October 2, 2009 / 7:31 AM / 8 years ago

FACTBOX: Some facts about Rio de Janeiro

(Reuters) - Following are some facts about Brazil’s beachside city of Rio de Janeiro, which on Friday won the vote to host the 2016 Olympics.

* The city got its name from Portuguese explorer Gaspar Lemos, who believed its bay was the mouth of a river when he arrived in January 1502. He therefore called the region Rio de Janeiro (River of January).

* Rio was the seat of the Portuguese empire for 13 years from 1808, cementing its place as Brazil’s capital and center of culture after the Portuguese royal family relocated there to take refuge from Napoleon’s European invasions. It remained Brazil’s capital city until 1960, when the federal government shifted to Brasilia.

* As well as its famous beaches, which stretch for about 30 miles, Rio boasts the world’s largest urban forest. The Tijuca forest covers some 7,900 acres.

* Rio’s first slum, or favela, was created in 1897 when soldiers returned from battle in the northeast and camped on a hill to protest the government’s failure to provide them with housing. Today, there are about 1,000 favelas in the city, home to about a fifth of Rio’s 6 million people.

* Rio’s annual Carnival attracts more than half a million visitors a year in a generally peaceful but debaucherous celebration that revolves around samba music. Samba originated with slaves brought to Brazil from Africa and exploded in the 1920s with the formation of Rio’s samba schools, whose spectacular parades are the centerpiece of Carnival.

* Rio has given birth to rich musical genres, including bossa nova, choro and samba. Rio youths today are just as likely to be found listening to funk music — a frenetic, raucous beat that attracts thousands to illegal parties in favelas and which is often linked to drug gangs.

Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; editing by Will Dunham

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