In 100 years of participation in the Olympics Brazil never had it so good. Private and public resources are
being funneled to prepare the athletes and bring them to Atlanta. The country is hopeful that it will add a good collection
of new medals to its modest catch of 30 (nine of which are gold). Brazil wants to shine, and then take the Games to
Rio in 2004.
Regardless of the result it gets in Atlanta this Summer, the Brazilian Olympic delegation has already made history.
With more than 220 athletes participating in 19 of the 33 Olympic categories, this is Brazil’s largest delegation ever to
partake in the Olympics. Four years ago in Barcelona, Brazil had 198 athletes competing in 18 distinctive divisions. A
very different arrangement compared to 1928, for instance, when there was virtually no money available to send
the contenders to Amsterdam.
This time the athletes are being officially sponsored by Brahma, a weighty beer company, and Embratel, the
state telecommunications monopoly. Six other companies are also contributing in a less significant scale. They are
Shering, Icatu, Golden Cross, Kibon, Varig and Reebok. Their donations combined comes to $10 million. By the end of
June the Federal Government had already contributed with $2.8 million. The Brazilian Olympics never had this kind
of monetary subsidy.
Also, for the first time, the Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro (COB) will be using the games to advertise Brazilian sports
and tourism. Casa Brasil (Brazil House), located on Peach Tree Street in the affluent Buckhead neighborhood in
Atlanta, is a 1920’s Georgian-style mansion which was rented and renovated into a showcase for Brazil by Paulo Jacobsen
and Cláudio Bernardes, two renowned Carioca
(from Rio) architects. Several Brazilian painters and sculptors will
have their work displayed in the two-story house which has been completely painted green. You can see Casa Brazil’s
work on line at http://www.esportenet.ignet.com.br/casabr.htm
The female soccer team has been in the US since mid June. First ones to arrive, the players went to Rapid City in
South Dakota for practice, but their first interaction in the Olympics will have to wait till the 21st of July, when they
play against Norway. One million dollars were invested in their training with eight friendly games set up
against international teams. The women won six, had a tie and only lost to the US by 3 to 2.
Zé Duarte, the coach, seems confident that the team will get a medal even though Brazil is in a very competitive
group. Their adversaries are current world champions Norway, second place Germany and Japan. Only the two best
teams will continue into the next phase of the games.
The male soccer team is spending $3.5 million in its `gold operation.’ CBF’s (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol —
Brazilian Soccer Confederation) president, Ricardo Teixeira, announced that $1.5 million will be disbursed in
prizes alone if the team wins the gold. They are getting the same treatment given the team that won the World Cup in
1994 in the US.
CBF is also taking care of extra expenses with security and housing. Instead of utilizing the rooms at the
Olympic Village, the soccer aces will be lodged in a hotel where a whole floor will be reserved for the team. Brazil soccer is
thirsty for a medal, preferably a gold one. It’s the only title the team hasn’t gotten yet. Perspectives are good, Nigeria,
Brazil’s strongest adversary in theory, is going through a series of crises.
The final soccer team was defined late in June. By then the so-called `foreigners’ (Brazilian athletes playing
overseas) had already been selected. They were Roberto Carlos, Aldair, Juninho, Ronaldinho and Bebeto. Ronaldinho who
is now 19, was only 17 during the Word Cup. Tired of all the controversy around him, contentious Romário, the
great hero of 1994, gave up any hope of making to Atlanta at the beginning of June by declaring, “I have no more time
to dream. I will be only a fan during the Olympics.”
In track-and-field Brazil is bringing 40 athletes — six women and 34 men. This is a record number. Ready to
compete in 19 matches, according to the athletes themselves, there is a chance to get a medal in at least ten categories.
Brazil’s main hope lies in the marathon, the long jump and in the 200, 800 and 1,500 meter runs. Names to be
observed are gold medalist Joaquim Cruz (1,500 and 800 meters), Zequinha Barbosa (800), Robson Caetano (200) and
Luís Antônio dos Santos (marathon).
To prepare for Atlanta’s summer weather,
Brazilian athletes spent a week in Manaus in the Amazon, which has
similar temperatures to the city which is housing the Olympics. With a
little help from sponsors, athletes will be given a small incentive in
the form of money prizes. Every gold medal is worth $20,000; a silver
one $15,000 and a bronze $10,000. Just for making the team each athlete
is getting $4,000 to take with them to Atlanta. This is more like a
token when compared to the $1 million offered by the English to whoever
breaks the world record. But it makes a substanticial difference when
compared to other Brazilian participants who will have to pay for the
trip out of their own pocket.
San Diego (California)-based Joaquim Cruz who won a gold medal in Los Angeles and a silver one in Seoul, was
forced to train in Brazil due to a strong case of pollen allergy contracted in the US. Robson Caetano also has had his
share of troubles. He hurt his right calf and also was very shaken after an assault by gun-toting robbers who fled with
his BMW in Rio de Janeiro. It should be noted however, that the car has been found by the police.
Weightlifter Edmilson, 32, doesn’t expect a medal. For him being able to go to Atlanta alone is sufficient; being
among the ten best will exceed satisfaction. This is his third participation in the games. He came in 21st place in Seoul and
18th in Barcelona. Without any sponsor, his only support comes from Esporte Clube Pinheiros, the club where
he practices and teaches weightlifting. “We have to end this prejudice against weightlifting. In Brazil the sport is
confused with bodybuilding and people think that it is a sport for huge men who aren’t even able to speak.”
