Atlantic Cities
Postcard

A Refreshing Antidote to Brazil's Olympic Spending Spree

There are more than 800,000 indigenous people in Brazil. This week, they're celebrating with their own Olympics, the XII Games of Indigenous People.

Forty-eight different tribes participate in the bi-annual event, held this year in Cuiaba. Last Friday's opening ceremonies kicked off with representatives from each tribe lighting of the Indigenous Sacred Fire. Athletes compete in events like archery, tug-of-war, and a version of soccer where you can only use your head to move the ball.

These games serve as a refreshing contrast to the actual Olympics Brazil is preparing for a thousand miles away in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's second biggest city will see over $14 billion in new infrastructure in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Getting ready has so far meant the demolition of favelas, construction of shoddy athletic facilities, and a frustrated citizenry. Earlier this year, riot police removed Indigenous Brazilians from an abandoned Indigenous History Museum in Rio. The building, which had become a squat, will be turned into a sports museum in time for the Olympics.

Below, Reuters photographer Paulo Whitaker shows us the far less controversial athletic events currently taking place in Cuiaba:

Workers make the final arrangements of the entrance of the XII Games of Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)


An indigenous person holds a torch during the ceremony of the lighting of the Indigenous Sacred Fire in Cuiaba November 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker) 


Indigenous people attend the ceremony of the lighting of the Indigenous Sacred Fire in Cuiaba November 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)


Fireworks explode in the sky during the opening ceremony of the XII Games of the Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker) 


Brazilian indigenous people hold the national flag as they attend the opening ceremony of the XII Games of the Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)


Indigenous people line up before the bow-and-arrow competition at the XII Games of the Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker) 


Members of Peruvian indigenous ethnic group Haranbut (R) compete against Brazilian indigenous ethnic group Way-Way in a tug-of-war competition during the XII Games of the Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)


A member of indigenous group Pares dives to head the ball during an exhibition game of soccer where only heads are used to play the game, during the XII Games of the Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker) 


Members of indigenous group Mati practice blowing spears during the XII Games of the Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker) 

Keywords: Sports, Brazil

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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