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Brazil's Olympic Torch Relay Goes Well Until Jaguar Is Shot And Killed


And let's turn now to South America. The summer's Olympic games in Brazil have not been getting a lot of great press. There have been all these headlines focusing on crime, pollution, the Zika virus, economic and political crises. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro tells us that the Olympic torch relay around the country seemed like it could be a boost for the games organizers until they killed an endangered species.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Unintelligible shouting).

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: This is the sound from a YouTube video of the torch reaching the Amazonian city of Manaus. It was all going so well until they brought out the chained jaguar. His name was Juma and he was an endangered Amazonian jungle cat. After being displayed in the Olympic torch ceremony, he somehow escaped his army handlers and he was then shot in the head and killed by an army officer. The jaguar is the official mascot of the Brazilian Olympic team. So yes, the Olympics in Brazil kind of killed its own mascot.

Not exactly a public relations coup, but other than that incident, the Olympic torch relay has kind of been a symbol of pride for many Brazilians. The torch has been traveling all around the country for weeks amid general celebrations. Here is more YouTube sound of it arriving in the state of Bahia.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Unintelligible shouting).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Twelve thousand torchbearers are involved in moving it around the country, and among the celebrities have also been some profoundly symbolic choices.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Like 59-year-old Creuza Oliveira who heads the national federation of maids in Bahia. She was seminal in getting legislation passed protecting domestic workers in Brazil. We reached her via Skype.

OLIVEIRA: (Through interpreter) They were shouting Creuza. That's Creuza, and they were clapping and cheering. And it was really great.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She says she isn't into sports and she was really nervous before having to run the 660 feet before passing the torch on to the next person. But she says having been chosen is an honor.

OLIVEIRA: (Through interpreter) As a black woman who was a domestic worker, I'm part of a category that has always been ignored and forgotten in Brazil. This is a recognition of our struggle and how far we have come.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The torch itself is made by a Sao Paulo design firm. And unlike the one in Russia, it's not had trouble staying alight. The colors of the flames represent the official colors of Brazil's flag as well as of its landscape of sun and sea. There have been a few mishaps along the way, like when a sprinkler system unexpectedly went off and doused the Olympic torch band. Some cities have also canceled their festivities because they couldn't afford to put on a show due to the crushing recession here. But mostly people have been really happy to see the torch as it makes its way around the country.

ANDREZA NOGUEIRA: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And reached Andreza Nogueira by phone just at the moment she was watching the torch go by in the Amazonian city of Rio Branco. She said it's a party here. We're so happy to see the torch and we're excited about the Olympics. She said even with the economic crisis, our city has put on a lovely party to welcome the torch. The torch arrives in Rio de Janeiro, the beleaguered host city of the Olympic Games, the day before the opening ceremony on August 5. Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.