The 31st Olympic Games and the 15th Paralympic Games were the starting points for Caderno Globo, now in its 10th edition, to propose a series of reflections about sports and their relations with people around the world and through time. The concept created by Globo for the journalistic coverage of the Games – We are all Olympic – lends its name to this publication as it seeks to present a broad overview of the topic from three standpoints:
Addresses themes that have pervaded the relationship between sports and society from the beginnings of competitive games until nowadays, an age when contests have the ability to mobilize and capture the attention of people the world over. That mobilization might generate a series of social and behavioral phenomena, ranging from the friendly gathering of different peoples to nationalistic manifestations. This first section brings articles from historian Victor Andrade de Melo (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro - UFRJ), from sociologist Ronaldo Helal and communications specialist Fausto Amaro (State University of Rio de Janeiro - Uerj), and from anthropologist Arlei Sander Damo (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS). It also features an interview with Italian historian Stefano Pivato (Università degli Studi Carlo Bo), and a short tale from writer Antonio Prata.
This topic is deeply seated in sports activities and is approached from several viewpoints in the Caderno, taking into consideration the overcoming of both physical and emotional barriers, and also of social obstacles. This section features articles from educator Gustavo Andrada Bandeira (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS), and from business administrator and social entrepreneur Rodrigo Hübner Mendes. As examples of athletes who have pushed their limits, we have first-person accounts from former volleyball player and Olympic champion Giba, who beat leukemia as a child; and from runner Terezinha Guilhermina, one of the best Paralympic athletes in the world. Sports psychologist Katia Rubio was also interviewed for this section. We then have three experienced journalists talk about sports coverages and important episodes of their careers, and close with a short tale by singer and runner Zélia Duncan.
The potential that sports have to change reality can be addressed both in individual and collective terms. In this final section, the Caderno addresses the question of physical activity as a tool for social inclusion and for the right to practice sports and enjoy quality leisure time. It also discusses the transformations that take place in host cities and the physical and symbolic legacies left to urban areas. The articles in this section are from Marlova Jovchelovitch Noleto and Fabio Eon (Unesco), from architect and urban planner João Masao Kamita (Pontifical Catholic University - PUC Rio), and from researchers Lamartine DaCosta (State University of Rio de Janeiro – Uerj) and Ana Miragaya (Estácio de Sá University - Unesa). Athletes and former athletes talk about becoming social entrepreneurs, and writer and journalist Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos writes a short tale in praise of Rio’s post-Games new urban design. A tribute to the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games.
Throughout history large sporting events have mobilized people around the world. So much activity has allowed us to notice a series of manifestations: from the play-element to the marketing element, from symbolism to physicality, from multiplicity to singularity.
SPORTS CURRENTLY INVOLVE A CLASH OF OPPOSING FORCES, THE DESTRUCTION OF LUDIC ASPECTS VYING WITH THE SACRALIZATION OF ELEMENTS INVOLVED IN COMPETITION
The Games of the XXXI Olympiad, which take place in Rio, present a good starting point to further the discussion about the impact of sports on modern society. Below are a few points about sports, modernity, and Brazilian society that call for a deeper reflection.
1 Sports are a social phenomenon that permeates the life of the modern man. People often dedicate more time and affection to sports than to other dimensions of social life. The space granted to sports in the media, therefore, is frequently larger than what is allotted to economics or politics. The field of social studies applied to sports has a relatively established tradition in Europe and in the USA; and due to soccer’s significant popularity in Brazil, the subject has seen growing acknowledgement in Social and Human Sciences. However, there is still plenty to be done. Apart from soccer, sports in general warrant a broader discussion, as we put an end to the idea that it amounts to a lesser topic or that it represents the “ugly duckling” of Humanities. Some critical comments about those recurring issues are in order.
2 In most classic works of sports sociology, we find a discussion about the end of the ludic element and about the profanation of modern sports. In Homo ludens: a study of the play-element in culture, Johan Huizinga states that modern sports destroy one of the fundamental aspects leading to pleasure and satisfaction among human groups: the play element. For Huizinga, “the spirit of the professional is no longer the true play-spirit; it is lacking in spontaneity and carelessness”. Huizinga’s criticism can be attributed in large part to the 1936 Games, in Berlin, and to the extensive use of sports as propaganda for the Nazi regime. In Sport in contemporary society (Paradigm Publishers, 2005), Stanley Eitzen criticizes “sports corruption power” by stating that, as it becomes a spectacle, sports replaces the athlete’s pleasure by “that which gives pleasure to fans, sports authorities, television, and companies paying to air commercials”. Gregory Stone follows in those footsteps in American Sports: play and display (Chicago Review 9, Fall 1955). According to Stone, the display to spectators is the dis-play that destroys the “pure play-element”. In Sports Sociology, and along those same lines, Georges Magnane presents his criticism to modern sports by saying that “it risks losing its play character to become a commercial enterprise, subject to the rules of propaganda and advertising”.
Those criticisms lead us to the idea that the transformation of sports in a mass “spectacle” is responsible for the decline of the play-element, and that the deterioration of said element is accompanied – or even caused – by the rise of sports as a commercial item, which has turned it into a business and, therefore, into a profane event. We can extend that line of criticism to the analysis of doping in olympic sports, which symbolizes the height of a “results-oriented culture”, established at the expense of light recreation.
3 The idea that the deterioration of the play-element was accompanied by the rise of sports as a commercial item, and that modern sports have thus become totally secularized, has been duly questioned. In Barbarians, gentlemen and players (Routledge, 2005), for example, Eric Dunning and Kenneth Sheard question some of the statements made by Huizinga. Those authors do not believe sports could have kept its popularity if its inherent play-element had been impaired to the extent described by Huizinga, or if it had really become profane. According to them, the opposite seems to be case: “the cultural centrality of sports has grown in such way that today is seems to be a social phenomenon of quasi-religious character”.
THE LIMITS BETWEEN THE SACRED AND THE PROFANE ARE NOT WELL DEFINED IN THE REALM OF OLYMPIC RITUALS
4 The case of football in Brazil, for example, confirms Dunning’s and Sheard’s arguments. Despite its increasing commercial value and the contemporary trend towards making the game an elite exclusivity, played in newly built “arenas”, we still see room for “sacred” manifestations. In matches between traditional rivals, fans chant and revere their idols, symbols, and colors. They also cry and pray in the stadiums, proving that a certain sacred aura remains or, rather, is reframed. It is as if the mercantile nature of the game were absorbed by a search for “sacredness”, softening the limits between the sacred and the profane. Rituals are also an essential part of the modern Olympic Games, as can be seen in aspects that have been included throughout the 20th century: anthems, flags, oaths, parades, and the olympic torch relay. Today the very lighting of the olympic flame in Athens, with actresses dressed up as priestesses and with broad media coverage, mimics the sacred religious element. For cultural reasons, Brazil has seen rationalization efforts face resistance from fans, especially after the World Cup in 2014.
5 The London Games and the participation of Brazil – not only of our athletes, but also of fans – thicken the debate and incite controversy. If on the one hand there is a force pushing towards the destruction of the play-element and the desecration of the sports spirit, alternatively there is another force weighing towards the opposite direction, reinforcing the play-element and the sacralization of unexceptional factors. In The elementary forms of the religious life, Émile Durkheim (Oxford University Press, 2008) calls our attention to the ability society has to “sacralize” mundane, trivial, and unexceptional elements. The sports universe is a relevant example of this “sacralization” process seen today in modern society. In the London Games, and probably in the Rio Games, we will see “professional” athletes being worshiped and celebrated as Greek demi-gods. We witness the “olympic spirit” reinforcing and celebrating the “superhuman effort” of some competitors to win a competition or simply finish it.
So sport is big business, no doubt, but the concept of “big business” lends itself to the creation of myths and rites, which are evocative of the community. From the beginning, in mid-nineteenth century, modern sport has incorporated values associated with the then incipient industrialization processes and capitalism. However, sports sociology criticism is made without taking into account the resistance offered by that universe to “rational” and “profane” elements, and the “positive” aspects emanating from it. We notice, for example, that the attraction sports exert on people is part of a process which is intrinsic to the phenomenon at hand, and which simultaneously unites people under one universal communication system and allows for the expression of cultural differences – apparent in styles, celebrations, and performances. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht tentatively explained the reasons behind our attraction to athletic performances in his book In praise of athletic beauty (Belknap Press, 2006), where he lists seven possible types of fascination: “sculpted bodies, suffering in the face of death, grace, tools that enhance the body’s potential, personified forms, plays as epiphanies, and timing”.
6 Among the several mass expressions of modern culture, sports emerge as the one that best characterizes the broader meaning of globalization – a universal communications means that is respectful of differences. Sports are a mass manifestation of culture that integrates without causing the process to appear trivial or homogenous, and without destroying the basic characteristics of local cultures – a constant fear on the part of mass culture critics. It is rather a process of adaptation and cultural translation. As Peter Burke states in Varieties of cultural history (Cornell University Press, 1997), cultural transfer “is possible only in the adequate terrain”. The extraordinary character of sports lies in the fact that it demands cooperation from different stances just as it encourages differences to rise. At all levels, from local competitions to the Olympics, athletes and teams cooperate, accept and agree with the rules and regulations of the matches, and promise to fight for the same ideal: victory. If we add that characteristic of the sporting struggle to the uncertainty of the outcomes, we will realize the highly democratic reasoning underlying the overarching sports message. Still, we increasingly see that sports can provide room for scandals similar to those seen in other social spheres (as the recent cases at the International Federation of Association Football, Fifa, show).
7 Because of all those factors, sports should be understood as a ritual that provides meaning to collective actions. In international competitions, such as the Olympics or the World Cup, we face a significant drama of modernity, one that places equality on one plane and differences on another. Sports could be seen, then, as a metalanguage – in this case, the sports language talking about society itself. This way, sports could be considered a privileged space in which modern society creates its myths and rites, and where it places the representations of its desires, frustrations, and fears. We use sports to expose who we are and what we want to be. Rio de Janeiro, with its sports-rich history and playful personality, expressed by Maracanã stadium, by the city’s tradition in hosting relevant sporting events, and by the physical activities and games practiced on beaches and in clubs, is a city that summarizes sports’ polarities and is, therefore, ready to organize a global and multicultural event such as the Olympics. Previously failed bids (for the 1936, 2004, and 2012 Games) emphasize the moment’s symbolic importance both for the history of Brazilian sports and for the city’s heritage. We have a unique opportunity to create a paradigmatic ritual of modern society for the world and for ourselves, a moment for us to think about our identities (national, regional, local) and about Brazilian culture(s).
is a sociologist and professor at the Rio State University (Uerj) School of Social Communications.
ITALIAN HISTORIAN AND ESSAYIST STEFANO PIVATO BELIEVES THAT, UNTIL MID-LAST CENTURY, LARGE SPORTS EVENTS EXPRESSED THE COMPETITIVENESS AMONG THE FEW NATIONS WHERE SPORTS WERE ACTUALLY PRACTICED. TODAY GLOBALIZATION HAS CHANGED THAT SCENARIO
The author of one of the most important studies on the history of modern sports, Italian historian Stefano Pivato believes that the Eurocentrism and Americanism that characterized important world competitions until the first half of the 20th century have come to an end. “Sports today have become a way of telling the world: ‘I am here, too’.”
In an interview given to Caderno via email, professor Pivato, who was born in a seaside town close to Rimini, analyzes how relations among sports, nations and societies have evolved, talks about the Olympics in Brazil and dispels illusions around the idea that competition is entertainment: “In sports, finishing in second or third places has never counted for anything. Winning has always been important. And at any cost.”
In your book, L’era dello sport, you show how modern sports finds its origins in the same circumstances that favored industrial production, and then you correlate the formalization process of athletics with the laws of economic liberalism. What are those coinciding points and how can the regulation of traditional games be understood from the standpoint of its “civilizing” value?
Traditional games (pelota, jeu de paume, or other sports played with a ball and that came before football) could be described as “complete disorder” and revealed the perception of the game, and of the amusement it provided, in a totally uninterested way. Sports have rules and express the same norms of competitiveness that govern economic development in the Contemporary Age. Sports are also closely linked to the 20th century, to the industrial advancement and its “educational” models, just as collective sports are linked to cooperation; and they adapt to the myths of the period, such as speed and the perfectioning of movements. In short, sports have become expressions of the rhythms of machine civilization. Above all, however, sports teach us free initiative, which is the driving force behind economic liberalism.
Taking the 1896 Games as a milestone for the Olympics in the modern era, what are the most important transformations the sport has seen since then?
In the past decades, the metamorphosis that turned games into sports was completed. In the end of the 19th century, when the Olympics first emerged, sports started expressing competitiveness among nations – or rather, among those few nations where sports were actually practiced, especially in Europe and in the United States. Today, globalization has shuffled the deck. The Eurocentrism and Americanism that characterized sports until the first half of the 20th century came to an end. Sports today have become a way of telling the world: “I am here, too”. Take the boom in African football in the years following colonial independence: a phase concluded with the World Cup in South Africa, in 2010. Or take the disintegration of the Soviet Union, in the 1990’s, and the emergence of a series of nations that, thanks to sports and broken records, cried to the world in search for visibility. For nations including Slovenia, Belarus or Ukraine, participating in the Games opening parade meant waving their flags to millions of people around the world.
For a good part of the 20th century, the Olympics exposed tensions between nations and were used for political and ideological propaganda. Where do relations involving sports, nations and societies stand today? What other disputes would be at stake in events like this in the 21st century?
Sponsors have occupied the place of nationalities in large sport competitions – but not completely. Today we witness new phenomena. Football is a case in point. In Europe a rearrangement of national flags and cities is under way. Russian tycoons are buying English squads; Chinese holding companies are buying Italian teams. So we also witness a rearrangement of the fans, too. Today it is not uncommon to find Chinese youngsters supporting teams like Inter, Milan or Liverpool. Or Italians who root for Real Madrid, a Spanish team that feature Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese striker. Or they might even support a Catalan side, like Barcelona, where Argentina’s Messi is the star. Globalization has indeed shuffled the cards, but the concept of a national fan base is still deeply rooted in sports. As a matter of fact, sports have often taken the place of politics and ideologies as instrument to assert the idea of country and nation. A lack of interest in politics, which is a widespread phenomenon in the Western world, led to a dispersed identification with one’s own country through sports, and not by means of state institutions or political symbols. From that standpoint, sports never ceased to express a desire of domination of states or nations. When a country wins a medal, it reaffirms a vitality which is not only physical, but also moral. A nation hosting a competition such as the Olympics displays the degree of perfection achieved by its engineering, technology and social organization in general.
Some people say that the development and the professionalization of modern sports have led to a loss of the play-element. In its place we now have a search for maximum performance and an interest in overcoming limits at any cost. Doping, health issues caused by excessive training, and rigorous commercial contracts linking payouts to results are examples of that trend. Have we gone too far?
We now face the last hypocrisy in sports. I believe that one of the most mistaken phrases of the 20th century is attributed to Pierre de Coubertin: “The most important thing is not winning, but taking part.” Coubertin reaffirmed that in the first three Olympic Games, by not giving medals to winners. But after that the French Baron had to give in: in London, in 1908, the organization introduced medals to winners. In sports, finishing in second or third places has never counted for anything. Winning has always been important – at any cost. That is especially true today, when sports involve businesses and huge sums, and winning or losing might lead to great amounts of money changing hands or affect the profits of sponsors. There are known cases of countries that have organized a kind of legalized doping scheme; and I’m not talking about weight lifters from Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Take the cases of Putin’s Russia. And also think of Italy, where some sports federations funded research labs that worked on state-of-the-art doping programs. In my opinion, there is a sort of unspoken agreement by which everyone knows that athletes are being doped. But those cases are kept off the records to protect an illusion of “purity”. It is a type of theater where everybody is an accomplice – the public, maybe, unwittingly so. Leaving all hypocrisy aside: sports without doping is like “Never-Never Land”. All those involved in sports behave like that eternal teenager called Peter Pan, and pretend not to know so as not to spoil the play.
WHEN A COUNTRY WINS A MEDAL, IT REAFFIRMS A VITALITY WHICH IS NOT ONLY PHYSICAL, BUT ALSO MORAL
So much so, that when an athlete violates the rules and spoils the play, he or she is punished. The most infamous case? Diego Armando Maradona. Everybody knew Maradona used cocaine, but everybody looked the other way. When Maradona started accusing Fifa and the sports establishment, he was punished and his guilt revealed. The fact that some countries penalize doping cases that happened eight years ago causes some perplexity. What is the use in resuscitating lab analyses from the Beijing Games only to find out, eight years later, that Russian high jumper Anna Chicherova (gold medalist) was doped? The same question can be asked of Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven times and, years later, it was discovered that he was doped in the last Tour. Does it mean that those responsible for supplying substances to athletes manage to mask their presence and defraud the equipment used by olympic committees and sports federations, which are, perhaps, obsolete? Or is it an account-settling move involving federations and committees eight years on? Whatever the case, it would be more correct to “legalize” doping among professionals. I dare say, and I don’t see it as a contradiction, that it would be more “ethical”. Dilettantism has been dead for some time now, even inside the institution, called olympism, which defended that principle from the beginning. Olympia’s romantic ideal no longer exists. Sports have moved from an educational model, as conceived by Coubertin, to a form of spectacle with a desperate quest for performance, as it happens with singers, dancers, and orchestra conductors. And why isn’t there anti-doping control for those professionals? We could have tight control for youth sports, out of dilettantism, but among professionals there should be freedom of choice.
