 independent countries in the world, but some dependencies such as Bermuda and Puerto Rico have their own teams.) To the rhythms of bossa nova (a Brazilian mix ofsamba and jazz), people will dance and fireworks will boom, but there will be one presence quite literally above all others: Christ the Redeemer. The famous statue, which portrays Jesus Christ with arms outstretched, stands atop Mount Corcovado, 2,330 feet (710 meters) above the city and the sparkling blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Guanabara Bay. Pay attention, and you’ll probably see the statue, oh, 30 or 40 times. And that will be in just the first few minutes.

Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor in Portuguese) deserves attention. It stands 100 feet (30 meters) tall atop a 25-foot (7.5-meter) base. The distance between the figure’s fingertips is about 92 feet (28 meters). The sculpture is made of reinforced concrete with an exterior made of soapstone. Christ the Redeemer is one of the major tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro. Views from the statue (you can take escalators, elevators, or 222 stairs to the top of the base) are nothing short of magnificent.

The idea of erecting a statue on Mount Corcovado dates back to 1859. In 1921, the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro began a campaign to build the monument. French sculptor Paul Landowski designed the statue. Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa supervised the project. Work on the statue began in 1927, and the monument was officially inaugurated on Oct. 12, 1931.

Christ the Redeemer may be the most famous statue of Jesus Christ in the world, but it is not the largest. Christ of Peace (Cristo de la Concordia) atop San Pedro Hill near Cochabamba, Bolivia, is taller at 112 feet (34 meters) with a 20-foot (6-meter) pedestal. Christ the King(Pomnik Chrystusa Król) in Swiebodzin, Poland, reaches higher than the rest, however, if you count the 108-foot (33-meter) tall figure, its 10-foot (3-meter) crown, and a mound that stands some 60 feet (18 meters) high.

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