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Rio's Statue Is Restored, But Brazil Team's Redemption Still Ahead

Jul 12, 2014
Originally published on July 12, 2014 11:12 am
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TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. One of Brazil's best-known landmarks is the Christ the Redeemer statue, which towers over Rio de Janeiro. Yesterday, workers completed a six-month renovation after lightning damaged the famous structure. While people celebrated, they also reflected on Brazil's stunning World Cup semi-final loss and the soccer team's chances for redemption when it plays the Netherlands later today. NPR's Russell Lewis reports.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Even in heavy rain, these visitors from Ukraine still trekked up the mountain to see and to take pictures of the Christ the Redeemer statue.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Ukrainian spoken).

LEWIS: A small scaffolding at the base is all that remains from the work to fix the 124 foot-tall statue. In December, lightning damaged the middle finger of the right hand. Then in January, another lightning bolt blew off a chunk of its thumb, damaged another finger and the head. Yesterday, a group of Rio's religious leaders, including Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta, welcomed soggy journalists to rededication.

ORANI JOAO TEMPESTA: (Portuguese spoken).

LEWIS: It's a symbol for all of us that Christ is present with people, he said, with those who suffer - the needy here in this city in Brazil and the world. For so many Brazilians, that suffering has been acute this week, after their 7-1 loss in the semifinals by Germany. Soul-searching, tears, anger - the emotions have been raw. Father Omar Raposo runs the tiny chapel under the statue. He too has been doing his own reflections.

OMAR RAPOSO: (Through translator) I think that every athlete should understand that the sport should be practiced with playfulness and joy. Winning or losing, you shouldn't let the defeats beat on your soul.

LEWIS: Father Omar is a huge soccer fan who actually counseled Brazil's coach and several of its players this week after the loss. His message to them was simple.

RAPOSO: (Through translator) Whatever the results, defeats are temporary. We always have the possibility of redemption and of victory.

LEWIS: That path to redemption begins today, when Brazil plays in the third-place World Cup game against the Netherlands. It's a match players and coaches from both teams have said they'd prefer not to play because for them, it's the championship or nothing. Even Father Omar agrees, despite all his preaching.

RAPOSO: (Through translator) No way. I think that we run the risk of another fiasco, another tragedy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.