Published On: Thu, Oct 22nd, 2015

First World Indigenous Games to start in Palmas, Brazil

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Following the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil wants to consolidate as a leading host of sporting mega-events.

So now the country faces the challenge of organizing and hosting the first World Indigenous Games (I-Games 2015, Jogos Mundiais dos Povos Indígenas), a multisport event with over 2,000 participating indigenous athletes from 30 countries that will be taking place in Palmas (TO) from the 23rd of October to the 1st of November. The indigenous peoples, coming from all over the country and the world, will mingle with each other, and be shown the touristic hubs of Palmas – uniting the city and the community with the participants of the games during the first three days, and compete in the next 10.

Sandwiched between Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games next summer in Rio de Janeiro, the Indigenous Games are being advertised as a low-budget, low-key alternative to the marketing-hyped and TV-driven sports culture of the 21st century.

Every athlete will get a medal, no matter in what place they finish. There will be no obsessing over drug testing or landing sponsorship deals.

A Xerente indigenous man trains with bows and arrow for the Indigenous Games at his village near Tocantinia, Brazil, Friday, October 2, 2015. Right: A bow hangs on a makeshift target with a fish painted on it at  Xerente indigenous village near Tocantinia, Brazil, Friday, October 2, 2015. Credit: Dado Galdieri for the Wall Street Journal

A Xerente indigenous man trains with bows and arrow for the Indigenous Games at his village near Tocantinia, Brazil, Friday, October 2, 2015.
Right: A bow hangs on a makeshift target with a fish painted on it at Xerente indigenous village near Tocantinia, Brazil, Friday, October 2, 2015.
Credit: Dado Galdieri for the Wall Street Journal

“In our games, it’s not to be ‘champion of the Indians,’ it’s not commercial, it’s not in order to sell things. It’s for spiritual celebration,” said Marcos Terena, who with his brother Carlos Terena co-founded Brazil’s Intertribal Committee, the games’ principal creator and sponsor. “We decided that everyone is a champion, because the medal…is for the quality of life, not just for a game.”

Each delegation can send a maximum of 50 athletes. Altogether some 70 different ethno-linguistic groups will be represented. The minimum age for athletes is 16, but there’s no upper age limit.

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Xerente elderly Roberto Sipkuze, 44 and Maria Sibodi, 60, hold a trophy won by village athletes at a recent indigenous games near Tocantinia, Brazil (Credit: Dado Galdieri for the Wall Street Journal)

This being Brazil, there will be lots of soccer, both the conventional version as well as a traditional indigenous variant called xikunahati, played on all fours, using the head as the principal offensive weapon for blasting the ball and keeping it off the ground at all times.

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff is expected to attend the games’ opening, along with the U.S. ambassador and other foreign dignitaries.

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Because different ethnic groups use different shapes and sizes of canoes, bows, arrows, spears and other paraphernalia, organizers had to work out some compromises.

U.S. delegation head Dr. David Yarlott, a member of the Crow Nation and president of Little Big Horn College in Montana, said many indigenous tribes regard these implements as sacred objects and are reluctant to share them with others. So participants have been offered a choice, for example, among three different types of spears, which will be issued to them upon arrival in Brazil.

“That works for us, because going through customs and stuff, taking spears would be a little difficult,” Dr. Yarlott said. He said the U.S. delegation will include members of the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Navajo, Apache, Comanche, Lummi, Chippewa, Nez Perce and Cherokee nations, among others. He hopes the program of future games will include lacrosse.

The games, which carry a total price tag of about $40 million and will be free to the public, are expected to draw about 30,000 people each day to the roughly 30-acre site.

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Two rowers from Xochimilco, Miguel Ángel Santana Chávez and Sergio David Santana Mejía, along with a group of 5 Mixtec ball players from Oaxaca are part of the delegation (the rowers are in official competition and Mixtec ball will be an exhibition sport). Photo: SIPSE

The Mexican delegation is attending these First World Indigenous Games with a total of 50 representatives.

Mexican national athletes have activity in archery, spear throwing, sprint rustic racing and canoeing, among others.

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Sources:

Mexico Travel Care

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