In symbolic terms, were there changes in sports with the emergence of the “society of the spectacle”? What role do the Games play in this context?
In the beginning, sports competitions involved school students: the larger public was not important. Starting in the 1930’s, with the construction of stadiums, and then in the 1950’s and 1060’s, with the introduction of TV, the presence of the public, albeit remotely, brought deep changes to sports. In North America, for example, the watchful eye of the TV camera led, in baseball, to excesses in perfectionism in a sport where specialist players ended up replacing generic athletes. Also in football and in other collective sports in Europe, TV and the increasingly sophisticated slow-motion replays had a significant impact on the sports’ technical evolution.
Starting in 1965, the launching of the first geostationary satellites allowed for live transmissions from one continent to another, revolutionizing and amplifying the sports spectacle. At the 1968 Games in Mexico City, sports became a universal spectacle and the organizers realized the importance of TV viewers. But politics, too, soon made the same discovery. The Mexico Games went down in history not only as a sporting event, but also thanks to one of the most iconic images to find a place in collective memory: that of Afro-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos with their arms raised, in black gloves and clenched fists, during the 200-meter medal ceremony. They were protesting against racism and showing support to the civil rights movement. Six months before that gesture, Martin Luther King, a prophet for the liberation of black people, had been killed in Memphis. Those clenched fists also put student revolts in the spotlight, since a few days before the Games opening ceremony, a student protest had been suppressed by the army, resulting in 40 dead. In the following Games in Munich, in 1972, the Palestine issue dominated the political scene. So starting in the 1960’s, thanks to TV, sports spectacles became something else, something that went beyond competition.
Organizing the Olympics always involves a debate about the legacy to be left to host cities. On a higher level, the country’s sports performance is seen as an indicator of health and prestige. In your view, what are the tangible and intangible benefits of an event of such magnitude to a city such as Rio and to a country like Brazil? And what are the disadvantages?
The next Olympics, in Brazil, will the first to be held in a South-American country. Organizing a large sporting event has always been a desire of bidding nations eager to showcase its power, its vitality and the “health” conditions not only of its economic system but also of its moral structure. The Games always had a political meaning overlaying the athletic motivations.
The 1992 Games in Barcelona marked the end of Francoism and the start of democracy and modernization in Spain. The 2008 Games in Beijing meant the acknowledgement of a new global economic power. Today it would be very difficult for the economic strength of the host country to be in tune with an old and romantic concept of olympic ideal: in 1996, the Games should have been held in Greece to celebrate the centennial of the fist modern Olympiad. But the bid was won by Atlanta, a city that has served as the headquarters for one of the Games sponsors since time immemorial. Another example of olympic hypocrisy: when, in 1980, the US boycotted the Moscow Games, that company did the same, but not really: it sponsored the Olympics using another of its proprietary brands.
A word of caution, though: those who say that the Games bring in money and jobs show only the positive experiences. The crisis that Greece is currently going through and that has jeopardized the European Community had its origins in the 2004 Olympics. Today, with feelings at once sinister and ironic, the Greeks speak of the “modern Greek ruins”, in a reference to the olympic equipment left behind in 2004. The organizers went over the 15 billion euros budgeted for those Games: in order to cover the gap, huge loans were taken abroad. Greece never emerged from that accounting hole; and a ferocious public debt led the nation to the brink of bankruptcy, dragging the population along.
Brazil’s case is atypical: the Games were preceded by the 2014 World Cup, which Brazil also hosted, and the country won the olympic bid in 2009. In other words, the decision was made when the nation was going through an especially upbeat economic moment. Today the country finds itself amidst a deep crisis that is not only economic, but also moral and political. I believe that a sporting event can never help change an economic reality for the better, but it has helped to confirm its vitality. In closing, I think that organizing an event such as the Olympic Games can work as a boomerang. Of course I hope I’m wrong, for the good of Brazil. But contingencies, history teaches us, do exist.
is a historian, essayist, and professor of Contemporary History at Università degli Studi Carlo Bo, in Urbino (Italy), where he also served as president from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of over 20 books, including L’era dello sport (The era of sports, Giunti Editore, 1994), and several essays.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SPORTS AND NATIONALISM IS BUILT UPON A SERIES OF FACTORS, BUT ESPECIALLY ON THE POSSIBILITY OF MUTUAL strengthening
By definition, contemporary Anthropology tends to emphasize the diversity of meanings instead of searching for an essence, irrespective of the topic at hand. Such assumption is even more important when one is dealing with mega-sporting events, given the dimension and the plurality of all agents involved. No synthesis will ever be able to cover the diversity of meanings, though it might be possible to identify some trends that provide sense and make sporting events a singular type of mega-spectacle.
But what makes sports so interesting as to galvanize so many admirers? There are two trends that might help answer this question. On the one hand, philosopher Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht points to the ephemeral quality of athletic performances. According to the German thinker, that quality can be associated to the beauty and plasticity of gestures and also to unexpected developments. A goal scored with a “bicycle kick” would be a perfect example of that combination, for it is rare and acrobatic. Record breaking performance in athletics – take Usain Bolt – would also fit the definition, given all the expectation surrounding the 100-meter dash event. In both cases – and this is where Gumbrecht would place his bet – the audience would attribute meaning to the performances based on experiences of the same kind. The public would have an informed taste, which would allow them to differentiate a professional from an amateur and also to differentiate among professionals.
The second trend places less importance on beauty and on the rarity of gestures and gives more emphasis to connections between sports and the broader spectrum of culture and society. French anthropologist Christian Bromberger could be seen as representative of that perspective: in interpreting success in football, he focuses on the engagement of the public, and not on the performance per se. For Bromberger, nobody would go to a stadium to witness an unexpected goal or play, as much as those can be celebrated, but rather to support a player or team with whom they identify – and that relationship is established beforehand. Bromberger’s approach prioritizes the understanding of such engagement on the part of the fans and the way they bond with a given team, projecting themselves into it and experiencing the performances of those players as their own.
Those two approaches are not mutually excluding, though the one suggested by Gumbrecht could be considered more appropriate to analyze the point of view of experts – sports professionals including athletes, coaches, commentators and certain parts of the public. And when seeking to understand mega events such as the World Cup or the Olympics, one cannot do without Bromberger’s view, since they prompt the interest of a broader audience than that of sports regular followers. In the Olympic Games, there are 42 sports disciplines, and few specialists would be able to talk appropriately about all of them. But that does not prevent some performances from being followed with great expectation, provided there is some identification between athletes and the public.
Looking at sports events and their public nowadays, one could state that no other mediator is as important as nationalism, a mode of identification that, in its origins, had nothing to do with sports. Take Formula 1 racing, for example, a totally private competition with its own proprietor. Although it is a contest involving constructors (teams) and drivers (individuals), winners’ national anthems are played during the podium ceremonies, a subtle yet effective way to add symbolic value to the races. The success of Ayrton Senna, as a driver and national idol in the 1980’s and 90’s, made Formula 1 a recurring topic of conversation among Brazilians – even among people who had never been interested in car racing and never resumed that interest after Senna’s death. There is not question about this driver’s exceptional technical ability, but his success in Brazil cannot be understood without taking into account the fact that he was a charismatic winner who celebrated his victories waving the national flag.
The same goes for Daiane dos Santos, whose gold medal prospects in Athens, in 2004, mobilized the Brazilian audience around the floor exercise event in gymnastics, a little known sports discipline for the larger public. Were they by any chance interested in the “double pike flip”? How many fans would be able to tell that move from the “double tuck flip” which made for Daiane’s international fame?
IN FOOTBALL THERE ARE TWO MAIN MODELS TO GENERATE ENGAGEMENT: THE CLUB-BASED MODEL AND THE NATIONALISTIC MODEL
Despite Daiane’s extraordinary performance, it would more feasible to imagine that Brazilians were rooting for her because they identified with her extraordinary story – a poor, black girl, a bit “old” for gymnastics standards – with her charisma, and with her choice of Brasileirinho, a traditional Brazilian tune, for her presentation. In summary, the identification between athlete and fans, in international competitions, is often mediated by feelings that touch ever so lightly on the specific discipline or on the technicalities of the performance.
Paraphrasing English Historian Eric Hobsbawm, for whom no other national symbol can be more credible than an athlete in competition, Daiane’s flips – Dos Santos I and II, as they were officially named – and Senna’s daring actions behind the wheel possessed a hyperbolic meaning for Brazilians, which exceeded the usual perception of the gymnastics and car racing audiences, respectively.
In order to understand how those connections are produced and operationalized, it would be interesting to confront nationalistic bonds with other forms of identity building within sports. In football, for example, there two main models to generate engagement, each with its own large competition circuit: the club-based model and the nationalistic model, with multiple segmentations.
The club circuit is broader and more diversified. Some of the most watched competitions in the world involve football clubs, such as the Premier League, in England, and the Champions League, which features European national champions. As a reminder, the most valuable leagues in the world, ahead of the Fifa World Cup and the Olympic Games, are two club leagues: the National Football League (American football) and Major League Baseball, both based in the US. In football, there are other examples of club circuits ranging from the Libertadores da América to municipal competitions and, in many cases, to amateur neighborhood leagues. The question here is not the uneven ability to mobilize fans for those clubs and leagues, but the fact that, collectively, this way of organizing disputes is very widespread, quite different from a World Cup, which is concentrated and exclusive. The larger football clubs in Brazil – an elite of around 13 teams that attract support from 90% of the fans – once were neighborhood clubs. While those have prospered, others failed for a variety of reasons, each team having a history that goes beyond their sports performances. Some are associated with ethnic or religious groups, almost all have links with their home towns, and one can notice rivalries that tap on social and race tensions, although such schisms are increasingly symbolic and less sociologic.
In the case of European countries, where geographic distances between cities are relatively shorter than in Brazil, and where railroads were established way before, national competitions emerged as early as the first half of the 20th century, involving football and other sports. In Brazil, national football championships only became viable in the 1970’s, when air transportation became a reality. Given the long distances between Brazil’s main cities and the precariousness of other transportation means, it would have been impossible for clubs to afford the logistics entailed by those travels around the country, both money and time-wise. That goes to show that the history of sports development cannot be limited to what we see during the Games. Quite the opposite: the possibility of having competitions at increasingly broader levels – national, continental, and intercontinental – made for the exponential expansion of the symbolic value of sports and for the concentration of public around a few emblematic clubs. In any event, the issue of nationalism reemerges: why have almost all sports chosen national borders as one of the criteria to define competitions? The answer seems obvious: because nationalism is one of the most important realms for the production of collective identities in the modern age, and it can also be appropriated.
In fact, what happened with the relationship between sports and nationalism was a partnership that benefitted both sides: nationalism helped substantiate the meanings of competitions, while sports dramatically amplified the sense of collective belonging. In order to understand that, one needs to bear in mind that several sports disciplines, especially collective ones, have an agonistic structure. It is a contest measured by consented rules and in which, from a level situation, one seeks to establish a difference. Because of that, many see sports as a war waged by other means, but some differences are quite clear. The most obvious, for sure, is that wars have real consequences, whereas in sports they are mimetic or, rather, fictional, which grants them an undeniable advantage: that of being a highly absorbing type of entertainment. It is also true that a few groups, such as organized fans or hooligans, take part in conflicts that do resemble wars, given the degree of physical violence employed and consequences that include arrests, injuries and deaths. It can be said about those groups that they have lost sight of what sport means.
If we look at the way most sporting events are organized, especially in collective disciplines, we will notice how the war structure is replicated, including a certain separation of roles. The relationship between the members of a team and the fans is very similar to that between soldiers and civilians. It is not by chance that football players answer to a “call-up” for the World Cup; that those who score more goals are also “strikers”; or that a player with a strong kick has “a cannon” in his foot. Before asserting that wars are deplorable – at least in my personal opinion – we should admit that they also hold great fascination for different human groups. It is not by chance that countless works of fiction, especially in film, address the issue. If there is fascination in war, and if sports and wars share so many similarities, why wouldn’t sports be fascinating as well?
Even if we can expand the use of the term “war” to include a series of disputes (from conflicts among drug dealers to advertising wars), it is within the range of war confrontations between national states that the notion is used more often. The state is a form of political and economic organization that characterizes the West today. Nation, in turn, is a sort of equivalent to the term “people”. In Social Sciences we basically follow a concept by Benedict Anderson, according to which a nation is an imagined feeling of community. It is imagined because its members do not know each other personally, but they do recognize one another through codes, such as languages; customs, such as cooking; and certain arbitrary symbols, such as anthems and flags. The term “feeling” is used to emphasize that this is a mode of collective organization, which is amalgamated by stronger ties than those of mere instrumental interest (as those in effect in the business world), and almost as profound as family ties (which we suppose are blood ties). The bibliography about this topic is vast and, at first, it emphasized the development of the idea of nation, in other words, of how a certain group could claim to be seen as a group and demand a territory with autonomy to define rules and revere traditions. One of the main contributions of said bibliography was to assert that national traditions and, therefore, national collective identities, are invented, which means they are, to a good extent, manipulated.
NATIONALISM IS TO SPORTS A SOURCE OF ALMOST ENDLESS COLLECTIVE REPRESENTATIONS
More recently, the bibliography started emphasizing dissent, tensions, and minority groups – those not contemplated by hegemonic versions. This needs to be said so as to adequately position the use of nationalism by sports. Apart from notable exceptions, sports competitions approach consolidated symbols and, on occasion, come close to the viewpoint of dominating groups, be they political or economic. It is no coincidence that we often see heads of state at sporting events; and that goes for the Nazi presence in the 1936 Berlin Games, as well as for its antipode: the fight against apartheid as seen in the Rugby World Cup in South Africa, in 1995. But there also exceptions, such as the protest by Muhammad Ali, who threw the olympic medal he won in 1960 in the Ohio River to denounce racism in the US.
Nationalism is to sports an almost endless source of collective representations that might eventually be appropriated, including its extreme versions such as nationalistic chauvinism, which result in racist, xenophobic, and sexist manifestations in sports. For sports, approximations of this nature are essential because they make for the expanded meaning of certain practices that would, otherwise, generate little interest as spectacles. But nationalisms also explore sports, for competitions represent a unique opportunity to perform such feelings publicly, secularizing national symbols and updating ties and a sense of belonging.
ARLEI SANDER DAMO
holds a PhD in social Anthropology from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), and is adjunct-professor at the Anthropology Department of the same institution.
The Olympics offer a great opportunity for us to join efforts around a common, honorable, and urgent objective: to pressure the ICO to grant olympic status to the only sport that can be considered 100% Brazilian, beach paddle ball. If olympic sports include discus throw and javelin, activities that nobody practices unless they’re hunting an antelope or chucking old vinyl records from you spouse out the window, during a fight, why not beach paddle ball? If even table tennis is invited to the party every four years, why is it that our beach tennis is not?
As we know, beach paddle ball (or “raquetinha”, as close friends call it) was invented on the sands of Ipanema in some morning in the 1950’s by writer, cartoonist, playwright and, from that moment on, beach paddle baller Millôr Fernandes. From there it made its way to Copacabana, and then to the Flamengo Landfill, from where it was unearthed to be discovered the world over faster than a rubber ball rolling along hard sand. Today beach paddle ball is played from Tegucigalpa to Honolulu, from Madagascar to Reykjavik, from Benin to Bhutan.
Some grumpy reader, of the kind who is always trying to see glasses as half empty – or beaches as half full – may argue that “raquetinha” wouldn’t work in the Olympics because it is not a competitive sport: how do you keep score? Well, dear bitter reader, one can readily tell that you know nothing about beach paddle beach – and nor, I dare say, about life. That’s exactly where the beauty of beach paddle ball lies. It is the only sport – besides sex, of course – where one does not seek to defeat the opponent, but to tie the game. Beach paddle ball is, in the words of another regular visitor of the above mentioned carioca sands, “the modern art of matchmaking, even though there’s so much mismatching going on”. It sits further from tennis, basketball, and taekwondo than from synchronized swimming, gymnastics, or diving.
