It is a mistake to think that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are limited to entertainment. Beyond the sports landscape, modern competition is rooted in the principles of equality, solidarity, friendship, unity, respect and understanding – some of the pillars of the Olympics, the philosophy that guides the tournament. And in proof of the relationship of the Olympics with agendas that concern society, the exhibition was opened last August 3, Olympic Reflections and Human Dignity.
The initiative is the Brazilian Pierre de Coubertin Commission (CBPC) and the Electronic Sports Museum, with support from the United Nations Information Center in Brazil (UNIC Rio). Available at Location In addition to the virtual museum, the exhibition includes the participation of 23 professionals from nine countries, with contributions in fields ranging from anthropology to Olympic studies and various levels of specialization.
Through audio and video content, the audience is invited to enter a 3D exhibition and reflect on four main themes: sports and values, sexual relations, refugees and freedom of expression. Selected for being so vibrant in the world of Olympics and aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, these issues play a role to show how sport can broaden dialogues and contribute to building a better society.
“We are in an epidemic, and the situation in the world is still serious, but people have been able to devote part of their interest to the Games and follow them even if the events are at dawn in Brazil,” notes Professor Nelson Todd, one of the curators of the exhibition and coordinator of the research group for Olympic studies at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS). “For this reason, I believe that sport is a powerful tool not only to please our eyes, but to raise awareness of issues of social importance.”
Todt, President of the Brazilian Commission Pierre de Coubertin, said in an interview with Galileo that the implications of freedom of expression in the Olympics were responsible for the launch of the project. That’s because, for the Tokyo edition, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed contestants to express themselves in political or social aspects in press interviews, team meetings, and on social media and before competitions began.
The franchise revolves around Article 50 of the Olympic Charter (under which no political, religious or ethnic demonstrations or propaganda are allowed inside the Olympic venues) and has been motivated, in large part, by the anti-racist movement movements black live matteNS, which gained a lot of power in the US in 2020 and also affected the sports world – in the NBA, the North American basketball league, athletes knelt during the national anthem in protest.
The gesture has already been repeated at the 2021 Olympics. In the first round of women’s soccer, on July 22, players from the national teams of Chile, the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and Sweden knelt before the start of their matches. “When we see an athlete with the condition of being able to express themselves in the face of an unequivocally important issue in society, that’s a gold medal,” Todd says.
Another section of Olympic Reflections and Human Dignity Dedicated to topics related to the LGBTQIA+ community, and more specifically, intersexuality. Maria José Martinez Patiño, from Spain, is one of the exhibition professionals who highlight the importance of inclusion in sports. Currently working as a scientific advisor to the International Olympic Committee, the elite runner was banned from competitions in 1985 for not having XX, but XY chromosomes. Since then, it has been one of the important voices questioning the eligibility characteristics of female categories.
The third axis is the refugees who make up a team of 29 athletes in Tokyo. “This contributes to social cohesion, demonstrating that sport is a trustworthy and promising way for people to be able to show solidarity and socialize with each other through exercise,” analyzes Miguel Pacioni, Communications Adviser for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) . In addition, specialists from Cape Verde, Portugal, Brazil and the United Kingdom were invited to discuss refugee integration through the Olympic Games.
The project cannot fail to explore sport and its values. In Todd’s view, the 2021 edition has already brought a great symbol to the subject: the gold medal jointly by Italian Gianmarco Tampere and Kattaza Issa Barshim in the high jump. More than that, the friendship maintained by the athletes is the essence of the Olympic Games.
After suffering an injury in 2016, Jean Marco struggled to compete again, and over the years, one of his great supporters was Moataz. “He could take this society as an example: I don’t need to surpass others to be the best, and I’m not always the best when I win, because there are other ways to win. These are some Olympic values,” says Todd.
Thus, the professor hopes that the Olympic Games can effectively attract everyone’s attention so that these social problems become part of humanity’s past, and not of the present. He seems optimistic. “I have never before seen the media give so much attention to topics that go beyond the performance of an athlete. These topics have gained visibility in a different proportion than in previous editions”, he analyzes.
exposure Olympic Reflections and Human Dignity It is permanent and represents the first part of the project led by the Brazilian Pierre de Coubertin Commission. For those who wish to further explore the themes of sport and values, sexual relations, refugees and freedom of expression, it is worth paying attention to the second phase of the initiative: by the end of the year, a book containing in-depth analyzes on the issues will be made available digitally and free of charge.
* Supervised by Luisa Monteiro
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