STREET CHILD GAMES OPEN IN RIO:
Date: Monday, 14 March 2016
Former street children from around the world stepped into the spotlight on Monday as the first-ever Street Child Games opened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Teams from nine countries from all over the world arrived in Rio just months before professional athletes begin arriving in the host-city for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Organised by the UK charity Street Child United (SCU), the Street Child Games, in association with Save the Children, will include an international athletics competition with six Olympic-themed sports and a unique UN-style congress.
Vianney, representing Team Burundi, said: “I will be representing all street children, starting from home and then to the rest of the world, so that they can have an identity, a name and rights that can protect them.”
The Games are being hosted by the Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira community in Leme. The athletics will take place at Forte São João Urca where the young people will compete in the 100m sprint, 100m hurdles, 400m, long jump, shot put and 4x 100m relay.
Michael Johnson, Multi-Olympic Gold Medallist and Founder of Michael Johnson Positive Track announced his support: “The Street Child Games symbolise the power of sport in guaranteeing the rights of some of the most marginalised children in the world. These young people will compete on the field and unite off the field with the clear message from each: I AM SOMEBODY”
John Wroe, Chief Executive of SCU, said: “It’s really exciting, now all the teams are here it’s real.
“I’m incredibly proud of all the project leaders and all the young people, who are real heroes, and it’s quite astounding that we’re having another reunion of former street children from all over the world in Rio.
“I’m relieved that all the visas have come through, the last ones came from Karachi on Wednesday morning. When we heard that I was floating on air.
“To know that every young person we’ve invited is able to come is a huge weight off our shoulders.
As teams arrived at the favela community, volunteers working for SCU gave each team an exuberant and warm welcome, waving flags and lining the way up the hill to their accommodation.
Teams have been training hard for the Games, and have faced challenges to secure visas, and in some cases, birth certificates and passports.
John Wroe said: “It’s phenomenal that we’re based here in Babilonia. It’s a real strong statement about social inclusion and I’m humbled that an organisation like the Copacabana Palace Hotel will allow us to invite people in each day.
“It’s been a long planning process and it’s finally come to fruition.”
Held at the world-famous Copacabana Palace Hotel, the congress will be an opportunity for teams to speak out and campaign for street children’s rights.
The UN estimates there are 150 million street-connected children worldwide, who are either living on, or at risk of living on, the streets.
Research has also shown that in the run-up to mega sporting events, children living on the streets are especially vulnerable and at risk.
At the end of the congress, the teams will present a resolution focusing on the rights of vulnerable children to governments and the United Nations, as well as an open letter to the International Olympic Committee calling for human rights to be placed at the core of global sports events.
Dinara, representing Team Brazil, reflected on the harsh reality of life on the streets for children in Rio, saying “Some of my friends can’t be here because they are dead.”
The teams taking part in the Street Child Games are: Pakistan, the Philippines, Argentina, Great Britain, Egypt, Brazil, Burundi, India and Mozambique.
Leslie Rowe, project leader for Team GB, said: ¨The girls are really excited. Obviously, it´s now two years on from the Street Child World Cup, which they took part in.
Now they are older, they have grasped the enormity of the organisation they have become part of and are really trying to make a difference to street children around the world.
“In the last year or so they have really stepped up their fundraising and really brought Islington Council on board.
“They have been rekindling friendships. We´re really excited to see how people have moved on and to see how they can participate in the congress sessions.”