My plan is that, once beach paddle ball becomes an olympic sport, it would be played before judges and evaluated as a performance: at the end, the jury would raise those infamous white cards with scores for different performance items. Number of ball exchanges. Harmony between the players. Elegance in striking the ball. Grunting. (Just as in tennis and in martial arts, there’s a lot of grunting in beach paddle ball). Creativity. (One can always find a moment to hit a tweener or pull a double pike flip to reach a difficult ball). The duo of players with the highest average score would naturally win. But more than awarding the players, it would be a victory for Brazil, for the Olympic Games, for mankind as a whole. I am not overstating it when I say that beach paddle ball is the most democratic of all sports, one that can be played by kids and geezers alike, regardless of height, weight and amount of hair. It can even be played while one holds a popsicle or a beer can in one hand – though the latter would not be approved by the IOC. Better stick to the popsicle.
is a writer and scriptwriter. His books include Meio intelectual, meio de esquerda (Editora 34) and Nu, de botas (Companhia das Letras). He is also a columnist at Folha de S. Paulo.
To fall and to get back up. To persevere. To focus. To transform an obstacle into an objective to be overcome. Sports are also a metaphor for a life that deserves to be lived. And that is why they carry so many inspiring and motivating references, thus reproducing the myth of the hero in contemporary times.
THE CEASELESS SEARCH TO OVERCOME BARRIERS IN SPORTS DRAWS THE ATTENTION OF PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER, AN ACTIVITY IN WHICH HUMAN ACTIONS EXTEND INTO THE SYMBOLIC FIELD
by Paulo Jebaili
The fascination sport holds for people all around the world may have its roots in the drive for extending the human limits. The continuous pursuit of excellence inspires human actions, especially in regards to activities to which a mere gesture may mean the difference between failure and glory. The relationship between concrete and imaginary, individual and collective, was the starting point for the interview with psychologist Katia Rubio, held at the School of Physical Education and Sport at the University of São Paulo. A member of the Brazilian Olympic Academy, a body of the Brazilian Olympic Committee dedicated to olympic studies, she also addresses issues regarding the modern sport, such as mediatization and negotiations involving athletes.
Why people are so fascinated by sports?
Because it is an activity that involves limits and that, despite its concrete aspect – as to calculating the human performance in seconds, yards, feet, inches, meters, centimeters, millimeters, it also pervades our imagination. It features archetypical elements that relate the human being to the myth of the hero, something common to all cultures. The athletes in pursuit of conquering marks and limits, day by day, are more than human. They live for it. And even though you and me and many others could not reach the same marks, we still see them as a possibility. And these possibilities push us forward everyday to do our best in our own field.
In that sense, will the Rio Games leave a symbolic legacy to the country?
It should, but I’m not sure it will be possible in the face of such hard times for the country right now. Sadly, our struggles have obscured what the Games could leave us, and which by the way belongs to this symbolic field. Very few people are talking about the Olympic Games, the average audience seems unaware of them. It’s a pity that this feeling was not nurtured in the past years in order to come to fruition now with the Olympic Games. I’m afraid they will leave behind much less than we wished for.
In previous editions, did the Olympics fulfill their role?
It depends on how the process was conducted. Barcelona is a good example; the bond between the city and the 1992 Olympics still exists. And this is a result of the population’s close engagement, which started way before the Games. Yet, the history of the Olympic Games shows several cases of no progress afterwards, like in Seoul , Sydney , and Athens , just to mention the recent past. The events went by like any other competition, and in the end, the cities were left with nothing that they’d hoped for.
How about the Paralympics, would hosting the Games be a potential opportunity to raise society’s awareness and sensibility towards a more inclusive attitude?
To me this would be too much for the Olympic and the Paralympic Games. They actually summarize what society is. Thus, if a society discriminates, disrespects, and provides no space for this citizen, this athlete, it’s unrealistic to think that this would change in 17 days. That’s not enough. I believe that the Olympics and Paralympics could be the height of an effective public policy aimed at inclusion. The Games are held every four years. And despite the huge audience that is attracted during the days of the event, if other actions are not implemented throughout the process, the Games won’t produce miracles; they will simply mirror society.
How does the sport performance relate to people’s self-esteem? For example, following Brazil’s 1950 World Cup defeat, Nelson Rodrigues coined the expression “mongrel complex”. After the 1958 victory came the samba lyrics “Brazilians, no one can beat them”. A new defeat in 1982 inspired a pop song: “We play ball, but can’t win; we are useless”. Is this a Brazilian trait?
Sports serve as a stage for the social dramas going on at a point in history. At first, sports were merely a competition, but then it was turned into much more than that. The height of that process was exemplified in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when the Nazi used the Games to promote the Aryan superiority; or during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union fought to show the world who was the best. That was the case in different times in history. So, the mongrel complex only occurs after a defeat, it wasn’t conceived prior to that. It is easier to analyze an existing fact. I am yet to see someone predict some of these facts. Brazilians are festive, they take pleasure in life, and this goes well with sports. Moreover, no one likes to lose. Defeat is a shadow to modern society. In this regard, Brazilians, Americans, Germans, or whoever, no one enters a competition willing to lose. Defeat is never a perspective. When it happens, it is painful, it hurts, and it affects self-esteem. Consider what happed to Messi recently, right after Argentina lost Copa America to Chile [the Argentinian player missed a penalty in the shoot-out, and after the game, he announced his retirement from the Argentina National team]. So this is not exclusive to Brazilians, it happens to everyone on the losing side.
Sometimes, athletes apologize to their supporters, to the spectators. But they were just doing their job...
There’s no need for apologies.
DEFEAT IS A SHADOW OVER CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY. NOBODY LIKES TO LOSE
But, in a certain way, athletes are expected to play a role as if they should redeem the country from its struggles or reaffirm its potential, isn’t it?
The media exposure to which athletes and their performance are subjected to is to blame for this situation. Before of the advent of a massive coverage of everything athletes do, they used to leave the field either celebrating or complaining about their performance. Today, all the trading involving athletes turned them into objects, into valued merchandise; and they have to apologize in order to keep their sponsors. Their apologies are not intended for the people, but for all the companies sponsoring their careers, and which may not continue to do so based on their results. That is, the apologies offered to Brazilians are in fact part of the excuses owed to their employers. With the professionalization, sport became a stage performance and athletes perform on that stage. The show depends on them. And athletes know that they may be replaced at any given time.
But representing their country is a heavy load, isn’t it?
This used to be an issue for amateurs, not professionals. Nowadays, the athlete is a global professional, just like a professional in any other occupation. Suppose that BBC offers you a journalistic position in London, for three times your salary. I bet you’d go. With athletes the same thing happens. They may even apply for citizenship in the country whose job market favors them. People tend to romanticize, there’s a set discourse demanding a sense of patriotism on the part of the athlete, which was lost a long time long ago.
Does the fact that Brazil is hosting the Games put more pressure on Brazilian athletes?
This may be the case for those athletes who somehow have an emotional attachment to what they do; but, nowadays, sports psychologists help athletes to cope with their emotional issues, so that they do not affect the competition. Ultimately, they compete on their own. The results belong to the athlete, not to the country. Individualizing the athlete’s performance is vital to guarantee a good outcome. There were times in the Olympics when the athletes’ performance would provide for their future, such as a place to live, and family perks. That was not a question of nationalism, but of real, concrete, material necessity, which every so often is much more compelling than singing the national anthem with your hand over your chest.
Katia Rubio comments on athletes’ transition to retirement
The presence of a psychologist has become increasingly familiar among the sports disciplines. What is the main role of sports psychology?
It’s to help the athlete to keep up with a routine of practice and competitions. Understanding who this person is, what choice was made, what expectations, and what are the cognitive and emotional repertories to help overcome problems and achieve goals. A therapy plan is set to help the athlete navigate through this dynamic and complex area, which sometimes may be hard to control. The athlete has to deal with the achievable and the imminent; with what’s new and what demands immediate action.
Is this line of work somehow related to coaching? You may have noticed that during volleyball time-outs the coaches alternate between calmly comforting the athletes, and shaking them up.
Today, top coaches not only study psychology, but also work with qualified psychologists, who join the coaching staff. They are not outsiders holding a magic wand, who arrive the day before a crucial match or an important competition to give a lecture on performance improvement. Psychology therapy takes as long as needed, and may last the entire physical training program. A physical trainer cannot have an athlete ready to run a marathon overnight; it requires a long-term preparation. Psychology is no different.
Developing the athletes’ profile and defining their response to stimuli also take time, right?
Acquiring this type of knowledge is time consuming. It takes more than a detailed questionnaire to get to know who is who. The dynamics of the training routine provide the coach and the psychologist with indications of whom they are dealing with.
is a professor at the School of Physical Education and Sports at the University of São Paulo (USP). She holds bachelor degrees in Journalism and Psychology, a master’s degree in Physical Education, a PhD in Education, and a post-doctorate degree in Social Psychology. She has written 22 books on sports psychology and olympic studies.
HOLDER OF THREE OLYMPIC MEDALS IN VOLLEYBALL, GIBA RECOUNTS HOW BEING ABLE TO OVERCOME DIFFICULTIES PROVED AN ESSENTIAL QUALITY IN HIS CAREER
by Gisele Gomes
In almost 20 years as a player of the Brazilian volleyball team, he won 26 titles, including one olympic gold medal (2004), two olympic silver medals (2008 and 2012), and eight World League championships; and was acclaimed world’s most valuable player on six international tournaments. Without a doubt, the career of Gilberto Amauri de Godoy Filho (Giba), from Paraná, in Southern Brazil, was triumphant. And to attain such level of excellence, he had to overcome many obstacles – not only those staged by his opponents’ blocking from across the net. Giba had to fight leukemia while still a baby; at the age of 11, a fall from a tree resulted in 150 stiches in his arm, of all places. From the emotional aspect, he had to face his family’s initial opposition, and was rejected from the first team selection he applied for.
Giba ended his sports career in 2014, at the age of 37, and will start working as a sports commentator in the 2016 Olympics. He will soon launch a social entity named Núcleo do Gibinha, aimed at promoting sports practice and food awareness, and fighting child obesity. During this exclusive interview, he reveals how he coped with difficult times inside and outside the court.
You had leukemia when you were 4 months old. Despite being too young, how did you learn about it, and how did it impact your life? Did this episode serve as motivation in your sports career?
My childhood was profoundly marked by it. Since it was a rare form of leukemia, I had to undergo constant testing until I was 7. How it was cured remains unknown. At first my mom thought that I suffered from iron deficiency. One day my aunt entered the room and started praying to God to either calm or comfort my family. She told she’d seen my white veins turn red. The following day they performed a test and I was well. So, it was a miracle. The treatment continued – I was about 7 months old –, three or four months of family turmoil went by and my mom was clueless about the disease. According to the doctor I would walk and speak at the age of 4. I received no chemotherapy, no radiotherapy, nothing. The treatment was limited to the use of medicines. And I was cured. My mother – thinking of the iron deficiency – added spinach and beetroot to my bottles; so while other children’s bottles were either white or chocolate brown, mine was green, dark red or purple. When I was 14 months old, I went for an examination and started to walk in the doctor’s office. And then he said: “I can’t believe that that boy with leukemia is already walking.” Then my mom passed out. That was how it all began. And so I had to do periodic blood testing. Until I was 3, I had monthly tests, and then, every four months, every six months, and annually, until I was 7. Until the age of 5, the blood for the test was extracted from my neck; it was the purest blood. That was something I couldn’t forget, I remember that phase very well. And after I was 7 years old, there was nothing else. Getting over that showed me that giving up is not an option, and from a very young age I had to struggle for life. Today I make a lot of contributions. I’ve helped many institutions, and now I’ll open the first Núcleo do Gibinha in Curitiba, Paraná, a non-government entity against child obesity, through sport and food awareness.
At eleven, a new struggle: an accident that resulted in 150 stitches in your arm. You were starting at volleyball and, unlike leukemia when you were a baby, you knew about it. How did the accident affect you?
I fell from a tree, a branch broke down and I tore my arm. It happened the year I started playing, but it did not affect me much. I had to stay away for a year, though, another challenging experience for mine. Those two episodes [leukemia and the accident], in special, carried me to a certain point, in 1993. I was doing well in Paraná [at the Canada Country Club, in Londrina]; I was one of the best players but wanted to grow. I tried a spot at Esporte Clube Banespa, where Tande, Giovane, Maurício, Marcelo Negrão, and Montanaro – the elite of the Brazilian volleyball – played; but I was rejected. At that moment I recalled the struggles I had to overcome during childhood, and thought to myself: “I can’t quit. This is my passion. I’m going to practice beach volleyball like crazy”. I was left out because of my height. According to the coach I was required to be at least 6 ft. 3 in (1.90 m), and I was 6 ft. 2 in (1.88 m). Now I’m 6 ft. 4 in (1.93 m). I knew I was a good player, but I wanted to be “the player”, to play for the senior Brazilian national squad. Or else, I would take advantage of my talent to apply for a scholarship in the US. I had already picked three universities: Utah, Boston and another one in Hawaii. I almost went. But then I made Brazil’s junior national team, thanks to Paraná’s second place in the national championship. They doubted me, but that same year in Istanbul (Turkey Boy’s World Championship) we won the title and I was voted the MVP and the best offensive player. From there it all went too fast. I played the Brazilian national championship for Curitibano, as the youngest player. By 1993-1994, I was torn between beach and court. I used to play beach volleyball in my free time. And one day my coach said: “If you play at the beach again, you’re out.” I did, and he dropped me off the team. I played beach volleyball that entire season, until I heard from the national squad coach that I wouldn’t be selected for the team unless I played for a club. That same week, I received a call from Valdemar Umbelino da Silva (Dema), the coach of Cocamar, from Maringá, hiring me. As I opted for the court, my career was really set in motion.
Was your family supportive, when you started leaning toward volleyball?
My family wasn’t supportive at all. My mom didn’t want me to become a player. At that time, soccer was lucrative, not volleyball. She said I should study and find a job, and signed me at a typing course and an office clerk training, in Londrina. I used to go to school by bike – a truck loaded with soybeans was my ride to the high school. I wore shorts under a pair of jeans, and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I attended the typing course, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the office clerk training. I did study, but also practiced every single day. Clever, right? Mom worked at the same place where I was taking the course, but she looked the other way. And it all started from there.
TRYING TO GO THE EXTRA MILE WAS A CONSTANT IN MY LIFE
Did any fundamental skill of volleyball pose a challenge during your evolution from amateur to professional?
Nope. I wanted to perfect all skills. My first coach used to say to me: “Short players need to master to pass and to dig”. In the beginning I focused on those skills, and everything else – block, attack, service, set – came with time. Striving to go the extra mile is the history of my life. Surpassing the limits day in, day out.
Having secured your place as a star in the national team attracted the media and advertising contracts. How did you manage to remain focused?
Unfortunately, Brazil demands exclusive dedication of its athletes, period. Today I’m doing MBA in Sports Marketing at the University of Rio de Janeiro, and I now see that an athlete is more than that. We should mirror the successful American model. The athlete is an asset. Athletes need to learn how to speak to a camera without losing concentration. But today, the Brazilian mentality imposed on its athletes goes like: “You need to practice, sleep well, don’t give interviews, don’t do commercials”. That’s unrealistic, we do it for a living. Today I make a living of what I accomplished in almost 20 years in the national squad. I make a living of my image, of how I speak, of how I present myself, of where I present myself. The main thing to keep focused is to never forget your origins, where you came from. When you begin to exaggerate, you must think to yourself: “Hey, get a grip, remember the time you had no money for the bus?” Of course, you become full of yourself at first. Imagine yourself making ten grand a month at 17 or 18. But I always managed to keep collected, because I had bills to pay, and my mom and my sister to look after.
While in Italy, you failed a drug test for marijuana. What went through your mind following the announcement?
People say that was the worst moment of my life. I claim it was the best. Not because of what happened, but how it happened. From that point on, I was voted world’s most valuable player six times. To err is human, and insisting on the mistake is typical of the fool. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others. I learned a lot from it. Either I would hide my head or get over it. First thing to do is to take the blame and say you are sorry, and you won’t do it again. There’s no other way around it.
How to keep focused and motivated after reaching the top, with a trophy wall filled with titles and olympic medals? What are the risk factors for a top player of losing enthusiasm?
Bernardo Rezende [aka Bernardinho, Brazil’s head coach] had a major influence over me in that sense. He talked a lot about this comfort zone, something not unusual among top athletes. When they start saying, “I am”, they go down. As he instilled that in us, we not only sought improvement, we pursued excellence. Good was never enough. It had to be great, perfect. That helped us build the history of our winning national squad. And it was also a matter of how we played, our drive, our passion, and the fact that we took pride in representing the country. During that phase, Bernardo proposed an exercise and kept silent. We pushed ourselves so much, that he didn’t have to say a thing. He scheduled a two-hour practice, and sometimes after 75 minutes he’d announce: “Guys, we are done for the day.”
