RIO DE JANEIRO – Felipe Santana works along Copacabana Beach cutting the heads off of coconuts.
With one swing of the knife, he sells fresh coconut water to the locals and tourists alike who stroll alongside one of the world’s most well-known beaches, now overflowing with fans from all over the world in town for the Summer Olympics.
Tourists compete with one another for selfies and group photos in front of a nearly 10-foot tall Olympic ring structure set in the sand.
Near the rings sits the Olympic beach volleyball venue, a temporary structure built right onto the beach to hold 12,000 fans.
Not far past that, crowds of people head into the football-field sized Olympic Megastore to choose from more than 3,000 souvenirs, everything from an officially licensed Olympic hat to a bikini.
Local Brazilian merchants have also embraced the games, as many sell their own Olympic- themed trinkets and T-shirts along the black and white waved pattern of the beach sidewalk that is also spotted with large, intricate sand sculptures of everything from castles to life-size bikini-clad beachgoers.
The waved cement also leads the way to Santana’s fresh coconut water, along with many other vendors selling the drink all along the beach. Stands filled with chilled coconuts attract tourists to drink straight out of the fruit for six Brazilian reals, or just under $2 at current exchange rates.
Santana said when he is not working he enjoys “playing footvolley” at the beach. He considers the sport born on the beaches of Brazil as a more active way of playing volleyball.
Footvolley is a mix of volleyball and soccer, where hands are not allowed and a soccer ball replaces the traditional volleyball.
Beach volleyball is still available next to the footvolley courts for those who prefer to use their hands and play with a softer ball.
For visitors not interested in playing on the beach or drinking coconut water, several bars line the beach with authentic alcoholic Brazilian drinks on hand as local bands perform on the sidewalks.
At one of these beach bars, a Brazilian bartender whipped up a simple iced mango drink by mixing water, ice, mango and sugar in the blender.
“You must have a Caipirinha!” said Allen Boland, a regular visitor from Boise, Idaho, who first came to Rio 40 years ago.
The drink Boland was referring to is a Brazilian staple, created with cachaca, a distilled liquor created from unadulterated sugar cane juice, lime and sugar. It is referred to as a mix of a mojito and a margarita to tourists.