Agnaldo with the torch in front of the barbecue pit at Galeto Sat's, the legendary Copacabana bar

Alternative torch relay included 11 bars and brought hundreds of participants to the streets, in a true carioca show of Olympic spirit.

One could forgive a bystander’s momentary confusion – hundreds of people out on the streets of Copacabana cheering to the sound of a brass section and the beat of the drumming bateria. Had the Rio 2016 Torch Relay arrived early?

No, but the Olympic spirit had indeed taken over the streets – as part of a ‘Bohemian Torch Tour’, Copacabana’s revellers bar-hopped their way amongst the district’s most traditional botecos on Saturday (30th July) ending up at Galeto Sat’s, a favoured spot of the local crowd, to pay special tribute to Agnaldo, the bar’s celebrated churrasqueiro (barbecue chef).

The relay passed through many of Copacabana’s most traditional bars (Photo: Rafael Cavalieri/Rio 2016)

Of the 11 stops on the tour, some were mere changeovers for the passing of the torch from one runner to another, while others were more relaxed affairs, allowing participants to recharge their glasses and take on board strategic refreshment in the form of petiscos – ubiquitous carioca bar snacks.

Newcomers drawn by the noise and celebration joined the group as the party moved from bar to bar and block to block, in true carnival style.

A celebration of Rio

Thirteen torchbearers were granted the privilege of leading the procession, including well-known characters from the Rio de Janeiro bar scene, journalists and even a taxi driver and car attendant, reflecting the diverse, democratic nature of the carioca boteco.

Writer Xico Sá, one of the more prominent figures taking part in the tour, couldn’t disguise his delight: “It’s a celebration of bohemian Rio…the people on the street clapped and cheered. It was an honour to pay tribute to this beloved person,” he said.

Agnaldo in front of the barbecue fire, or rather, the bohemian cauldron

The climax came when Agnaldo was finally passed the torch, and went through a corridor of cheering patrons to light the Galeto Sat’s churrasqueira (barbecue). Chants of “Agnaldo, warrior of the Brazilian people!” filled the air, and the grill master, visibly touched by the moment, thanked the crowd and praised the Olympic spirit.

“It was one of the most emotional moments of my life,” he said. “I came from Ceará (in the northeast of Brazil) to work, made friends and today I felt so much affection. This is the true Olympic spirit. Now that my cauldron has been lit, let’s cheer for the one at the Maracanã.”