What came to your mind while playing a final?
The 2004 olympic final was a moment of intense apprehension because it was our first. That’s every athlete’s dream. We played against Italy, our toughest opponent at the time. But in a final, all you want is to win. You think of how much you put into it, the endless practicing, being away from home, feeling sore, of all you sacrificed to be there. To me, no matter whether the situation is hard or not, you always put a lot of effort into it, specially concerning a collective sport, in which you depend on the person next to you.
And volleyball is a sport that combines individual and collective.
Volley is the only entirely individual and entirely collective of all sports. Missing a serve, it’s an individual mistake, but the entire team pays for it. You cannot retrieve the ball and ask to serve again, as in soccer or basketball, in which you may steal the ball and try another shot. In volleyball, it’s done. You have to be aware that a good individual performance favors the collective outcome.
How did you transition to leave the sport?
An athlete has to know that his has time arrived. You should not delay a situation you can no longer handle. Giba 2004, 2008, and 2012 differed from Giba 2016. Physically, age takes its toll; you can’t avoid it. You’re not the same athlete you used to be. The body no longer responds. I even underwent a tibia surgery because of that. I suffered a stress fracture for repetitive jumping. That’s excessive impact; I used to jump 1.10 m (3 ft. 5) to 1.15 m (3 ft. 8). At a certain point your body says: “If you won’t stop for yourself, I’m going to stop you.” Can you imagine, 210 lb. (95 kg) falling all the time? Of course, it must be harder for the athletes who are forced to stop because of an injury or compelled by someone else – usually a younger athlete who takes their place. That’s not something easy to assimilate.
Giba talks about his new profession after ending his volleyball career
What’s the major difficulty for a high performance athlete?
The worst thing for an athlete is to stop due to an injury. It is not easy to feel limited by your body. You know what you’re capable of, but the pain stops you. I had acute knee tendinitis preceding the Olympic Games, but I recovered in time. Pain is the athlete’s worst nightmare. Other than that, it’s having a child – nothing is the same after that.
In terms of life experience, cultural exchange and human values, what did you take of most valuable from sport?
Knowledge. We are born and we die learning. The first time I had dinner with my team in Italy, I already spoke Italian; they spent 15 minutes discussing the practice, the game, and the championship; and then, another 45 minutes talking about Van Gogh, Napoléon, and the Second World War. All I thought was: “Oh boy, I skipped school!” So, I had to learn about those things in order to be part of the conversation. I ended up gaining a vast knowledge. I always say to my children: “Take advantage of the legacy you’ve received from living in Italy and in Russia, from the fact that your mother is a foreigner [the former Romanian volleyball player Cristina Pirv], from all the travelling, and all the languages you are exposed to”. Sport has broadened my knowledge, taught me the value of life in society, of helping others. This also applies to humanity: if you help your brother and avoid leading a selfish life, you will become a source of good and will make everything around you better.
PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS TALK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES IN COVERING LARGE SPORTS EVENTS; THEY SEE THE OLYMPICS AS A UNIQUE MOMENT OF UNITY AMONG THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD
by Gisele Gomes and Ana Paula Brasil
João Pedro Paes Leme
In 23 years of sports coverage, Globo Esporte executive director João Pedro Paes Leme has worked in eight Olympic Games, six in the summer and two in the winter. He believes the Games still maintain the spirit of friendship found in their origins and have the ability to attract people in hopes of witnessing a human feat, not necessarily linked to a medal or a broken record. Currently working behind the cameras, Paes Leme says his position today requires a different viewpoint from the one he took in his days as a reporter closely following competitions. But he also thinks both perspectives have something common: the emotion evoked by sports.
The modern Olympic Games were created to foster a spirit of friendship among nations. Is that feeling still present in the Olympics?
The Olympics started in Ancient Greece with a very strong symbolism: they interrupted the Hellenic wars. And has served as inspiration for the Games to this date. In Ancient Greece, the event was not only about sports, they also involved musical and public speaking challenges: they were cultural games. Later they became more tied to sports. We are talking about the 11th century BC, a time of conquests and disputes, but also the time when intelligence emerged, so to speak. The Greeks were at the height of philosophy and were starting to produce poetry as well. When that context was transported to 1896, with Baron de Coubertin starting to restore the olympic spirit, some of those ancient elements were incorporated in to the modern Games. And I think that that was never lost, really. I believe that even today, in the Olympic cycle – which we call Olympiad in reference to a period spanning four years, just as a decade is equivalent to ten years – we have enough time, from a utopian standpoint, to create a cycle to reflect about what all that meant and symbolized. And four years later we can repeat that show of friendship. We live in a crazy world today, with attacks and violence everywhere, and the Games try to instill a different mood, which is specific to the event, in order to awaken that feeling of mutual understanding among people. As a reminder, the motto of the International Olympic Committee is “Celebrate Humanity”.
I recall the case of a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea, during the Sydney Games in 2000. An athlete who swam in an almost comical way, but who did not make people laugh at what he was doing. The public realized he was trying his best. Later, the full story came out: his name was Eric Moussambani and he had practiced in the only pool that was available in his city, inside a hotel. And he practiced hard because he wanted to travel to the Olympics as the sole representative of his country. Of course he was no Michael Phelps and was not getting near a medal – so much so that his time in the qualifying rounds was so far from the last swimmers that he had to swim by himself. And people gave him a standing ovation. At that moment, sport spoke without using words.
Without a single word it is possible to communicate a thousand messages. In the presence of that hard-working black man from Equatorial Guinea there were Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants. And all of them were applauding a human accomplishment. That is the olympic dimension that fascinates me.
Journalist recalls cases of cultural integration in the Olympics
Taking part in the Olympics is one of the highlights of an athlete’s career. They are all there to test their limits. What cases can you recall that reflect that ideal of self-determination?
I look at the Games from the viewpoint of Gabrielle Andersen, the Swiss athlete that barely made it to the finish line in the 1984 Games. To me, that embodied the spirit of human determination. She knew she was not going to win a medal but persisted till the end. She chose to finish among the last, but still finish it. Andersen inspired many people. I saw a similar case in 1992 and I am sure that athlete took inspiration from Andersen. In this case, the athlete (Derek Redmond was his name) had made it to the semi-finals with good chances of winning. He was running the 400-meters event. Suddenly, just like a car that breaks down in the middle of the road, his hamstring tore. He collapsed to the floor, in pain, as the doctors started to walk into the track – he would be disqualified if he received medical assistance. He raised his hand first, and then he stood up and began to hobble along the track. His opponents had finished the race by then. Then, in a very moving moment, an older man invaded the track. People did not know what to do; it could be an attack. But it turned out to be his father, who embraced him and helped him through the finish line. Redmond was shaking his head, and one could read his father’s lips saying: “I came with you this far, I’ll continue to the end”. I felt goose bumps. The message being that of a star athlete who shows his human dimension. The race could be considered a failure for him, but his family was there to support him.
João Pedro Paes Leme recounts athletes’ comebacks during the Olympics
There was another example in the 1988 Games, involving of a Canadian sailor (called Lawrence Lemieux). A gold medal was virtually a given for him, but the last race was affected by heavy winds. As he made the bend around the last buoy towards the final stretch, he realized another sailor’s dinghy had capsized and the sailor was drowning. He deviated from his course, rescued the sailor into his own boat, and received a standing ovation. He lost the gold medal, but on that day the Pierre de Coubertin medal for Sportsmanship was awarded to a living athlete for the first time. Another recipient of that medal was Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the Brazilian marathon-runner who was attacked by a priest in Athens (2004). Those stories epitomize ethical attitudes, actions moved by a will to do what is right. The fact that the sailor cared more about the life of a fellow competitor than about winning a medal gives the dimension of what a great athlete is and of what is expected of a great olympic hero. It would be the correct attitude for a person to have, an attitude that seems fitting for the sports environment.
WHEN THE LIFE STORY OF AN ATHLETE MOVES US, WE ARE ALSO MOVED BY SPORTS
What distinguishes an olympic coverage from others, such as football or Formula 1 for example?
There are more countries in the Olympic Games that in the UN. So, in a way, that goes to show that the language proposed by sports reaches way beyond competitions, and includes respect, ethics, and elements of human relations that seem to be disappearing from our everyday lives. I think there is some degree of disenchantment with humanity; and the Games, in a way, represent hope – and this might sound completely utopian – that we can celebrate humanity in a more playful and respectful manner. Maybe that is not present in other competitions. Maybe we see that respect in isolation, as in judo, and sometimes in tennis. But when we gather all those sports under one single mega-competition – and some sports even bring an aggressive quality with them – we realize they all take on an olympic stance, which perhaps could be explained by those ancient olympic roots, dating back to 700 BC.
What are the challenges posed by an olympic coverage, especially considering that the Brazilian audience is not familiarized with all sports?
Since football, or soccer, is self-explanatory for Brazilians because they are born following the game, there is a good chance they will not have watched other sports so much. So football can do without much explaining. And emotion goes hand-in-hand with that level of understanding that viewers bring from childhood. The big question concerning other sports is how to show the audience that they can be as challenging as football – or even more, and that to understand how athletes are challenged to overcome the limits of their strengths and talents, one needs to understand what that sport is. So it’s important to know the rules and the limitations, and even more relevant for our coverage, it’s important to know who the idols are. Idols inspire us. We always approach the Olympics supported by three well-defined pillars in terms of coverage: Brazil’s great athletes, the world’s great athletes, and great stories. I have no doubt that when the life story of an athlete moves us, we are also moved by sports. The idol precedes the sport. Take the story of Isaquías Queiroz, a boy from the countryside of the state of Bahia, who started rowing canoes because he lived by a river and that was part of his daily life. He simply became the best in Brazil and then the best in the world in canoeing. And to this date, the canoeist and his fellow boatmen share the same waters. Stories like that are like fairy tales. And all those transformations are hardly ever witnessed in other walks of life in such explicit ways. If you provide opportunities to people with some talent, you can really democratize that type of activity.
For a time, you worked very close to where the action was as a sideline reporter. Today, as a planning professional, are you still moved the same way as before?
I was a reporter for many years. I also worked as a correspondent for almost ten years, living abroad and covering Formula 1 racing across the globe. The way you look at sports from the sidelines, closer to the emotions at stake, is different from the way you look at it when you are planning and deciding what is going to be aired, and trying to warm up the audience for the event. But there is one thing in common: the emotion. When you interview an athlete up-close and you feel his or her emotion, of course you are moved. I cried many times alongside athletes. And you can also be moved by a well-produced series about athletes that you might even know in person, but that touches you because it is the result of teamwork, your team. Watching the series we have produced in preparation for the Games, some of which quite strong in content, such as Geração16 (Generation 16) for Fantástico [a weekly current events show], with athletes we followed for four years, without knowing whether they would qualify for the Olympics – some did not, others did – or the one for Jornal Nacional [Globo’s prime time news program], showing the profile of 16 Brazilian super-athletes and which is a summary of many emotions, I cried every time. And that sort of took me back to the days I used to stand beside them. It is the kind of emotion I try to convey to my kids at home as they see how intensely I live this experience. The two instances are different, as I said, but they do have something in common: the emotion.
THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUS
A sense of unity among the peoples of the world is a defining element in reporters’ recollections of Olympic coverages.
“My first Olympics was in Los Angeles, in 1984. Since then, I have covered all Summer Games and one Winter Olympics, in ten cities. Even though we Brazilians tend to prefer World Cups, I favor the Olympics by and large: one sport vs 28 sports (and several disciplines); 32 countries vs 206 countries; 1 gender vs 2 genders; 736 athletes vs 10,500 athletes. And it all takes half the time. There is no comparison! In a time when nationalism and xenophobia cry against differences, this level of human diversity – with so much in common at the same time – should be celebrated, and not only at the Olympics. If the example set by this great event could bear fruits in other areas, we would find easier solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, such as pollution and global warming. It is only at the Olympics that we can feel that we could another identity to a long list of exiting ones: we are all earthlings.”
“The most impressive aspect of the Games, the one that distinguishes it from the World Cup, is that the whole world does meet in one place. From the press circle – where you see journalists from all over the globe – to the impactful opening ceremony, arguably the only occasion where we have a chance to see representatives from all countries together in the same place. In my first Olympics, in Atlanta (1996), I still worked for a newspaper. I remember that in the press center, close to me, there were journalists from Belarus, which we still called Byelorussia. Atlanta marked the first time the former Soviet Union countries competed under the flags of their respective nations. So when the opening parade started and in came the Belarusian athletes, the four or five journalists standing next to me burst into tears because it was the first time they were being represented as a nation. It is something we might not even realize or understand or feel. I think that during the Olympics we always coming across people who are different from us. Different religions and different ways to perceive others, gestures that make people special. I remember that in Sydney (2000), when the two Koreas walked in together for the opening ceremony, it was quite symbolic: enemies brought together. It is a big utopia, really, that lasts 17 days, but it is beautiful just the same, and it does happen.”
Geração 16 (Generation 16)
For four years, Fantástico [a weekly current events show] followed the life of eight athletes. Watch the videos below (in Portuguese):
Ygor Coelho (badminton)
Thiago Braz (pole vault)
Lucas Bebê (basketball)
Laís Nunes (wrestling)
Matheus Santana (swimming)
Tamiris de Liz (track and field)
Rebeca Andrade (gymnastics)
In a Jornal Nacional exclusive series, news reporter Pedro Bassan presents the profiles of 16 Olympic Brazilian athletes. A job that took a year to be completed, involved 21 trips and 170 hours of shooting in search of stories, curiosities and intimate secrets of some of Brazil’s most important athletes in Rio 2016 Games (in Portuguese):
THE CONGENITAL DISORDER THAT AFFECTED HER VISION AT BIRTH WAS BUT ONE OF THE CHALLENGES TEREZINHA GUILHERMINA FACED IN THE PATH TO BECOMING THE FASTEST BLIND SPRINTER IN THE WORLD
by Juan Crisafulli
She has such a crystal clear picture of life, that the obstacles that crossed her path are almost invisible. Fading dimensions seem no longer to be there. She admits tripping up here and there, in fact, she was born stumbling, but this didn’t keep her from seeking her goals. Not even when the prospect looked gloomy. Those who follow her daily routine claim that no obstacles are large enough to keep her away from the podium.
Three-time Olympic champion in the Beijing (2008) and London (2012) Games, Terezinha Guilhermina holds a technical degree in Business and a BS in Psychology. She was born in the city of Betim, Minas Gerais, Brazil, with a genetic degenerative eye disorder, which also affected four of her twelve siblings. The athlete talked with the Caderno about her journey, before she started her morning practice at the tartan track that made her the world’s fastest women in her category.
What was it like when you were born?
I belong to a family of 12 siblings, five of whom are visually impaired. My father was a janitor, and my mom, a maid. By the time I was born, my father delivered groceries with his wagon. My mom had been hospitalized for over a week, but since I wasn’t born, the doctor discharged he and sent her home. A few days later, on the way home from the city, after accompanying my father in his deliveries, she went into labor. When her water broke she said: “I have to move to the back”. Then, she laid over a bag of horse food, and I was born there. My father cut my umbilical cord with a bread knife. Then he called a midwife for help. I was born in the middle of the route. That’s why I’m a runner. I was born running.
What were the first signs of your eye condition [retinitis pigmentosa]? How did it impact your childhood?
From an early age, I was never able to see things clearly. I always had over a 95% loss – I only learn that later –, but I played with the other children. Since my immediate siblings also had the disorder – which affects the retina’s ability to respond to light –, to me, everybody saw like I did. I did not run into people, they collided with me. When I started school, I noticed that I had something different. I was the only one who couldn’t see what the teacher would write on the board. Then I had a clear understanding that I had some sort of impairment, something quite serious that prevented me from performing like the other children. Until that point, I was able to do all they did – I was unaware that I stumbled and fell all the time though. Since I could not see the blackboard, my sister who had a better vision taught me to read and write. I used to put the table in the middle of the backyard because I needed of a lot of light. When the sun hit directly on the paper, I was able to write, but not to read. Therefore, since correcting wasn’t an option I had to write it right. That’s how I learned to write. At school, teachers were oblivious and I was considered a misbehaving, hyperactive child. Until the day one teacher noticed that the problem with me was that, although I could write, I could not see. By this time I had already flunked 2nd grade twice. From then on, she started to say out loud what she’d written on the board. That’s how I was able to move to 3rd grade. By the age of 17 I discovered that I suffered from retinitis pigmentosa, a non-treatable disorder.
How did you discover your talent to run? And how did manage to run despite your poor vision?
