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Rio de Janeiro set for Madonna’s massive Copacabana beach concert that will be her biggest ever

ELÉONORE HUGHES
May 04, 2024

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Madonna will give a free concrete on Copacabana beach Saturday night, turning its vast stretch of sand into an enormous dance floor. It comes after Rio de Janeiro spent the last few days readying itself for the historic performance by the "Queen of Pop."

Rio's City Hall has said some 1.5 million spectators are anticipated, more than 10 times more than Madonna's record attendance of 130,000 in Paris' Parc des Sceaux in 1987. Madonna's official website has been hyping the show as the biggest ever in her four-decade career.

It will be the last show of The Celebration Tour, her first retrospective which kicked off in October in London.

In recent days, the buzz has been palpable. Fans milled outside the stately, beachfront Copacabana Palace hotel, where Madonna is staying, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pop star. During the sound check on the stage that's in front of her hotel, they danced on the sand.

"Since Madonna arrived here, I've been coming every day with this outfit to welcome my idol, my diva, my pop queen," said Rosemary de Oliveira Bohrer, 69, who was supporting a gold-colored cone bra and a black cap.

"It's going to be an unforgettable show here in Copacabana," said Oliveira Bohrer, a retired civil servant who lives in the area.

Eighteen sound towers have been spread along the beach to ensure that all attendees can hear the hits. Her two-hour show is set to start at 9:45 p.m. local time.

City Hall produced a report in April estimating that the concert will inject 293 million reals ($57 million) into the local economy. Hotel capacity is expected to reach 98% in Copacabana, according to Rio's hotel association. Fans hailing from across Brazil and even Argentina and France sought out Airbnbs for the weekend, the platform said in a statement. And Rio's international airport forecast an extra 170 flights from May 1-6, from 27 destinations, City Hall said in a statement.

"It's a unique opportunity to see Madonna, who knows if she'll ever come back," said Alessandro Augusto, 53, who flew in from Ceara state -- approximately 2,500 km (1,555 miles) from Rio.

"Welcome Queen!" read Heineken ads plastered around the city, the lettering above an image of a upturned bottle cap resembling a crown. Heineken wasn't the only company seeking to profit from the excitement, with bars and restaurants reportedly preparing "Like a Virgin" cocktails, named for her 1984 hit. A shop in the downtown neighborhood famed for selling Carnival attire completely reinvented itself, stocking its shelves with Madonna-themed costumes, fans, fanny packs and even underwear.

Organization of the mega-event will be similar to New Year's Eve, when millions of people gather on Copacabana for the world-famous fireworks display, local authorities said. That annual event often produces widespread thefts and muggings, and there has been some concern such problems may occur at Madonna's show.

Rio state's security plan incudes the presence of 3,200 military personnel and 1,500 civilian police officers on stand by. In the lead-up to the concert, Brazil's navy carried out inspections of vessels that wish to position themselves at sea to follow the show.

A number of huge concerts have taken place on Copacabana beach before, including a 1994 New Year's Eve show by Rod Stewart that drew more than 4 million fans and was the biggest free rock concert in history, according to Guinness World Records. Many spectators had come to see Rio's fireworks show, though, so a more fitting comparison might be the Rolling Stones in 2006, which saw 1.2 million people crowd onto the sand, according to Rio's military police cited by Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper at the time.

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