Madonna turns Copacabana beach into massive dance floor with free Rio concert

Madonna put on a free concert on Copacabana beach on Saturday night, turning Rio de Janeiro’s vast stretch of sand into an enormous dance floor teeming with many of her fans.

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

The “Queen of Pop” began the show with her 1998 hit Nothing Really Matters.

Huge cheers rose from the buzzing, tightly packed crowd pressed against the barriers. Others looked on from brightly lighted apartments and hotels lining the beachfront. Helicopters and drones flew overhead.

“Here we are in the most beautiful place in the world,” Madonna told the crowd.

Pointing out the ocean view, the mountains and the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city, she added: “This place is magic.”

Rio spent the last few days readying itself for the performance.

Rio’s City Hall predicted 1.5 million spectators, more than 10 times Madonna’s record attendance of 130,000 at Paris’ Parc des Sceaux in 1987.

Madonna’s official website hyped the show as the biggest in her four-decade career.

In recent days, the buzz was palpable. Fans milled outside the stately, beachfront Copacabana Palace hotel, where Madonna is staying, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pop star. They danced on the sand during the sound check on the stage set up in front of the hotel.

By midday on Saturday, fans crowded in front of the hotel. A white-bearded man carried a sign saying: “Welcome, Madonna. You are the best. I love you.”

Flags with “Madonna” printed against a background of Copacabana’s iconic black-and-white waved sidewalk pattern hung from balconies. The area teemed with street vendors, and concert attendees kitted out in themed T-shirts, sweating under a baking sun.

“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 sported a gold-coloured 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 were spread along the beach to ensure all attendees could hear the hits. Her two-hour show started at 10.37pm local time, nearly 50 minutes behind schedule.

City Hall produced a report in April estimating that the concert would inject 293 million reals (£46 million) into the local economy.

Hotel capacity was expected to reach 98% in Copacabana, according to Rio’s hotel association.

Fans from Brazil, Argentina and France sought out Airbnbs for the weekend, the platform said in a statement.

Rio’s international airport had forecast an extra 170 flights for the first week of May 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 Brazil’s Ceara state — approximately 1,555 miles from Rio.


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