At this same first school, there was a girl who had flunked more times than me. She was bigger than me and used to hit me. So, because of my blurred vision, when I noticed her silhouette, I would run not to be beaten. Since I had to move fast, I noticed that I could run. I had always run fast when playing with other children, despite my impaired vision. When I had just finished high school and graduated in technical business, I heard about a program implement by the City of Betim, offering track and field and swimming training for people with disabilities. At first, since I had a swimming suit, I applied for swimming lessons. I preferred to run, but I did not have tennis shoes. I went home and told my sister, and she gave a pair of tennis shoes. The next day, I signed up for track and field. I found in track & field a door that prejudice hadn’t closed. No one, No one deterred me. Despite holding a technical degree in Business and having excelled in the course, I couldn’t find a job due to my disability. Track and field allowed me to run. But because of my poor vision, I had to run in alternative periods, which are a little riskier. I ran in the street, stumbling all the time, mistaking garbage bags for dogs, and saying hello to lamp posts, but as I trained I would say to myself: “No one will prevent me from training”. I experienced a few problems, as the tennis shoes my sister gave me wore off to soon, and looked more like clogs on the sides. My ankles were really sore and I needed physiotherapy. And one physiotherapist warned me: “Terezinha, your ankle has such an acute infection that if you continue to run, we’ll have to cut-off your leg”. And I replied: “First you cut it off, and then I’ll stop”. Many times I woild say to my coach: “I’ll become the world’s fastest”. People used to say that I dreamed too high for someone who had nothing in their hands.
Did you practice any other sport prior or after your debut in running?
I practiced swimming, that’s why I had a bathing suit. When I was a teenager, I joined a program for poor children. And since the others kids had no impairment, the teacher had no clue of how much I could see. But I was good at swimming.
Terezinha Guilhermina compares her work as a psychologist with her performance on the track
You debuted at street competitions. Why did you decided to participate?
At the track there was no prize money, nothing; then I learned that a street competition would pay a prize for persons with disabilities. The prizes would be R$ 100, R$ 80 and R$ 60 for the first three places. It was a 5k run, and I signed up for it. There was no guide for me, and I ran stumbling over people. Since I saw blurred silhouettes, I followed those who were also running. I finished second place and won eighty reais. As a child I wanted to try yogurt, and as I had never had that much money, I felt rich and bought some yogurt. That feeling made me believe even more in my dreams.
MUITAS VEZES AS PESSOAS ME FALAVAM QUE EU SONHAVA ALTO DEMAIS PARA QUEM NÃO TINHA NADA NAS MÃOS
How was your debut training in clubs?
Most of my coaches did not believe in my potential. My brother, who began to run after me, entered more events and started as a winner. The problem is that I was making mistakes. Because of my ankle infection, I had to arrive earlier to warm up so that coaches could not see that I was sore and limping, and then I heard many things. I heard that the distance in performance between me and my competition equaled that of a VW Beetle and an airplane. I heard that I had nothing and they had it all. I had a poor sight, had no money, my family coud not support me financially, and competitions were a novelty to me. But then I decided: “I’m going to be the best there is in the world, and I’m going to change my history”.
Terezinha Guilhermina remembers the moment she realized she could be a world-class athlete
Nowadays you run wearing a blindfold and with a athlete guide by your side. Did your disorder progress after you started competing?
There are three classes. T11 is suited for blind persons or athletes with profound visual impairment and have to compete wearing a blindfold. T12 is for athletes with a 10% residual sight, who follow the same rules applied to T11, with two lanes, guides, but no need for a blindfold. And T13 is for athletes who see bellow that and are subject to regular rulings. From the very beginning, my visual field was too small. An optometrist performed the classification. My sister and my brother who had a slight better vision than mine and also competed were submitted to this evaluation. They would enter the room first and then tell me: “You take two steps and then turn right to avoid tripping”, because I was too afraid of moving to another category. Since the first evaluations, the optometrists always said: “You’re a 12, but may compete as 11 due to your very poor vision. And I responded: “No! I can’t see a lot. I can see well”. I thought that I could see very well! Until the day, during another evaluation, my sister entered one room, and I entered another. I did not know what to expect, so I tripped when I entered the room. In one occasion, I remember that the doctor showed me a few letters and I repeated the entire alphabet trying to guess the right ones. But a person of the Paralympic Committee who was with me told me that in fact those were numbers. They knew that I was clearly trying to fool them, but even so I remained in the T12 until 2005 – with a really deficient vision field. Right before the Athens 2004 Olympics, since I did not want to take the functional evaluation test, I visited an ophthalmologist and asked him for a statement confirming that I had a 10% vision. He performed an exam and, to my not pleasant surprise, he told me that he could not issue a statement because I had no more than 5% of vision.
How did you balance studying and training? You have a degree in Business, what attracted you to this field?
I took this course in high school. I chose it because I did not consider myself competent enough to become a teacher (my first choice), and that technical course was offered at my school, so I took it. The principal called me and said: “Terezinha, this is nonsense. You won’t succeed. You have to use a calculator, and if you cannot see the gadget how can you see its numbers?”. But I insisted and did it nonetheless. I guess I love challenges. After that, in 2005, I started the Psychology major at the Pontifical Catholic University [PUC]. That course was filled with difficulties because I was already training and I had a lot of material to study, so someone else had to read and record all the texts and then send me the tapes. I attended the course in three different colleges, and graduated in 2013, so it took me nine years instead of five. The same discipline I had to sports, I had in college.
What was you biggest incentive?
My father. Because of him, I didn’t give up. I wanted to change his trajectory. I lost my mother when I was nine. When I returned from Beijing and went to see him to show my gold medals, and found his house without electricity, in the dark. I decided to buy him a new house. I thought to myself: “I’m going to practice and practice, give it all, and I’ll get better and I’ll change his history”. At the end of 2008, I managed to buy him a house, which gave me great joy. I was able to help my family, and fulfilled a lot of dreams.
Now that you beat all those records, won all those medals, and conquered a lot in life, are you feeling the pressure, isn’t it too much responsibility?
I always pushed myself a lot. It is no different now that the Paralympics will be held here in Rio, in our country. I prepared myself for all the competitions I entered. This constant state of internal pressure; this drive for wining and always improving was bigger than the fans, bigger than people’s opinions. I want to win, I want to triumph, because of what I’ve done to get here. I know I deserve it. I haven’t simply decided to win the Paralympics gold this year. I’ve been training hard since I left London, four years ago. I did not stop to go dancing and spend the night out. I did not stop to eat as much as I want and put on some weight. I chose to abstain myself from all of those things because I know that instant at the top of the podium is worth it.
Terezinha Guilhermina talks about her medal prospects in the Rio Paralympics
How do you rate the support to Paralympic sports in Brazil?
I’ve been running for 16 years and it’s been constantly evolving. The Paralympic Committee has done a reasonable job to strengthen the movement and build an infrastructure to attract a larger number of athletes and offer a better structure for the existing ones. Currently, we are a Paralympic power. We rank seventh place in the world chart and we’ll try to be among the top five in these Games. And I believe we will succeed. Today there is a Student Paralympics involving more than a thousand athletes between 13 to 18 years old. It’s the world’s largest edition. We have a modern and impressive infrastructure. Besides, the federal government passed a law creating a special benefit that will cater to the needs of athletes with disabilities, in order to give them equal opportunities to those offered to regular athletes. Today Brazil is a Paralympic power because a great number of people, several companies, the federal government, and a few city and state governments acknowledge the fact that we are as deserving Brazilians as those athletes without disabilities.
You always wear makeup. Do you enjoy taking care of yourself?
I do. Until the New Zeland world championship in 2011, in Christchurch, I did not wear much color. I used to run wearing glasses and a conservative look. When I got there, I was given a mask to wear while running. But it was a sleep mask, like those used in airplanes. And I complained: “But I’m not going to sleep, I’m going to run”. From that moment forward I decided that I would create a personalized mask, unlike anyone else’s. I always liked to mix colors. It doesn’t have to look beautiful, it has to look colorful. Because my world is colorful. I don’t agree with the stereotype that a blind person isn’t expressive. I do may own makeup. I just need someone’s opinion that everything is fine. But sometimes there’s no one available and I leave it the way it is. We are destined for happiness, and I’ll take no less.
A REFRAMING OF PHYSICAL EDUCATION PLACES MORE EMPHASIS ON COOPERATION THAN ON COMPETITION TO PRODUCE A POWERFUL TOOL FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION
In Brazil, at least 30 million people have some sort of impairment. This share of the population includes children and adolescents who face a huge challenge to exercise their citizenship and increase their autonomy with dignity. Sport and physical education may work as a wonderful tool to change this situation, given an inclusive frame of reference that ensures an equal participation. For that intent, a paradigm shift is needed regarding high performance, competitions and athlete preparation. All of those aspects have been systematically responsible for excluding many people, particularly persons with disabilities.
Today, we are witnessing the dawn of the inclusive physical education, which promotes the participation of all students in the same activity, under the same rules, which in turn may be elaborated in collaboration involving teachers and students. This proposition requires understanding the specific needs of each student, and adapting all the activity rules and resources, including changes in the existing physical practice and the creation of new activities.1
One good example of this is the mini athletics project created at Terezinha Souza Municipal School, a public institution in Belém, in northern Brazil. According to Physical Education teacher Itair Santos de Medeiros, at first, “activities were implemented according to competition methods applied to institutional sports, i.e. we looked at the technique, used stop watches and standard distances etc.”.
In 2015, there was a significant change following the participation of Itair in the second group of the Open Doors for Inclusion Project – Physical Education for Inclusion [Portas Abertas para Inclusão – Educação física inclusiva]2 by Rodrigo Mendes Institute in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the FC Barcelona Foundation. In summary, the initiative aims to train educators from several regions of Brazil, in order to promote inclusive education for boys and girls with disabilities through safe and inclusive sports practice. In this sense, it reflects the ideal of providing disabled people “the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom”, as provided by the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, issued by ONU in 2006.
During the course, Medeiros and another 450 educators – including school managers and teachers of several disciplines of the Education Special Care Service [Atendimento Educacional Especializado (AEE)]3 carried out integrated projects that connected school community agents to find out and implement propositions for the benefit of all students.
That was exactly what took place in the city of Belém; the physical education activities were adapted in order to highlight students potential, especially those catered by AEE (16 children and adolescents with cognitive disorder, audio impairment, cerebral palsy, behavioral disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and Turner and Down syndromes). “When we realize that personal differences may help the learning process and reframe the exercises, we allow full students participation, respecting individual physical, sensorial, and behavioral limitations, and communications impairment”, said Medeiros.4
The mini athletics project then started to include stages: high jump, triple jump, jumo over tires, long jump pole vault, hurdling, javelin, hammer throw, and relay race. All of them were planned around athletic fundamentals: run, jump and throw, but with adapting concepts. “Throw from one place to another” changed position to “pass”. Instead of “throwing spheres with force”, you may “abandon it at a specific point”. The time/speed race ratio gave place to exceeding individual limits. Within the circuit there were no comparisons between the fast and the slow. All kids were able to play their own way.
In Belo Horizonte, teachers Keyla Murched, Ingrid Lobo, and Jane Silva – from Escola Pública Dom Orione, a public school – while attending the training course at the Portas Abertas project, challenged themselves to turn bocce, which is an adapted olympic sport, into an inclusive activity that encourages students with and without disabilities to play together.
Besides stimulating the motor, cognitive, emotional, and social development of students in general, the teachers formulated a strategy to implement sports practice, which included aspects of communication; meetings with the families to reinforce the use of such strategies; and adapting rules and materials for all participating students.
The students performed the activity in pairs, adopting several ways of throwing – standing, seated, or even with the chute, an assistive device –, so that they could compete in equal conditions. A piece of carpet laid on the court prevented the balls from running too far. Ingrid, one of the teachers, set the white ball (called jack), and the players assumed the position at the end of the carpet. As a positive outcome, all students were able to fully enjoy the inclusive bocce.
In addition to the new possibilities of performing and gaining knowledge offered to different actors involved in the Portas Abertas project, one of its main outcomes was better student interaction. The intense contact with human diversity allowed them to understand that everyone has skills and limitations and can take part in all activities, as long as they are adapted. Educators also detected an improved socialization level among students, which reaffirmed the importance of values such as respect for diversity, collaboration, and empathy. This aspect of inclusive education represents a great opportunity, and physical education as a field of knowledge explores this inclusive potential as everyone is allowed to play, learn, and do recreational activities together.
The hosting of mega-sports events in Brazil, like the 2014 World Cup and the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, have inspired the Portas Abertas project. We firmly believe that sport is an assisting tool for education, which may renew students interest in school and improve their overall development.
1 In 2012, the Rodrigo Mendes Institute carried out the study Inclusive Physical Education in Brazil, offering an overview of this field of knowledge, its history, and its challenges. Available (in Portuguese) at: bit.ly/28ZqERW.
2 Results, videos, and reports are available at rm.org.br/portas-abertas. In 2015, about 51 thousand people were reached by the project Portas Abertas para Inclusão – Educação Física Inclusiva [Open Doors for Inclusion - Inclusive Physical Education].
3 AEE is a free care service for students with disabilities, global development disorders/high cognitive skills/ prodigies, available to all levels, periods and modalities, especially to the regular system school. It includes a group of continuos institutional activities and teaching and mobility resources, offerred as a complenting tool for teaching students with disabilities and ASD; and as a supplementary tool for teaching students with high cognitive skills/prodigies.
4 Itair Pedro Medeiros was awarded second place prize for school inclusion initiatives [Prêmio Paratodos de Inclusão Escolar]; he wrote an article on reframing activities to turn them into a social inclusion tool, generating more positive results, available in Portuguese at: bit.ly/29816Yo.
RODRIGO HÜBNER MENDES
is the fouder of Rodrigo Mendes Institute, an instituiton that implements inclusive education programs. He holds an MBA from Fundação Getulio Vargas (Eaesp), and is a member of the Young Global Leaders (World Economic Forum) and of the group Ashoka Empreendedores Sociais.
CHANTS AND CRIES FROM FANS WORK AS FUEL FOR PLAYERS, BUT THEY ALSO LESSEN OPPONENTS’ VIRTUES. ALMOST ALWAYS WITH INSULTS
Inside the stadiums, arenas, and courts of the many Olympic disciplines showcased during the Rio Games, we are taken by emotions and sensations usually interpreted as spontaneous and free from the shackles of social life. Such experiences are more closely related to captivating experiences than to what our common sense defines as rational, and so there is this expectation that those actions follow from natural instincts.
Within cultural studies in Education, however, we believe that the most diverse social experiences are included in different curriculums, which teach us appropriate ways of being in the word. An interchange with the anthropology of emotions allows us to think that we go through a learning experience to establish which practices warm our feelings and which do not. Becoming an enthusiast, and especially becoming a fan, requires going through different pedagogical processes.
Sadly, in Brazil we deal with a sporting monoculture. Almost all narratives indicative of sports interest are translated into men’s soccer, which dominates media coverage. Unlike other sports, it features a busy calendar year round, brings in an outstanding amount of money, and attracts a massive and faithful crowd.
Understanding fanship practices in Brazil, invariably leads to understanding soccer fans’ practices.
What does it mean to a be a fan in Brazil? Brazilian soccer is lively and its narrative reinforces domestic rivalry, in other words, classic matches between long-time opponents of a same city, such as Grêmio and Internacional, in Porto Alegre; Atlético and Cruzeiro, in Belo Horizonte, or Bahia and Vitória, in Salvador. Even in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, which host a larger number of the so-called “big clubs”, challenges are also binary and take place from an agonistic standpoint.
One of first things a soccer fan learns is to elect a club or a team. More than an aficionado or a spectator, the fan is a subject, part of the squad. The fan’s main purpose is to witness a win, rather than a virtuous performance.
As a piece of this disjunctive ritual, the fan is invited to take part in the face-off. Unlike forwards, required to use their speed and scoring skills; or defenders, who are needed for their strength and proactive skills; fans are expected merely to chant and cry. These manifestations work as a fuel to their teams’ players, but they also lessen opponents’ virtues, almost always with insults.
Based on this observation, what should be made of gender and heterosexism at arenas and stadiums? As mentioned, we are a sporting monoculture, and that limited experimentation is extensive to our fanship practices. There is a male logic in the facing-off, irrespective of the price paid for the seat. Insults, which are the currency fans have to actively participate in combats against their opponents, have to address what is considered as offensive in a given specific cultural context.
Not all cursing is suitable to all circumstances. In a macho and heterosexist soccer fan environment, insult almost always translates into what historically represents the opposite of a male heterosexual. For instance, a bad player kicks like a woman, and a referee who makes a call against one’s team is a “faggot” (sic).
The cries, especially heterosexist ones, adopt such a natural tone that even the offended party interprets them as part of the sport. There was an episode involving a volleyball athlete, Michael, who suffered a homophobia attack in the 2011 Men’s World League semifinal. While complaining about the name calling, he admitted to being used to hear the same insults shouted by soccer fans. He said that he complained after realizing that the entire arena was shouting at him. In other words, even insulted subjects consider standard behavior for soccer fans (even when watching a volleyball game) to yell bad names, lessening the non-heteronormative masculinity.
