August 2, 2021

By Leonardo Benessatto

BAIA FORMOSA, Brazil (Reuters) – Brazil’s gold medal performance in surfing did not just boost the country’s medal tally in Tokyo, it also gave a fillip to business in the small town where champion Italo Ferreira began his athletic career.

Ferreira, who won the first ever Olympic gold in the surfing discipline last week, left Japan and headed straight to Baia Formosa, the small town on Brazil’s northeastern coast where he was born and grew up.

Business owners there said the attention has brought them a windfall as the media, tourists and surf enthusiasts congregate to soak up the winning atmosphere.

“It’s a great success for the town,” said Cintia Santos, owner of a local bed and breakfast. “We struggled a lot during the pandemic, the city really survives off tourism and we were stuck for a long time. But now things are bouncing back.”

Rafael Alves, who runs a design business in the region, agreed. Alves was forced to shut down during the pandemic but he reopened as interest spiked due to Ferreria’s gold.

“The penny hasn’t dropped yet,” he said after selling 300 t-shirts with Ferreira’s picture on them. “It has brought us so much and it is going to bring us more.”

Brazil has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 550,000 people dying and innumerable businesses failing as lockdowns and economic ruin took their toll.

On his trip back home the 27-year old Ferreira was also delighted to see his triumph had wider implications.

“It’s cool because it helps the economy of the city, and of those locals who depend on (tourism),” he said.

(Reporting by Leonardo Benessatto in Baia Formosa; writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)