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The beautiful games

The Grand Prix finale in São Paulo sets the stage for Brazil’s greatest chapter of sport, as it gears up for both the World Cup and the Olympic Games

November 23 2012
Jamie Reid

The Brazilian Grand Prix, the final act of the 2012 Formula One season, takes place on Sunday November 25 at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace at Interlagos in São Paulo. It’s a great honour to stage the last race of the year, when champions are often decided, and motorsport enthusiasts will be hoping for as gripping a climax as in 2008, when local boy Felipe Massa won the race but lost the title by just one point to Lewis Hamilton. If the past three years are any guide, Red Bull will be the team to beat, its drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel having divided the spoils between them. By comparison, Lewis Hamilton has yet to win at Interlagos, and the McLaren team – which Hamilton is quitting to join Mercedes AMG – hasn’t triumphed there since the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was successful in 2005.

It seems appropriate that a Brazilian sporting event should be in the spotlight as 2012 draws to an end. In 2013 Brazil stages the Confederations Cup football tournament, in 2014 the country hosts the football World Cup, and then in 2016 Rio will be the setting for the Olympic and Paralympic Games – the first time they have been held in South America. The epic performances and stirring atmosphere that characterised the London games are still fresh in the memory, but the Rio Olympics have the potential to be every bit as exciting.

The Holborn-based International Architects Studio Aecom, which designed the Olympic Park at Stratford, is also designing the Rio site, to be built on the former Brazilian Grand Prix track on the waterfront, with the Sugarloaf and Corcovado mountains providing a spectacular backdrop. And some venues will have a natural advantage over their London counterparts – Copacabana, for example, is the ideal setting for the beach volleyball.

But the present intention is for the athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies to be held in the iconic Maracaña Stadium, which is synonymous with football and will also stage the World Cup final in two years’ time. The very mention of football in an Olympic context infuriates some people, who not only feel that it has no place in the games, but also draw unflattering comparisons between the Premiership’s highly paid bad boys and dedicated Olympians, such as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis. But if there’s one country where football should blend seamlessly with the Olympic spirit, it is Brazil, which invented the phrase “the beautiful game”. The skills of its many great footballers have been responsible for some sublime sporting spectacles, including the legendary display in the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico, when Pelé, Jairzinho and Rivelino were all in their prime. Each new generation of Brazilian players takes its cue from the passion of the spectators, and that life-enhancing mixture of music and fun should underpin every event at both the Olympics and the World Cup.

The hosts are currently the 3-1 favourites to win the World Cup, for which their arch rivals, Argentina, look one of the biggest dangers at 5-1 with William Hill. A South American victory, one way or another, is the likeliest outcome, at even money, also with Hills.