When values of a hegemonic masculinity are at play in a situation of confrontation, diminishing those identified as having different sexual preferences is rather ‘expected’. Derogative terms like “faggot” and “gay” are rarely mentioned in debates about sports violence.
What about racism in these situations? If lessening the masculinity of the opponent is part of a game of provocation, which is socially accepted and expected in such circumstances, the same is no longer true for racism, fortunately. One of the most paradigmatic cases of racism involved goalkeeper Aranha, who endured racist insults at Arena do Grêmio, in southern Brazil, in 2014 [while defending Santos in the Brazilian Cup].
Some of the reasons for the difference in treatment lay on deductive logic of the sports confrontations in Brazil. In our culture, sports competition is usually interpreted as a contest between men. In such situation it would be considered natural to regard sexuality as an important element in confrontations. Two groups of fans engage in a combat, personified by two presumed heterosexuals who attach to each other identities they both deny - in this case, homosexuality. Everyone involved in these face-offs tends to be insulted. To be considered manlier than our opponent is a desire we have as participants of such face-offs.
Gladly, this is not the case for racial and ethnic constructions. Choosing to be part of a group of fans based on the number of white people apparently is no longer a reality in Brazilian sports. In this sense, insulting a black athlete transcends the realm of sports confrontations. Besides, not all players can be insulted by being called a “monkey”.
Aranha’s case illustrates well how this “zoo lingo” navigates between allowed and not allowed in fan demonstrations. A Grêmio fan myself, I followed the episodes involving the goalie, who at the time played for Santos, and the Grêmio fans. At the controversial game, when Aranha was insulted, the term “monkey” was interpreted as abusive, as an act of violence. Three weeks later, the player returned to Grêmio’s stadium for another tournament [Brazilian Championship], and once again was insulted. Nonetheless, this time the cursing referred to his technical skills, such as the popular “butterfingers”, or to his presumed lack of masculinity, like the recurring “faggot”. In this case, at the end of the game, the behavior was considered adequate – the fans had put pressure on the goalie, without insulting him.
If it is important to go through a pedagogical process to learn how to support a sports team in an appropriate manner, what kind of behavior could we expect from Brazilian fans in the Rio Olympic Games? First we have to bear in mind that in this situation there will be no club fans. In some cases we may have spectators, not fans. I’m not really sure if “Team Brazil” will be able to attract thrilled enthusiasts.
At the 2007 Pan-American Games we witnessed a very curious experience when fans celebrated the falls of foreign gymnastics athletes, which would potentially result in medals for Brazilian athletes. As much as there were no boos and no heterosexist, sexist, or xenophobic insults, cheering against those athletes did not seem adequate in that situation. How will we react to situations like this now?
Recently, in 2014, we hosted the World Cup. Interestingly, at least in Porto Alegre, the behavior towards foreigners was rather different. Brazilians dressed as Dutch, Australians, and French (and even carried their country flags). But our relationship with our Argentinian Hermanos did not follow the same rationale. Our south-of-the-border neighbors were fiercely criticized for their bad behavior, for overcrowding the streets, and even for not buying at local shops.
Fanship requires a sense of commitment and enthusiasm that Brazilian athletes may not be able to incite among those who will watch the Games. At the same time, fans tend to question their cultural dilemmas.
If we transferred sports clubs fans to the Olympic gymnasiums and arenas, I would bet that heterosexism and male sexism would result in intense homophobia and misogyny. In Brazil 2016, responsibility for violence against women and homosexuals still lies on the victims. In our country, human rights are yet to become a Federal policy, and they suffer attacks from conservative groups and torture advocates, who produce but hate speeches. This grants permission to those who have never experienced this type of violence to exercise several forms of insulting without noticing their reproachable content.
FANS TEND TO QUESTION THEIR CULTURAL DILEMAS
In times of instant information exchange, of news being swapped with plain opinions and with different preconceived manifestations, one would imagine that our relationship towards foreigners might vary according to the world region from which these athletes come from. In times when refugees from war and poverty are abused in different parts of the globe, hopefully the festive break for the Olympic and Paralympic Games might prove to be an especial opportunity to celebrate unity, and not to reinforce discrimination discourse. And may exceptional moments like these allow us to reflect on our everyday attitudes in the sports venues and other public spaces in the country.
GUSTAVO ANDRADA BANDEIRA
is a PhD student in Education at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), and holds a technical degree in educational affairs from the same institution.
Sports entered my life when I was 12. Because I’d always been kind of tall, I was invited to train basketball with the school team. At first I accepted because I had friends who played and it seemed fun. But I soon started taking it more seriously. I worked hard to be one of the starting players and, in the four years that followed that was all I could think about. When I first began to scratch the strings of a guitar, the idea was to cheer those of us who sat in the back of the bus that took us to competitions. Collective sports have taught me many things that I bring with even today, like a type of sacred teaching. The importance of passing the ball, of not acting as a ball hog. To understand that a good pass is part of the next two points as much as the hands that shoot the ball towards the basket. To refrain from violent plays – and to be punished for them. To celebrate and cheer, even from the bench. To console and to be consoled. To give in, to look ahead, but never to give up. To realize neither victory nor defeat is eternal, it all depends on what you do during the game and on how you have prepared for it.
I used to love the ball, the court, the uniform, and above all, I dreamed of playing for the national team. My idol was Magic Paula. One day, as a professional singer, I heard she was in the audience and I had to sit down and have a glass of water. I had to prepare to dunk that ball and impress the person who had been my inspiration as an athlete, until the day a microphone crossed my path and this overwhelming passion dragged me from the courts. Basketball was better off, I’m sure! But I could jump, you know? Today, Paula remains an idol and is also a dear friend, with whom I have good laughs every now and again. Singing did consume me in many ways and I left sports aside for years. Not without grief, but out of necessity. I would do physical exercises here and there, but nothing consistent. Until the day I was walking on a treadmill and decided to run for the last three minutes. From then I went on to have running classes at the gym. And after that, encouraged by two friends, I started to run on the streets.
But I have to say I used to look at running as a sacrifice. More than that, I would look at a street runner and feel sorry for them, I thought they were ETs, people so needy that they had resorted to running out of despair. Still, making good use of the privilege offered by the Rio scenery, I started running. I signed up for a 5k event and completed it in 28 minutes. Everyone thought it was a good time, the medal winked at me. And I loved the event and the people, all with a beautiful disposition. So I began to train more: 10k. Why not dream of a half-marathon? That was in 2009. I’ll never forget when, looking at my own GPS, I reached the 16k mark. Running became a secret weapon, an internal glow, a sign of relief, a good addiction. This happened in New York. The starting line was in Central Park. I could not believe how far I had gone with all that. People carried signs to encourage the runners. Kids, moms, dads, sweethearts, friends. And there are those who don’t know anyone, they go just to shout: “c’mon, you can do it!”. Here in Rio the public doesn’t care too much. They just stand, waiting for us to pass them so they can cross the street. But there’s always a good soul cheering for you not to give up. Any incentive is welcome, you can be sure of that!
Sports can save lives. Governments should be obsessed with stimulating and promoting physical activity.
Today, five marathons later, my life has changed a lot. Two in Rio, the first in Chicago, then Berlin and, in 2015, Tokyo. This last one was my best, the one I savored the most. I finished in 4h19. Eight half-marathons, one 25k event in São Paulo and other shorter events.
Pick something that will keep away from furniture and home appliances, like the sofa and the fridge. Choose to move, choose health to face the day!
is a singer and songwriter, has launched 12 CDs, writes a column for O Globo, and is also a runner.
A gesture might define an athlete’s success or failure. A movement might also mean effective change in the life of those who discover the possibilities offered by physical activity. Even cities can gain new shapes through a contact with sports.
ARTICLE by Marlova Jovchelovitch Noleto and Fabio Eon
MEGA EVENTS CAN OVERSHADOW SOME OF THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF SPORTS. SHIFTING THE FOCUS FROM HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMPETITION, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY MIGHT WORK AS AN INSTRUMENT TO FOSTER EDUCATION AND PARTICIPATION
The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games offer Brazil a unique chance of hosting the world’s biggest sports meeting. Brazilians are very excited with the opportunities created by both events, especially those related to potential investment attraction, development, and international prestige.
Sport is not only a mechanism to promote self-knowledge and boost self-confidence and self-esteem, but also a powerful way of mobilization, by gathering people of varied races, ethnicities, cultures, and creeds. In addition to offering entertainment, international sports competitions help build cultural identity and reinforce peoples’ sense of belonging.
“When you give a kid a ball, you also instill in them a sense of perception and of direction”, a teacher of the Unesco’s Open School Program pondered – such program, through which schools remain open for cultural, social and sports activities during the weekends, was adopted by the Brazilian federal government. Indeed, sports practice promotes the first contact of children with life in society, with rules, goals and teamwork. Inside a sports court there are basically no distinctions, all are equally subjected to the rules of the game.
Even so, the magnitude of the organization of a mega event such as the Olympic Games, plus the substantial money investment required, in general may overshadow other social aspects related to the sport itself, especially the concepts such as “education sports” and “participation sports”, pointed out by Brazilian professor Manoel Tubino (1939-2008).1 The so-called “high performance sport”, as the name indicates, is intrinsically highly selective. And giving the dynamics of sports media coverage and broadcasting, it often turns into a mere item of entertainment and mass consumption, and lacks a proper consideration about the personal trajectories, the achievements and sacrifices of those men and women who manage to enter the exclusive group of high performance athletes.
Therefore, we must review the proportionality and reasonability of the attention given by government policies to the three traditional aspects of sport: high performance, participation, and education.
Although aware of the importance of mega sporting events, Sports Ministers of the 195 Member States of Unesco gathered at the 5th International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sports (MINEPS V), held in May 2013, in Berlin, to acknowledge the harmful effect of overbidding, that is, when a country whishing to host international sporting events incurs in higher costs than required.
In the Berlin Declaration, a document signed by the sport authorities present at the conference, they affirmed their commitment to “treat major sports events as part of the countries’ physical education and sports planning, ensuring that other programs do not suffer from budget shifts in favor of the implementation of major events or of high performance sports programs”. The document also brings clear and decisive recommendations regarding maximum cost limits for bids, criteria for awarding the hosting of major sports events, and all aspects of sustainability; and also warns that such investments should not have a negative impact on the economic development of the host country and cities.
In fact, and unfortunately, big part of the debate about Brazil’s potential legacy from the Olympic Games underestimated the role of sport as an instrument of education and participation. Despite the meaningful investments in sports centers and in elite training, only about 30% of Brazilian schools feature sports courts or some sort of sport equipment or facility, according to the Brazilian National Institute for Study and Educational Research Anísio Teixeira (Inep).
A recent study carried out by Unesco2 showed that 97% of the countries declared that physical education is a mandatory discipline of their official school program. But despite this being encouraging, there is still a huge gap between speech and practice regarding policies that support physical education in schools. Of the countries that answered the survey, 54% acknowledge that physical education holds a “low status” compared to other traditional academic disciplines, and only 53% of these countries’ elementary schools have dedicated physical education teachers.
The same study carried out by Unesco highlights the alarming effects of failing to promote sports and physical activity among youths. It is estimated that 3.2 million premature deaths are related to physical inactivity. Sedentariness plays an important part in illnesses such as coronary disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, accounting for 6% of the world mortality rate. That means that physical education and sporting education, whether or not through the traditional school system, promote a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle, thus reducing the overload on the public health system.
Physical inactivity contributes to 3.2 million premature deaths a year, as is responsible for 6% of the world mortality rate due to illnesses
Therefore, there are several ways to look at sports. Beyond the public health issue, sport may also play a significant role in empowering women and girls, and helping to break down gender stereotypes. It is also a cultural activity – e.g. capoeira, which was declared as part of the world intangible heritage by Unesco; or even a mechanism to foster and pass on core values, such as promoting fair play, comradeship, and team spirit.
Regardless of the definition adopted, Unesco officially sees sports, it above all, as a “fundamental human right”.
This aspect gained momentum in the 1970’s, when the world was polarized by the Cold War, and the Olympic Games became an important stage for demonstrations of power and supremacy of the two main blocks. At that point, the international community urged Unesco to build an international consensus acknowledging the great potential of sports for global development. So, the Charter of Physical Education and Sports was an important milestone established in 1978. Its opening article recognizes “the practice of physical education, physical activity, and sports as a fundamental right for all”.
1978 Unesco creates the Charter of Physical Education and Sports
About 40 years later, the Sport Movement reasoned that the 1978 Charter needed to be reviewed and updated to include concepts and demands that were unnoticed or non-existent in the 70’s. And so, in November 2015, Unesco issued a new version with a new title: International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity, and Sports, which unquestionably represents the UN’s position on the relevance of sport. Some of the main concepts incorporated are the actual notion of “physical activity”, the importance of gender equality, making sport practice accessible to persons with disabilities, and the constant pursuit of sport integrity – not limited to fighting doping, but also combating the manipulation of competition results (match fixing), illegal betting, and corruption in sport assets management.
Sport is what we make of it and, in theory, is a neutral element. It may be violent depending on our actions. It may be marginalizing or excluding if we allow it to be. It may be superfluous or unnecessary if we look at it that way.
We must think of sports on a much larger scale, and avoid focusing exclusively on competitive sport. And hopefully the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will not turn into a lost opportunity for the country, and Brazilians will make sure that politicians listen to their demand for public policies and greater investment in this sector. What kind of sport and what legacy do we want for Brazil after the Games? This is a question that Brazilians should ask themselves.
WE SHOULD THINK OF SPORTS ON A LARGER SCALE AND AVOID FOCUSING EXCLUSIVELY ON COMPETITIVE SPORTS
While debating about sport programs and policies, we have to restore the educational, recreational and playful aspects of physical activity. In its Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity, and Sports, Unesco acknowledges that such aspects may bring a variety of individual and societal benefits, like health, social and economical development, youth empowerment, peace and reconciliation. Furthermore, the organization emphasizes that the provision of quality physical education, physical activity and sports is essential to realize the full potential of the charter in terms of promoting values such as equality, integrity, excellence, commitment, courage, teamwork, respect for rules and laws, loyalty, self-respect and respect for others, community spirit and solidarity, as well as fun and enjoyment.
We hope Brazil takes advantage of this opportunity to start approaching sport as a fundamental right, and as an instrument of social change and inclusion.
1 M. J. G. Dimensões sociais do esporte. São Paulo: Cortez/Autores Associados, 1992.
2 UNESCO, Toward universal learning – recommendations from the learning metrics task Force, 2013. Available at: bit.ly/1odrmiT.
MARLOVA JOVCHELOVITCH NOLETO
is Program Coordinator at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in Brazil.
is adjunct-coordinator for Social and Human Sciences at Unesco in Brazil.
STAR ATHLETES IN DIFFERENT FIELDS, THEY DECIDED TO BROADEN THE SCOPE OF THEIR ACTIONS AND INVEST IN SOCIAL PROJECTS. SIX ATHLETES ANSWER THREE QUESTIONS
by Paulo Jebaili
What aspects did you take into consideration to become a social entrepreneur?
How does being an athlete influence that decision?
How can sports work as a tool for social inclusion?
RAÍ SOUZA VIEIRA DE OLIVEIRA
FORMER FOOTBALL PLAYER
– World Cup champion in 1994
– Gold medalist at the Indianapolis Pan-American Games (1987)
– Club World Cup champion playing for São Paulo FC (1992)
Gol de Letra Foundation
In a partnership with former player Leonardo, the foundation was created in 1998 to provide access to education for kids, teenagers and youths in situation of social vulnerability.
I have always been interested in social movements. I played five years in France and when I decided to come back to Brazil – around 1996, 1997 – I was also thinking about what to do after my football career. Every time I returned to Brazil, I saw civil society getting organized around social causes and that started getting to me. I had little experience, but wanted to begin my social work with an excellent project. I thought, and still think, that one of the greatest injustices in the country lies in the lack of equal opportunities for all.
After 20 years in sports, that impacted me in different ways. Athletes are used to challenges. Social work was a new challenge and I had no experience in that field, but sports give you the courage to deal with challenges. Another important aspect was that, because I was coming from a collective sport, I knew how to count on others. Leadership in sport also helped me to lead groups and bring in people who were knowledgeable in areas I was not. In terms of repercussions, because I was known and respected, there was good potential I could not afford to waste and so I decided to channel it towards a cause in which I believe.
