August 5, 2016

Unity Culture Club: On Your Radar – 05.08.16

Midnight tonight marks the opening ceremony of Rio 2016 – a spectacle delivered by over 6,000 volunteers and directed by Fernando Meirelles, the man behind heart-wrenching story of the Brazilian city’s favelas, City of God.

These cinematic displays underscore how sport and culture go hand in hand, bringing people together through diverse, but complementary, shared passions.

As with many Olympics before, there will always be controversy – specifically this year with crippling construction delays, doping scandals, armed robberies, and mass protests in the streets – which we would be remiss not to discuss.

But, more positively, we must also recognise that Rio will be one hell of a Games – this year, more than ever, demonstrating the Olympics’ commitment to inclusivity; not just through being hosted by a South American country for the first time, but also through welcoming the first ever Refugee Olympic Athletes team to compete.

And so, in this week’s On Your Radar we present the good, the bad and the ugly picks that showcase this year’s all-inclusive Olympics.

1. TEAM OF REFUGEE OLYMPIC ATHLETES

Since the first modern Olympics, the Games have always highlighted competition between nations, but in Rio this year a refugee team will be competing who represent the people around the globe who have been forced to flee their home nation.

The story of the new team has been covered by a radio documentary on BBC World Service, following the stories of those who have fled countries such as South Sudan and Syria – and are now just days away from competing on an international platform.

The team shows how sport can transcend country borders, bringing people together with a collective goal. Hopefully the team’s performance will break down barriers and lead people to question their perceptions of refugees.

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2. MORAR OLIMPÍADAS

On the flipside, a new photo book looks into the negative effects of this year’s Games, highlighting the environmental impact and social inequality resulting from hosting the games. British photographer Giles Price travelled to Brazil and captured bird’s eye views of the stadiums and infrastructure that have been transformed, exploring their physical and social repercussions. Revisiting every six months between 2014-2016, Price documented the development of the Olympic sites which began to represent deepening socio-economic divisions.

Unlike the London Games where the athlete’s village was later turned into affordable housing, Brazil’s similar plans to transform the former sites of favelas for the public appear to have been scrapped. The new apartments now seem to be intended as condos for Brazil’s tiny population of the rich and wealthy.

While beautiful in their own right, Price’s visual documentations of these issues offer a nuanced narrative of the darker side to the Olympics.

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3. BRAZILIAN EMBASSY

But closer to home and in the spirit of acceptance and hospitality, the Brazilian embassy in London opens its doors in celebration of hosting the Olympics, with live coverage of the games, as well as information about Rio de Janeiro and Brazilian culture.

The Rio Olympic Lounge is a rare opportunity for the public to access the embassy, using sport as the catalyst to open their arms and allow people an insight into Brazil’s rich and diverse culture, including what lies beyond Rio (known as the ‘marvellous city’). We’ll see you there!

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4. THE FALL

Looking back at the events from 1984 Games – one of the most memorable moments in sporting history – is documentary film The Fall. The story is of two talented female athletes; America’s Mary Decker and South Africa’s Zola Budd (who controversially ran for team GB), and how their rivalry was exacerbated by a turbulent time of 1980s politics.

With the Russians boycotting the 1984 Games in retaliation for the Americans pulling out of Moscow in 1980, the Budd/Decker race was a battle of ideology set against a backdrop of controversy, with a climactic end as they collided on the track. The film reunites the women 30 years on, with a dramatic finale showcasing the sad, cynical side to competing on a stage as big as the Olympics.

There are many themes that feel particularly pertinent to this year, demonstrating how much there is still to learn from the past and to overcome. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any emerging films about this year in the future.

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5. BEIJING LOGO DESIGN

On a more positive note, the legacy of this year’s Olympics’ increased spirit of inclusivity is set to be continued – as the 2022 Winter Games, hosted by Beijing, has announced an open call for emblem designs.

Looking for logos representing ‘the Winter Olympics’ philosophy and Chinese culture’, the organising committee has said it should also act as a window to the world into China – allowing a surprisingly global perspective on an integral part of the Games’ (and China’s) identity.

Open to international entries, the competition is an opportunity for designers from around the world to be part of Olympic history and allows for a more inclusive response. So, in the spirit of inclusivity, we’re calling on any designers out there to enter and create something less divisive than 2012’s logo. Get designing!

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6. CAN'T MAKE IT TO RIO?

We hope we’ve given you a taste of both sides of the Olympic medal. But if you can’t make it over to Rio and want to whet your appetite fully, here are our top picks for immersing yourself in the carnival-style festivities in London.

Rio Dalston

One of the most diverse areas of London is playing host to an unofficial, grassroots festival celebrating Brazilian culture and inclusivity between countries and peoples. Expect an action-packed programme of events, including live music, film screenings, a Mohammed Ali tribute and a night of spoken word and visual art.

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Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen

If you’re looking for a spot to watch the opening ceremony, head to the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen’s mini carnival. Even if the show isn’t your thing, live music from the South London Samba Band, Brazilian cocktails and mouth-watering street food is sure to leave you entertained.

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Pop Brixton

Pop Brixton’s outdoor space will be celebrating all things Brazil this month, offering one of the best places to watch the Games in the city. Catch up on the competition on the big screens, sample Brazilian delicacies from their collection of food traders, and celebrate with live drummers, samba dancers and DJs.

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