In swimming Fernando Sherer and Gustavo Borges are Brazil’s sparkling stars. Sherer will be competing in the 50
and 100 meters and the 4×100 relay. He came in second in the 100 meters at the recent Charlotte Ultra Swim meet, in
North Carolina. Gustavo Borges, another Brazilian came in first in the same competition. In the 200 meters he beat
American Josh Davis who is currently the favorite candidate to win the gold in Atlanta. For coach Carlos Camargo, who is
part of the national delegation technical commission, “Brazil has everything to win the 100 and 200 meters. Gustavo
and Fernando are among the world’s six best swimmers in this category.”
Since the beginning of April, the Brazilian cycling team has prepared itself for Atlanta competing in various places
in Europe: Portugal, Italy and France. Barring last-minute changes, the team will have Mauro Ribeiro, Hernandes
Quadri Júnior, Jamil Suaiden, Márcio May, Daniel Rogelin and Cássio Freitas.
Twice world champion in yachting, Roberto Scheidt, 23, a
Paulista (from São Paulo,) is a strong candidate to a
gold medal in Atlanta. He leads the ranking in the laser class. He’s been in Savannah, US, where the Olympic
competition will take place, since mid-June in preparation for the games. “The biggest problem,” he said, “is the temperature.
While in São Paulo it is very cold, here it is very hot.”
Daniel Glomb, 15, from Paraná, is another rising star in yachting. He will be in a boat with two other teammates in
the soling category. Glomb started to sail when he was six. Without a sponsor he has been able to progress thanks to
his father. His boat cost around $30,000, plus $1,000 a month in maintenance alone.
Danielle Zangrando, 16, is another youngster who has a chance of taking a medal home. The student, who took
a sabbatical from school to practice her judo, is not complaining about the trips and sacrifices. “It’s worthwhile
to struggle for the things you believe in, even if this means being far from your family and flirtatious encounters.”
The judo team has still two other teenagers: Cristiane Parmegiano, 17 and Sebastian Pereira, 19.
In the equestrian competition, Rodrigo Pessoa, 21, will be representing Brazil. His father is Brazilian, but he was
born in Paris and now lives in Belgium. Pessoa doesn’t like to be called French. “My blood is Brazilian from my
father’s side,” he protests. “And that’s what counts.”
From the 39 Olympic medals Brazil got in a century of competitions none was won by a woman. But the country
has at least two Olympic heroines. One of them, jumper Aída dos Santos, was born and raised in a Rio
favela (shanty town). In the Tokyo Games in 1964, the first year of the military regime, she came in fourth in the high
jump competition — the best result ever for a Brazilian female in the Olympics. She competed also in the 100 meters
and the javelin. Getting to Japan was a miracle in itself. Aída had no uniform, no coach, no money and not even an
adequate pair of running shoes. It was a compassionate Cuban who gave her appropriate shoes to compete.
The other heroine, Maria Lenk, a
Paulista swimmer, at age 81 continues to practice the sport, swimming more
than one hour every day. She became the first South-American woman to participate in the Olympics. Lenk went to
Los Angeles in 1932 and Berlin four years later. In both occasions, however, she wasn’t able to classify for the finals.
Among the women who can break the taboo in Atlanta and take the medal home are Jacqueline Silva and Sandra
Pires, considered the world’s best double in the new Olympic category: beach volleyball. The female basketball team is
also a great favorite being the current world champion and with talents such as Paula and Hortência. Swimming
beauty Gabrielle Rose, 19, with an American father and Brazilian mother is also a strong bet in the 200 meter medley and
100 meter butterfly.
A delicate case is Edinanci Fernandes da Silva, 19, who is a powerful judoist, but has her femininity in doubt.
She presents characteristics of both sexes and had an operation at the end of April that eliminated her testicles and
repaired her clitoris. The doubt was if the doctors of the Olympic Committee would accept her in the female category.
Brazil would like to shine in Atlanta. After all the country is a candidate to host the Olympics in 2004. At the
Open House of Casa Brasil in Atlanta in mid-June, Sports Minister Édson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as
Pelé, together with Carlos Nuzman, Brazilian Olympics Committee’s president, lobbied for Rio-2004. They argued that
the city is the only among the ten candidates that can promote all the Olympic events on a 13-mile radius.
According to Nuzman, Rio is willing and able to invest the $1.5 billion that will be needed just to build and
reform the venues. Pelé stated, “If we can do all of this with private money, so much the better.” The minister
stressed, however, that the municipal, state and federal governments favor the idea and intend to make all the
necessary investments to house the 2004 Olympics.
As for crime in Rio, Pelé reminded that Eco-92, the Ecology Summit, was held in that city without a hitch.
“Violence and crime,” he observed, “are present in every city of the world. The same thing happened to Atlanta. When the
city was first mentioned as a host town, everybody was talking about how violent Atlanta was.”
(Gold Silver Bronze)
Yachting 2 1 4
Judo 2 1 3
Swimming 0 2 3
Shooting 1 1 1
Volleyball 1 1 0
Track & Field 3 2 5
Basketball 0 0 3
Boxing 0 0 1
Soccer 0 2 0