Sports have always been underestimated. Not only Brazil, but here we see more lost opportunities. The country is big and has a natural gift for sports, but they have always been set aside as something superfluous and exclusive – with the exception of football and a few other more accessible disciplines. There is evidence that physical activity can have an impact on health, safety, and education. People are increasingly more aware of that, but we still lack official policies. I am a member of an association called Atletas pelo Brasil [Athletes for Brazil], and one of our objectives is to participate in the planning of a national sports system. Above all, physical activities are inexpensive when compared to the impact they may have. And when I talk about a sports system, I mean we need to discuss the roles to be played by cities, states, federations, schools, and clubs. That has not been defined. Similar sports programs can be found at all levels: federal, state, and municipal. But there is no connection among them, what we see is waste or overlapping. It is a question of rethinking resources allocation, budgeting, and attributions. Looking at it from a broader perspective, it will take intelligence and political will for sports to have a higher level of representativeness, weight and impact on issues that create social benefits.
– Participated in two Winter Olympics: Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014)
This social project was created in 2012 and seeks to promote social inclusion through sports, introducing cross-country skiing by means of roller-skis to lower income children and teens.
Social inequality has always bothered and intrigued me, and that led me to try and understand the cultural, economic, and social factors that resulted in the country’s current situation. I have always trained at the USP (University of São Paulo) campus, where I could also see thousands of people practicing sports while kids and adolescents from nearby slums watched cars (for tips) and sold water bottles. That awakened in me a desire to change the situation. My proposal attracted much interest and in no time transformations began to take place. We started working with those kids’ self-esteem and soon we could see change in the way they looked at people and at their surroundings. We realized we needed to go beyond sports, to tackle education issues.
I participated in two Winter Olympics (2010 and 2014), and had the chance to visit more than 20 countries, train abroad, experience different realities, and acquire a lot of knowledge. And I always felt like giving something back. Athletes need to evolve and work with people who help them achieve their objectives. It is not always possible give back to those who have helped us, but if we can propose something that will change someone’s life, and then if that someone does the same for others, we will create and endless chain. It is also a fact that being an athlete opened many doors for me. I know the world of ski, I know where the opportunities are, who to contact, who the potential sponsors are, and where to find donors. I then decided to create something that could have social impact.
Athletes have incorporated the values of olympism, such as friendship, equality, solidarity, and fair play. They are quite present in our everyday lives and can be extended to other realities: school, work, and family. Those are values that can be discussed through sports in a very accessible way, especially when we are dealing with children and teenagers. To stand in a room and talk about values might be tedious or sound idealistic, but if we resort to other activities we will be able to propose a reflection on the topic in a much simpler fashion. This is but one way to use sports to discuss values, bringing them from our everyday experiences to reach more people – family, colleagues, community.
FERNANDA KELLER NUNES
– Record participation in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii: 24 times
– Finished the Ironman competition in third place six times. The event consists of 180 k of cycling, 3.8 k of swimming, and a marathon (42 k)
Fernanda Keller Institute
This non-profit organization was created in 1998 with educational, social, and sports objectives aimed at children who attend public schools.
I started doing social work because I wanted to share what I had learned as an athlete with children and young people, especially those living in less privileged communities, with no access to sports. I never thought to myself “I am going to be a social entrepreneur”. I am rather a social dreamer, a person who conquered everything through sports, an athlete who wanted to share her experience and positive attitude. Sports have a great potential to transform, and that has been my objective: to reach, transform, and leave a legacy.
To persevere, and never give up – that comes from the positive attitude athletes have. I see a lot of wrong, ugly things in my country, but I want to believe change is possible. I will not be able to change everyone’s lives, but if I can reach and help some people, I will consider that a great victory. Sometimes people tell me: “(…) but you won’t affect everyone”. It’s ok, I want to do my part. I believe in doing what I can. And try to make the impossible, possible. I believe and fight all the time. I dream of Brazil as a country with no kids on the streets, no kids involved in crime, no kids left behind. I dream of kids going to school, learning languages, arts, practicing sports. The country will only make it to the top when there are equal opportunities for all. And that can only come through education.
Sports make you dream. In my sport, for example, I wake up thinking about my running, cycling, and swimming routines, I have an objective. And children need to learn they have an objective in life, and that one needs to work hard to reach that objective, nothing can be considered a given. That it takes discipline, and there are burdens – though sports offer many bonuses as well. Children need to learn to overcome difficulties; when everything goes wrong, we have to start again until we get it right. It is similar to what happens in life. We need to know that losing is not the end of the world. And there is the question of rules, of respecting others, of knowing that your opponent is not your enemy, but a person who will make you do your best. When children have access to sports, they respect rules and understand this process. When they don’t, they do not understand limits, they think anything goes. Sports can show the right direction, with respect for others.
FLAVIO VIANNA DE ULHÔA CANTO
FORMER JUDO ATHLETE
– Silver medalist at the Athens Games (2004). Participated in the Atlanta Games (1996)
– Medal winner in three Pan-American Games: bronze in Mar del Plata (1995), silver in Winnipeg (1999), and gold in Santo Domingo (2003)
This NGO fosters human development and social inclusion through sports and education, supporting judo practice across all levels, from beginners to high-performance athletes.
My first motivation came from Rio de Janeiro, the city where I grew up. I was born in England, but my family is Brazilian. I came to Brazil, and then went to California, and came back again. At 19, I joined the Brazilian judo team. All those travels helped me step back and adopt a more critical stance in relation to Rio. And that was an important element for my experience in the third sector. At 18, 19, I started to do philanthropic work with some friends. And then gradually, what began as assistentialism began to morph into something bigger. The story of the Reação Institute starts in August 2000. I had been at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, but failed to make it for Sydney 2000. It was a bad experience, of course, but also quite liberating. I realized the world was not going to end and that I had to concentrate on other dreams.
I’ve had that since I was a kind. I used to look at slums and think about the potential they had. Something that really bothers me is to see the level of inequality we live in. I wouldn’t know to what extent sports contributed to this critical view, but I did choose to act through sports because that’s what I believe in. We work with fighting, which holds a lot of attraction for kids. And even youngsters who live in situations of risk, and who could bring some level of violence to sports, find that judo has no relation whatsoever with violence. So judo turned out be a great ally in my transformation. And the same goes for my brother Geraldo, who also does judo. My coach Geraldo Bernardes was like a second father, he supported my education my whole life. My parents knew that, too, and now that I know it, I want to share what I learned in sports. At the Rio Olympics we have two athletes from Reação Institute (Rafaela Silva and Victor Penalber) and two Congolese athletes who are part of the first refugee delegation (Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika).
When I started teaching at Rocinha (an urbanized slum community), I noticed a quick transformation among kids: improved school performance, better behavior at home, and better interpersonal relations. And I also realized sports can be a powerful tool. One event in particular was quite hard on us, though it also made us take stock of the strength behind sports. One of our students was murdered, and during the funeral one of the kids placed a Reação Institute t-shirt over the coffin. That’s when I saw he had found something I knew many others lacked: a sense of belonging and self-esteem.
ANA BEATRIZ MOSER
FORMER VOLLEYBALL PLAYER
– Bronze medal winner at the Atlanta Olympics (1996)
– Participated in the Seoul (1988) and Barcelona (1992) Games
– Three-time Volleyball Grand Prix champion: 1994, 1996, 1998
Esporte & Educação Institute
Founded in 2001, the Institute offers sports and socio-educational activities for children and teenagers, training programs for teachers; and develops educational methodologies
Entrepreneurship was the only alternative I had to build on this vision of connecting education and sports and using sports as driver for human and social development. That type of vision did not exist before; it had to be created in terms of technology and funding. It started as an extra activity for me, just before I retired as an athlete, and continued after I stopped playing. Gradually, the project grew and started demanding more professional involvement on my part. And so I started to seek qualification and training as an entrepreneur, to join networks etc.
My experience in sports gave this vision as a way to contribute for the development of people and of the country. Because I wore I national team colors I carry this patriotic feeling with me. And sports also gave me the courage, the confidence, and several personal and management skills which form the basis of the 15-year history of Esporte & Educação Institute. I put together a team of specialists and I am in charge of our collective vision, our mission, and our objectives, using much of what I learned in sports.
The sport is holistic, it is an environment where people experiment with themselves and learn with their bodies, thoughts, and feelings. There is the question of challenges and difficulties that need to be overcome, maybe a new technical, tactical, or physical skill. There is also a common space for acquaintanceship, exchanges and competition based on rules that provide the ethical basis for people to relate with one another. It is also a form of expression for groups and communities: the way a game is played, the singing, the sports exchanges, all of that relates to the group. At this point it is important to take into consideration principles and strategies presented by sports. For sports need to develop strategies to be able to work according to the results mentioned above. This way, girls will not be left out and the focus will not be centered only the most skilled. With respect, sports strengthen people and groups, prepare for life, and foster social bonds.
MARIA PAULA GONÇALVES DA SILVA
FORMER BASKETBALL PLAYER
– Silver medal winner in the Atlanta Olympics (1996)
– World champion in Australia (1994)
– Pan-American champion in Havana (1991)
Passe de Mágica Institute
Founded in 2004, the Institute develops educational-sports activities and complementary activities for children and teenagers in situation of social vulnerability.
A great lesson I learned during my time as an athlete is: we can be educated for life by practicing sports in a ludic way. Many people I met never became sports professionals, but I am sure they all learned values they carried for life.
Social actions were common in my family, so I believe that somehow I would end up following my parents’ example.
Sports are a cultural phenomenon and a language of human expression, but to really foster social inclusion, it needs to be intentionally tied to ethical principles and values, and conducted by well-trained people who, with methodology and passion, will take that vision of inclusion towards human development to the most vulnerable bracket of society.
Esporte Espetacular [a TV sports show] pays a visit to a social project in Australia, which emerged from the admiration of an Englishwoman for a Brazilian Olympic athlete
A JUMP IN TIME AND SPACE
It was 1956. Adhemar Ferreira da Silva was getting ready for the triple jump finals at the Melbourne Olympics, in Australia. Rosemary Mula, 10 years old, had just moved from England to Oceania. Mesmerized, she watched her first Olympic event. “I was close to the track with a group of friends from school. He was the only one who came talk to us. From then on, we all rooted for him the entire competition”, recalls Rosemary.
At 25, Adhemar won the gold in the triple jump event, just as he had done four years before, at the Helsinki Games, in Finland.
Twenty years later, Rosemary and Adhemar met again in Singapore. “I saw him and asked: ‘are you Adhemar Ferreira da Silva?’. He said: ‘do I know you?’
I then told him I had seen him win the gold in 1956. He was thrilled and gave me a hug.” Admiration turned into friendship. During the Sydney Olympics, in 2000, Adhemar stayed at Rosemary’s and her husband’s home, where he celebrated his 73rd birthday. It would be his last. In January 2001, Adhemar died in São Paulo, of cardiac arrest.
Years later, Rosemary heard on the radio that students from a public school in Sydney needed help to compete. That’s how her project to train athletes started: as a tribute to a friend.
The Westfields school is located in the outskirts of Sydney and its standards are below those of the average Australian institution. Every year, one student receives a scholarship that includes a two-week trip to train in São Paulo and an invitation to compete in the Troféu Brasil de Atletismo (Brazilian Athletics Trophy). Having good grades is a prerequisite. The project brings Australian students to Brazil. And since 2007, Brazilian kids have the chance of competing in Australia, too.
INTERVENTIONS MADE IN RIO DE JANEIRO FOR THE OLYMPICS MIRROR A RATIONALE DEFINED BY ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND REAL-ESTATE GROWTH
If until the Los Angeles Olympics, in 1984, sports still showed a symbolic alignment with nationalistic and/or ideological struggles between the capitalist and socialist blocs, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, the landscape changed and the Games would soon enter the era of globalization. In this new phase, the Barcelona Games, in 1992, proved to be paradigmatic. The success of the event transformed the Catalan city and its image, turning it into a unique tourist destination, filled with history and culture and, at the same time, with a cosmopolitan and innovative quality.
The Spanish moment combined two fundamental factors: the country’s redemocratization after the fall of Franco’s regime, and the economic growth brought by the integration with the European Union. Following a long period of decadence, the city saw an opportunity to recover its vitality with the olympic project.
In terms of urban management, the model adopted in Spain would fit the neoliberal policies introduced a decade earlier, with a shrinking of the State’s role in regulating and conducting public policies, including cuts in transfers of federal funds to states and municipalities. Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) needed to adapt to the new policies, approaching the market with a more aggressive marketing strategy, especially in talks with large sports companies, and transforming the Games into a global media event.
From the point of view of urban planning, the actions of Catalan public administrators and urban planners covered the whole city, which since the previous decade had been working on a Master Plan, providing a basis to initiatives which included recovering the old downtown district, revamping the port area, creating new urban hubs, improving the transportation system, building new sports and cultural facilities, and investing heavily in new technologies, especially in communications, through fiber optic networks.
Among the following editions of the Games, two stand out: Beijing 2008 placed its bets on the grandiloquence of the main facilities, the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest; London 2012, aware that a world recession was on the way, took on a realistic stance and resumed Barcelona’s model, which revolved around appreciating the city (and not just its spectacular architecture) and focusing on social balance.
The contrasts between the Beijing and London projects are evident: on the one hand, a communist regime, that censures freedom of expression, decides to showcase its modernity and power by investing in an ostensible (and costly) architectonic rhetoric designed by the star system of contemporary architecture; on the other, a leftist government that debases architectonic monumentalism looking to emphasize the legacy’s social dimension. The decision to place the Olympic Park in the east side of London, in the industrial district of Stratford, a poor, proletarian zone lacking assistance in relation to the City and the west side, clearly expresses the intention of balancing the social and urban fabrics, favoring the popular, segregated brackets of society. Evidently, the legacy of the London Games is yet to be assessed, but what interests us in the Beijing/London comparison are the models adopted by those cities and how the Rio 2016 project relates to them, once again having Barcelona 1992 as a paradigm.
Rio’s bid was built upon the successful Pan-American Games of 2007 and reused part of that structure for the 2016 Olympics in its three main hubs: Barra da Tijuca, which concentrates most arenas and the Olympic Village, the Engenhão stadium, and the Deodoro complex.
At this point we already notice a difference in comparison with London’s social project, as the focus on the Barra region replicates and intensifies the dominant driver of real estate growth in the city’s urban region. The large concentration of interventions in the south side of Rio complements a program designed to strengthen existing centralities.
English architecture firm Aecom, which also designed the London Park, designed the urban project that won the contest organized by the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil (IAB-BTR). The main sports disciplines, as well as the broadcasting center, the Media Village, leisure areas and parking lots were placed in the triangular peninsula. A broad, winding road cuts the terrain in half, concentrating most of the sports facilities on the east; the swimming and tennis facilities were built on the west. The reason for it is that after the event the area will be freed up for the construction of upscale residential buildings, the same destination reserved for the Athletes’ Village nearby. The options are clear: Rio’s upper middle class will reap the post-Games benefits.
THE NEW MAUÁ SQUARE REFLECTS THE CULTURE OF THE SPECTACLE
The revamping of the port area had not been contemplated in the plans for the Pan-American Games nor for the Olympics, but was included as part of the commercial and cultural expansion strategy taking place in downtown Rio. The abandoned warehouses and the deterioration of the old neighborhoods of Gamboa, Santo Cristo. and Providência underlined the importance and the need of intervention in the area, which gave rise to the Porto Maravilha project. First, the government changed the legislation concerning land use, increasing constructions possibilities and the occupation capacity along the port. Those changes were signed under the public-private partnership regime, in order to enable the city to raise the necessary funds. The connection between the old downtown and business districts with the port area was made through Mauá square. That is where art and architecture find their main stage. No other intervention can better express the idea behind the culture of the spectacle than Mauá square, with its cultural facilities (museums and historic monuments) and gorgeous view of Guanabara bay – a consequence of the demolition of the Perimetral elevated freeway, which used to cut through the area.
In a sense, the new square synthesizes Rio’s aspirations towards great events. Barren and abstract, the new square will serve as the stage for the arrival of transatlantic cruisers and as a vantage point for those looking to appreciate the bay. The two cultural institutions – Museu do Rio de Janeiro and Museu do Amanhã – are a display of the fundamental contradiction of the city’s urban project for the Olympics. The MAR represents a conciliation act between past and present: the eclectic palace and the modernist building brought together by the jocular undulating roof. Rio’s history is its own content, hence it intentionally chooses, as a curatorial stance, to expose the singularities of the culture, of the past, and of the carioca life. The Museu do Amanhã represents a flight towards the future, a promise of redemption brought by a new cycle of prosperity. With its spectacular architecture, it is the expression of the international language, a place for all tongues and accents. That type of architecture could be placed anywhere, for its typical user is a tourist. The common ground between the two museums is that they both open to the breathtaking view of Guanabara bay.
