Rio Olympics makes Brazil more than a football nation

Rio de Janeiro, Sep 1 (IANS) As the 2016 Rio Olympics starts within a year from now, the host city is filled with six Olympic test events, the local people are practicing sports other than football, and the Barra district where the Olympic park is located just looks like a large construction site with several subway and BRT lines being built to serve the mega sports event.

Brazil is best known for its football. But one of the main aims of the country in hosting the Olympics is to become a nation of sports, reports Xinhua.

Previously, Brazil was too focused on football to invest in Olympic sports. Brazilian Olympic athletes always complain about the lack of investment in their sports.

Hugo Toni, Brazilian sports reporter said that the people only care about football while for other sports, they only follow super stars, not the sport itself. Another Brazilian reporter Mario Fernandes also said that football is top priority, volleyball is second while other sports like basketball, swimming have to struggle for their popularity.

However, things started to change when Rio won the bid for 2016 Olympics in 2009. Since then, the federal government has invested more money in other Olympic sports.

Host countries usually improve their performance at home. China topped the medals table at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Britain excelled in 2012 London. The Brazilian Olympic Committee has set their aim to nearly double the 17 medals they earned in London and put Brazil in top-10 in the overall standings of the Rio Olympics.

Brazil invested about $350 million from 2009 until the London Olympics. With the new aim in mind, the Brazilian government launched a plan in 2012 to try to boost the country’s performance by building new training centres and hiring foreign coaches. A record $700 million in public and private funds will be spent over four years leading to Rio.

An Olympic heat is coming to Brazil. Brazilian media are following the Olympic sports more frequently. The reports of major Olympic sports, such as World Swimming Championships and World Athletics Championships could replace football to be the headline.

A recent poll shows that 67 percent Brazilians are in favour of the Olympics. That’s a huge difference from last year’s World Cup, which attracted widespread protests and was criticised by slow stadium construction.

“We were very curious to see if there would be banners saying ‘No Olympics’,” said Leonardo Gryner, deputy chief executive of the Rio 2016 organising committee. “There was nothing like that. People have a very clear understanding of the benefits of the Games.”

“The basis of this project is what was built for the 2007 Pan American Games,” Gryner said, adding that of an Olympic budget of $10.8 billion, only $2.06 billion is earmarked for work on sports venues and the athletes’ village. The rest is being spent on construction projects to benefit the city.

“People are witnessing the legacy promised during the Olympic bid. They don’t have to wait until 2016 to see everything works. For instance, people using BRT are shortening their daily journey in more than 40 minutes,” he added.

In order to promote the Olympic values among local people, the Rio 2016 education programme — Transforma — was launched in 2014 to teach sports that are less popular in Brazil, such as rugby and badminton.

After the Olympics, Barra Olympic Park and Deodoro Olympic Park will provide facilities for education, social projects, public leisure and elite level sports. Brazil sports minister George Hilton hopes the Olympics could encourage more Brazilians to participate in sports.

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