July 23, 2024

‘Operation Madonna’: Rio readies for singer’s free mega-concert

‘Operation Madonna’: Rio readies for singer’s free mega-concert

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 1 — Madonna’s long-awaited free concert on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach has upended the neighbourhood, with over a million fans expected — but for retired resident Mario Renato Borges, it’s the least the singer deserves.

“Welcome, Queen”, read some posters near the huge stage erected on the Brazilian beach, where Madonna will on Saturday give the biggest show of her 40-year career and the last of her Celebration Tour.

The 65-year-old American singer arrived in the coastal city on Monday after more than 80 shows in Europe, the United States and Mexico. This will be her only stop in South America.

The Like A Virgin and Material Girl performer travelled to Brazil with three planes and 270 tons of equipment, according to her production company.


She has set up camp at the luxurious Copacabana Palace hotel, connected to the stage by a suspended catwalk that dozens of fans crowded under this week, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pop star.

The biggest dance floor

Thanks to free admission, organisers expect Madonna’s concert to produce the “world’s biggest dance floor” of up to 1.5 million people — a figure only reached on the same beach by the Rolling Stones in 2006.


“The traffic is chaos but the concert will be great, especially because it’s Madonna, the queen of pop,” says resident Borges, who lives in Leme, a neighbourhood at the end of Copacabana Beach.

Madonna’s fourth performance in Rio will contribute some 293 million reais (RM272 million) to the local economy, an income 30 times higher than what city authorities invested, according to the mayor’s office.

Around 150,000 foreigners are expected to swarm the city, with most hotels already fully booked.

“This will undoubtedly be one of Rio’s biggest international events. It will boost our economy and attract tourists from Brazil, Latin American and all over the world,” said the city’s Tourism Secretary Daniela Maia.

Return of the conical corset

Madonna fever is clear to see in Rio — the so-called “Marvelous City” — as the hours tick down to her performance.

At the Lix printing shop in the popular downtown Saara shopping district, the songs of the “Material Girl” are playing on loop to inspire devotees who can choose from personalised fans, hats or mugs.

Manager Livia Reis, 23, tells AFP that her store went viral on social media shortly after the concert was announced thanks to an influencer who visited the Madonna-inspired shop.

“A guy came in, took a photo and a video, and sent them to a fan club with 150,000 followers in Portugal. From there, it jumped to TikTok and Instagram,” she says.

One particularly popular item is a replica of the conical corset created by French designer Jean Paul Gaultier, which Madonna famously wore on stage in 1990.

Sold as a bra or a top, the item is “doing very well,” says Reis, who expects there will be “queues out of the door” in the days ahead of the concert.

Patrols on the corners

“All this activity is good for tourism, hotels and restaurants. But let’s hope the security is up to the task,” says 68-year-old Rio local Borges.

The mayor’s office has prepared an operation equivalent to New Year’s Eve celebrations in Copacabana, one of the most famous in the world that typically brings down some one million people.

“Operation Madonna” will see some 4,500 agents deployed, working with drones and facial recognition cameras. There will be police patrols on almost every street corner in the neighbourhood.

Nagila Alves, 54, who works for a pest control company, was on her way to a client’s home when she stopped to take a photo of the impressive stage set up for Madonna.

“I will always love her. Madonna is timeless,” she tells AFP, adding she plans to delay her arrival on Saturday to dodge the crowds swarming to the front of the stage. — AFP

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