Lastly, the Deodoro Olympic Park, built in the military area. It received new facilities for the less publicized competitions, including canoeing, shooting, equestrian events, cycling, and mountain bike, with the promise that, as part of the Olympic legacy, the area will be converted into a large recreational park for the local population. The Deodoro complex is the least featured in the media coverage, despite being located in the most populated area of Rio’s metropolitan region.
The Games will take place in four regions: Barra, Deodoro, Maracanã, and Copacabana. And therefore connecting those hubs became a priority in the city’s Olympic project. A series of alternatives were considered to implement urban mobility, such as the expansion of the subway and the introduction of rapid transit systems (BRT) and light rail vehicles (VLT). On top of that there were investments in public safety (despite the current crisis the state is going through), which started with the implementation of the police pacifying units (UPPs) for the 2014 World Cup.
Officially, the city administration insists that the costs were, to a large extent, covered by the private sector, with little public money involved. That management model became known as new entrepreneurship. If a partnership with the private sector can be justified in terms of added agility, flexibility, and mobility, aspects that the State bureaucracy cannot deliver, what remains in suspense (intentionally, I would say) is the role to be played by the public authority.
The official rhetoric summarizes it all in a single word: legacy. Improvements in urban mobility, job creation, more public areas, attraction of new investments, international visibility. But the official rhetoric goes beyond promises. Some other dangerous mechanisms were activated in the name of short deadlines and the need for extra constructions. Force majeure was invoked to justify and implement changes: decisions were made without analysis or discussions, legal bidding processes were waived, added funds were required, sudden project changes were implemented; in short, a set of deliberations were made by the higher instances (public administration, Fifa, IOC, BOC, sponsors) without the participation of civil society, resulting in an arbitrary and obscure process.
Just as an example, take subway line 4. So far, there has not been a reasonable explanation (technical, economic, or political) for the adoption of a singular, linear route running through the city. The subway system is defined primarily by a set of articulated lines that cover the largest possible area. The option for a linear route overloads trains and stations, besides going against the rationale employed by any mass transportation system.
The repercussions of that public-private partnership in urban planning are clear and revealing. When the state had regulatory responsibility over the use of physical space for construction purposes and also over implementing public policies to curb social imbalances, urban planning had the whole of the city as the object of its strategies. Modernism took on the challenge and developed methodologies to organize the public space for the common good. But the effectiveness and the feasibility of its propositions depended on a strong centralization of political decisions. As modernism entered a crisis, there emerged suspicions of any totalizing model; and local, fragmented cultures made their way into post-modernism. In Rio de Janeiro, we saw that change in conception with the Rio-Cidade project, by architect, urban planner, and then mayor Luiz Paulo Conde, whose fundamental idea had been to revitalize the main expressways within the city in order to improve quality of life and disseminate its renovating energy through neighborhoods, making it, clearly, an operation of contextualization.
The rationale of the “Olympic urban planning” is completely different: its strategy is that of executing “large urban projects” that can attract investments and, this way, bring in economic vitality, especially through real estate appreciation, to new or re-qualified areas.
The intention is to present the city as an innovative, stimulating, and attractive place, with modern facilities, apt for visitation and consumption. A massive investment is mobilized to create high-tech and interactivity zones, intensifying the existing centralities and re-qualifying others to generate new synergies. Most disturbing, though, is that rationale does consider the questions of social and urban inequalities; on the contrary, it accepts is and even fosters it.
THE OFFICIAL RHETORIC SUMMARIZES IT ALL IN A SINGLE WORD: LEGACY
Under this logic of the late capitalism, urban planning loses its importance as a regulatory and organizational instance; and architecture puts aside its concern with programs of a social nature and with the rigorous adjustment between functionality, economics and structural reason, to convert itself into a seductive image to attract a new mass of consumers. However, as large centers compete for attention, the city should offset the image of a vibrating cosmopolitan space with the affirmation of its singularities in relation to its competitors. This way, Rio 2016 should offer structures that will be as modern, if not more modern, than its competitors, and therefore should match them in excellence, speed, and spectacles, but that, paradoxically, means equaling all other cities. Because of that, it should simultaneously produce the image of a unique, unparalleled city. It is all about a “war of images”, and that is where culture takes on an important role of manufacturing that symbolic capital, putting aesthetics at the service of urban entrepreneurship.
JOÃO MASAO KAMITA
graduated from the School of Architecture at the State University of Londrina, holds a MS in Social History of Culture from PUC-Rio, and a PhD in Architecture from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at USP. He is also a professor at PUC-Rio.
THE DISCUSSION ABOUT THE INTANGIBLE BENEFITS LEFT BY THE GAMES IS CONTROVERSIAL, STARTING BY ITS VERY DEFINITION. BUT STUDIES ASSOCIATE OLYMPIC CITIES TO THE CONSOLIDATION OF MEGALOPOLISES AND GLOBAL CITIES
Many questions raised about the Rio 2016 Olympics – prior, during, and after the event – have focused on the legacy of the Games. It is a controversial issue since it is virtually impossible to collect numbers and data on the delivery of “intangible” legacies.
A classic example of this abstract outcome of mega sports events is host cities renewed image. In other words, a warming city that welcomes many tourists receives a symbolic frame not always easy to put into numbers; however, it becomes a reference for its attractions and sense of belonging. For instance, Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympics and became a model of symbolic legacy, for keeping alive the aura of a welcoming city.
There are other possibilities for securing a symbolic legacy, though. The São Paulo-Rio megalopolis is an example of a cluster that has existed for decades and that today is ready to acquire a more welcoming image to attract tourists. Such possibility is due to the revitalization of the city of Rio, with potential impact over neighboring areas as an outcome of the 2016 Olympics and its long preparation, which started in 2009.
The potential creation of a post Games legacy in the São Paulo-Rio circuit in 2016 was conceived by the authors of this text, in collaboration with Cristiano Belém and André Gavlak, in a research conducted in 2010-2011 by the University of East London, in the United Kingdom.1 The study highlighted the legacy left behind by the development and revitalization of the host city (city building) and its surroundings (place shaping). This choice is made because considering the size and cost of the Olympics today, its planners are required to deliver results other than the sporting-related ones, as host country and host city’s legacies.
Considering the definition of legacy for the East London University, the São Paulo-Rio cluster had been identified as one by several sources, including the United Nations, in 2005. Such studies usually showed the existing conurbation as a result of uncontrolled urban expansion, typical of developing countries. In the East London study, however, the megalopolis is limited by the contrast between subjective aspects of the eco balance (natural forests and protected areas) and the sources of revenue and job creation, and demographic distribution.
The socio-environmental analysis concluded on the identification of the SAM RIO megalopolis, name of the interrelation between the city of São Paulo (SA) – largest economic and industrial center of Brazil and Latin America – and bordering areas of the state of Minas Gerais (M) and the state of Rio de Janeiro (RIO), which have created a continuous chain of city hubs including the city of Rio de Janeiro. The region, defined by long mountain ranges covered by forests, features a world-class diverse industrial and technical development. On the other hand, the subjective aspect lies in the simple framing of the concept of the megalopolis as a whole.
In the year of 2000, there was an attempt to identify the fundamentals of SAM RIO by a study carried out at the University of São Paulo (USP) by Bruno Padovano, which connected that megalopolis to neighboring cities forming a chain of independent housing unities. The proposition created the so-called “Ecópole Oeste” (or West Ecopole), connecting the city of São Paulo to the city of Sorocaba (400 thousand inhabitants), crossing several smaller urban centers, creating a corridor of green areas surrounding residential buildings in construction, and served by a train railway. Today, Padovano’s model may be typified as city building and place shaping, whereas Alquéres’ model prioritizes the potential economic synergy outcome produced by the historical connections between the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Therefore, the two propositions are complementary and may pose as an initial answer to the key question of promoting sustainability (social, economic, and environmental), as a basis for extending the region’s influence and for the potential legacy of Rio 2016.
In this particular sense, another study2 considered that the basis of the 2016 olympics legacy in relation to SAM RIO is associated with the global cities phenomenon. This trend usually refers to a chain of internationalized urban areas, which are growing more and more interdependent thanks to the information technology (TI); and it has more to do with international exchange – culture, finance, tourism, etc. – than with demographics or size.
Therefore, global cities are the final product of the growing expansion of urbanization, which has now reached 80% of the world population. However, the International Olympic Committee (COI) has disregarded this planetary trend during the selection of the winning bid to host the Games. The preference is for host cities offering a potentially sustainable legacy.
In this case, the abovementioned 2015 study was based on current trends for global cities, regarding the growing option for sustainability, which may include the city of Rio de Janeiro and its urban vicinities as a background to test legacy interpretations. Thus, a comparative exercise was created, taking into consideration the group of the three final bidders for the 2020 Olympic Games, in addition to London 2012 and Rio 2016, both previously selected.
The Global Cities Index, created by A. T. Kearney Consulting (2014), was used as an indicator for the comparison. London comes in second among 84 global cities – consolidated and emerging –, from a total that reflects the wide trend for extensive urbanization going on nowadays in the five continents. The study also ranks Rio de Janeiro in 56th place. However, when associated with São Paulo, given the infamous mega-region encompassing São Paulo and Rio, it jumps to the 34th position, originally belonging to the city of São Paulo. Tokyo appears in 4th place, and Madrid in 15th; Istanbul comes in 28th, after occupying the 41st position in 2010. Together as a group, the olympic cities of London and Rio de Janeiro, plus the three candidate cities for the 2020 Games, seem to continue to hold their status or even improving their position among global cities. Therefore, the IOC’s selection of Tokyo to host the Olympics in 2020, following Rio, did not come as a surprise.
All considered, the choice for hosting the 2020 Games includes a time cycle valid for comparisons within 15 years. Therefore, the five cities that were candidates in the recent years coincidently either had global influence or aimed at it. In short, this is a valid point, also because global cities are transcending their own country. The resulting comparisons corroborate the marked influence of these global trends in the Olympic Games.
GLOBAL CITIES ARE A FINAL PRODUCT OF THE GROWING EXPANSION OF URBANIZATION IN ANY GIVEN COUNTRY
A test to evaluate these global relationships should focus on assessing the effects of climate change linked to risk management, which is critical for sustainability. That said, we have to consider that the SAM RIO region has 46.8 million inhabitants, distributed in basic corridors, the first combines manufacture and services – including technology; and the others occupy three longitudinal areas with mountains and forests, which are prone to natural disasters (flooding and landslides). This mix of green areas, residential communities (poor and lower middle-class families), and job places, begs for an efficient environmental management to deal with climate change and fulfill sustainability needs, and also to lessen negative impacts. Thus, the research carried out by DaCosta, Miragaya, and associates, in 2011, which focused on the demographic distribution with access to job opportunities, science and technology, used Geographic Information Systems (GIS, space data, collected through satellites) to assess the 435 linear miles (700 km) that limit the SAM RIO mega-city, which corresponds to the potential area of governance for the 2016 Olympic Games. Though not officially recognized, the SAM RIO cluster represents a symbolic framework for observing the relationship between the global city and the Olympic city. Apart from that, how the exiting concept of governance will determine the Games legacies will be a concerted effort of management and an exercise in responsibility.
1 Andrea Deslandes, Lamartine DaCosta and Ana Miragaya (eds), O futuro dos megaeventos esportivos, digital edition available at: http://bit.ly/1Rm5TjR.
2 Lamartine DaCosta and Ana Miragaya, O Futuro dos Megaeventos Esportivos: Legados e Parcerias Responsáveis, in O futuro dos megaeventos esportivos, Op. Cit.
is a professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj) and a researcher at the IOC Advanced Research Grant Programme.
is a professor at the School of Physical Education of Estácio de Sá University and a member of the Selection Committee – Olympic Studies Centre, of the International Olympic Committee.
Just as important as the texts written by Rubem Braga, sidewalks are essential to understand the carioca chronicle. Take away the sidewalk along Avenida Central, in the last century, and we would not have João do Rio. Without them, J. Carlos wouldn’t be able to draw belles being chased by dandies, the best visual tale of the belle époque. Half a century later, Tom and Vinicius would not have seen her passing each one on the sidewalk along Montenegro street, the Girl from Ipanema, walking to the sea, the best musical chronicle of the carioca woman.
There are those who miss the coconut frappe served at Simpatia bar, or the lapskaus offered at Ficha restaurant, both downtown, both closed. I, as a chronicler of the city, miss the sidewalks. They are gone, taken up by crowds, lesser practices, small poles and other obstacles that preclude its basic purpose: that of smooth runway, for life to slide by, light, hustle-free as it should be.
They allowed my ancestors – citizens like Machado de Assis and Lima Barreto – to stroll from one side to the other. Both, and Benjamim Costallat, and Olavo Bilac, and so many other chroniclers, observed vogues, checked out where mankind was going. Then, with a lot to chat about, and with a frisky, good-spirited style as if they were talking to the reader about what they had seen, they would write their brilliant chronicles.
The chronicler is as classic an institution of Rio as the malandro (a rogue, picaresque character) from Lapa, and the bronze skinned beauty at the samba rounds. Joaquim Manuel de Macedo looked at the world from Ouvidor street, just as João do Rio collected his wanderings in A alma encantadora das ruas (The enchanting soul of the streets). Antonio Maria described Copacabana in the 1950’s; Carlinhos Oliveira, the 1970’s Leblon.
They all had quills with ink more delicate than that used by the other ”passersby” – a word they would certainly avoid. Talent, however, is not enough. Without the sidewalks to inspire them, nothing of the carioca scene would have been described. They were our village’s great belvedere.
And that is why, without knowing if traffic problems will be solved, and especially without any political proselytism whatsoever, I hail the new downtown design. The opening of the monumental Praça XV and Mauá squares, along with the new boulevards on avenues Rio Branco and Rodrigues Alves, bring back the large areas for people to make one of the most delicate exercises of human existence – the sheer pleasure of wandering, talking to whoever happens to be around, kicking metal bottle caps, or observing what is going on.
Chronicles exist everywhere in the world, and each place found their own way of describing daily life. It’s an uncomplicated halfway between literature and journalism. Rio’s sidewalks were essential for the development of a unique style, which sees the city as its muse and the writer as its persistent observer, who will swing between a sense of awe before the unusual beauty of the landscape, and a critical stance towards a stray path called “progress”. To either conclusion the chronicler would arrive during his outing. He would allow the wind from the streets to touch upon the face of his peripatetic literature, and then the miracle of a word bringing in another word would take place, and a conversation would flow easily, leaving behind a taste of the unbearable lightness of the text.
Rio’s new downtown area acknowledges the importance of sidewalks as an intrinsic right to being carioca. It’s a pity that the tatuís have left Copacabana, just as bandstands disappeared from popular carnival festivities – but having those pavements back, an old delight, in contrast with downtown’s modern new design, is not to be dismissed. Fernando Sabino, Drummond, and Bandeira took their strolls here. Now it’s up to you, young chroniclers – occupy the modern sidewalks.
JOAQUIM FERREIRA DOS SANTOS
is a writer, journalist, and music critic. His books include Leila Diniz (Companhia das Letras) and Em busca do borogodó perdido (Objetiva)
The movement that describes the path of a top athlete and symbolizes the effort anyone can make to overcome obstacles also underlies the motto "We are all Olympic", created by Globo to express the spirit of unity around the world's largest sporting event, which has its 31th edition held in Brazil.
We are all olympic is an ideal that is not limited to our sports coverage. It is also a communication strategy, which aims at engaging Brazilians in the process. Several actions are part of this campaign, which started 500 days before the Games. In back-to-school season (in February), we encouraged students to face school with passion and dedication; on International Women’s Day, we reinforced women’s achievements; at Global Action 2016, we promoted a series of volunteer services for the population in a partnership with Sesi, which helped put an emphasis on sports as a element to foster citizenship and improve quality of life; and with our countdown films – first at one year, and then at 100 days from the opening ceremony.
In terms of audiovisual productions, the concept was translated by the movie Looping, and then it was made into music, with renditions by the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra and by a team of Brazilian music stars including Zeca Pagodinho, Michel Teló, Carlinhos Brown, and Ivete Sangalo.
In tune with the Olympic spirit, Globo will offer the largest coverage of its history, with 10 daily hours of Olympic content, besides an exclusive channel, available at the Globo Play platform on the internet. In order to tell all those stories, we have gathered a Golden Team, including some of Brazil’s most important sports stars: Guga, Hortência, Giba, Gustavo Borges, Daiane do Santos, Flávio Canto, Maurren Maggi, Tande, Emanuel, Fabi, Shelda, and Lars Grael. All news programs of the network will be aired from the Olympic studios especially built in the heart of the Olympic Park, in Barra da Tijuca. A three-story tech space, with a privileged view of all arenas. It will be like a special theater box facing the world’s largest sporting event, bringing together 206 countries in delegations of more than 14 thousand athletes, in one of the great examples of friendship among nations that the world can give. That is why we are all Olympic.