Washington is a community of mostly residential neighborhoods and close neighbors, and Embassy Row, it turns out, is no different—at least in the case of Brazilian ambassador Mauro Vieira and British ambassador Peter Westmacott. Their handsome embassies and residences are side-by-side on Massachusetts Avenue, and Thursday night Vieira invited Westmacott over for a festive cocktail party. The occasion? To further celebrate the handover of the summer Olympics, which were held in London last year and will overtake Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
In addition to a combo playing very cool samba music, and a never-ending supply of Brazil’s potent signature cocktail, the caipirinha, there was an actual Olympic torch (extinguished, of course) that had been used as the flame was relayed from Beijing, the 2008 host, to London. The guests included Greek ambassador Christos Panagopoulos and staff from both embassies as well as the State Department, including Roberta Jacobson, who is Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
“Tonight we are having a party to formally celebrate Brazil’s beginning the preparations for the summer Olympic games,” said Westmacott. “We are delighted to hand the baton on to such a wonderful nation.” He said the Brazilians “don’t need a lot of help from us,” but the British have been very glad to share with Brazil all the lessons they learned from hosting the games—“good and bad, what went right, what we can do better, to try to avoid them having to learn from scratch.” he said. They were all “very complicated lessons,” he added, but “we’re very proud of the way the Olympics went.”
Westmacott said one of the most important features of the London games was that his country created a “sustainable Olympics. In other words, the investments we made were good for the future of London and of the East End, which was quite depressed.” He cited new buildings, renovated infrastructure, and a new stadium as part of that legacy.
Vieira beamed like a new father for much of the party. “We are very confident that our country will exceed expectations and give the world an example to follow,” he said. “It is important that events like this one are being held by Brazilian and British embassies around the globe.” He did not say, though, whether those other embassies are also next-door neighbors.
Though it’s a footnote to Washington history now, the Brazilian residence has an enduring connection to the British. Before her death it was where Princess Diana would often stay during visits to Washington, when she would come to visit one of her closest friends, Lucia Flecha de Lima, whose husband was ambassador. It was a particularly popular hideaway for Diana during and after the period when her marriage to Prince Charles came apart.