Rio in international spotlight during Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO — Already the second-most populated metropolitan area in Brazil, thousands will travel from all over the world within the next three weeks to visit Rio de Janeiro, but there’s more to see than the 2016 Olympic Games.

Copacabana Beach, Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain are just some of the attractions tourists will flock to from sunrise to sunset.

Mark Maestrone, a Olympic pin trader, who has attended the games since Los Angeles in 1984, is excited to embrace the first Olympic games in South America.

“The energy is so good … people from all over the world,” Maestrone said. “You meet people, everybody is friendly. The sights here at Christ the Redeemer … we can see the whole city and we were just talking about all the different languages we’ve heard just here in the last hour.”

The 125-foot Christ the Redeemer statue has almost 2 million visitors annually, as the the climb to the top overlooks the neighborhoods of Rochina and Leblon.

Just 8.5 miles down the road there’s a natural wonder that stretches into the clouds — Sugar Loaf Mountain.

More than 200 ways exist to get to the top including multiple hikes and a cable car.

And it’s not only tourists visiting the spectacles.

Multiple athletes have taken rest days to embrace the culture that surrounds them in Rio de Janeiro.

Beach volleyball player, Lauren Fendrick, who qualified for her first Olympic games, will represent Team USA.

“You know I hear athletes talk about the Olympics being the most incredible sporting experience of their life and it sounds cliché when you hear it, but being here it’s become a reality for me and there’s so many special things that come about,” she said.