LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - It is a symbol of peace around the world, but the statue of Christ the Redeemer which stands high above Rio de Janeiro is causing an unholy rumpus in one of London’s most fashionable neighbourhoods ahead of this summer’s Olympics.
The Brazilian national tourist board is looking to erect a temporary replica of the 40-metre high art deco statue near the summit of Primrose Hill in north London as part of a package of promotional activities to mark the handover of the Olympic mantle from London 2012 to Rio 2016.
Some living in the London district, home to leading opposition Labour lawmakers, authors, actors and models, are in favour of a temporary statue in the area, with its panoramic views over the British capital, but others said they will fight it.
“It’s a very special place, it does not need any building on it. It’s not on,” said Friends of Primrose Hill Chairman Malcolm Kafetz.
“Once you start letting one person advertise on it, everybody else will want to do it.”
The British government is to launch a marketing campaign, promoting the country’s culture and business around the world in the run-up to London staging the Olympics this summer, including projecting images onto Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain.
Brazil’s tourism board, in turn, wants to take advantage of the investment and cachet of its city staging the next Games, and has employed a planning consultancy based in London to make discreet enquiries about erecting a replica of the distinctive landmark.
“We are surprised to see this story in the news as this is only a concept that was being considered as part of a wider platform of promotional activities for Embratur (the Brazilian Tourism Board) and the Brazilian Government for 2012, when the focus moves from London to Rio,” the board said in a statement.
“Early exploratory conversations were being started with the Primrose Hill community stakeholders and local authorities to gauge local opinion for a temporary installation that we hoped would be a celebratory landmark that helped to give the London Borough of Camden and Primrose Hill an opportunity to be part of the Olympic story.”
The area, studded with multi-million pound houses, is popular with walkers as well as actor Jude Law, model Kate Moss, author Martin Amis and singer Enrique Iglesias.
Designs have yet to be unveiled but a replica statue, with its distinctive outstretched arms, would be visible for miles from one of the highest points in the capital.
The local council said it had been approached informally but no formal planning application had yet been submitted.
Kafetz said strong opposition among its 1,100 members and others had already been voiced, mainly along conservation lines rather than religious ones.
“We are not Bolshie, we just want Primrose Hill left alone,” he added.
Mick Hudspeth, manager of the Primrose Hill Community Association, said he thought “it would be quite a bit of fun to have it up there”.
“We’ve got a campaign on the go at the minute to save the local library, so were thinking how we could link them,” he joked. (Reporting by Avril Ormsby, editing by Paul Casciato)