SAO PAULO: For the first time, Brazilians representing their country at the Olympics will undergo anti-racism training, in a bid to deal with a deep-rooted problem that has sometimes stained the world of sport.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee launched the 30-hour online course this week, which will be mandatory for all 650 athletes, coaches, doctors, nutritionists, officials and other members of the country’s delegation to the Tokyo Games in July and August.
“The goal of the course is to provide information, knowledge and also open a broad debate on racism in sport,” said Rogerio Sampaio, the committee’s secretary general and a gold medalist in judo at the 1992 Games.
“Racism is structural … but we believe the sporting world can no longe tolerate it,” he told AFP.
About 55 per cent of the population identifies as black or mixed-race in Brazil, the last country in the New World to abolish slavery – in 1888.
Racial inequality can be a traumatic and loaded subject in the country of 212 million people, where whites earn nearly 75 per cent more than people of color on average.
The course will give an overview of the history of racial inequality in Brazil, address what racism in sport looks like and teach members of the Olympic delegation what they can do if they witness or are victims of it.
Sampaio says Brazil’s is the first Olympic committee in the world to launch such an initiative.
He calls it a “first step” toward dealing with the problem.
“We know it’s not enough, but it’s important,” he said.
Racist incidents in sport make news on a disturbingly regular basis, despite the impact of movements such as “Black Lives Matter” in the United States and the activism of high-profile athletes like Naomi Osaka and LeBron James.
On Sunday (Apr 4), Spanish side Valencia walked off the pitch during a La Liga match against Cadiz after French player Mouctar Diakhaby said opponent Juan Cala insulted him with a racist slur.
French side Nantes said Tuesday that midfielder Imran Louza had received death threats and racist attacks on social media after the club’s last match.
British football clubs Swansea City and Glasgow Rangers said Thursday they would boycott social media for seven days to protest racial abuse against their players online.
Brazilian sport is regularly rocked by racist incidents.
“We’re seeing a lot of cases because of the internet … These things have always happened, but before the news didn’t reach people as much,” said Brazilian ex-gymnast and former Olympian Daiane dos Santos.
Dos Santos, 38, was herself the victim of racism in the world of gymnastics, a sport with few black athletes and a notorious history of racist incidents in Brazil.
The 2003 gold medalist at the World Gymnastics Championships (floor exercise) – Brazil’s first world champion in gymnastics – remembers teammates refusing to train next to her and coaches questioning why a black girl wanted to be a gymnast.
“It made me develop character, which helped me survive that kind of oppression,” she told AFP.
She thinks the course is a great idea – and a necessary one.
“Let’s punish those who deserve to be punished,” and take away any excuses, she said.
Brazilian law provides for fines or prison terms of up to three years for making racist slurs.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee also has the power to fine or sanction athletes who violate its ethics code, which includes rules against racist behavior.