In Rio de Janeiro, sports are life – and life is not a spectator sport. Little playing fields steal back space from the asphalt and traffic circles, defying cars and buildings alike. They creep in amongst the steep and winding streets and are sketched into the golden sands that have made this city immortal. Rain forests and granitic cliffs are a testing ground, where distinctions of gender, race or religion cease to exist. The differences between high and low are made level. Kids from the favelas that cling to the hillsides come down into the city, losing themselves among the upper-crust bourgeoisie well-heeled from Ipanema and Leblon. A surfboard, a soccer ball or a skateboard is all it takes to make them indistinguishable. Social background doesn’t matter for the players of the Flamengo basketball team portrayed in one of these pictures; difference sit sinks while when the girls from the Brazil national synchronized swimming team, Brazil national champions, float over the twirl in the water.
Sports blend favela boys in love with football, bikers rolling down the seaside and surfers resting on the beach, as those shown in these images. Call it the miracle of motion – motion that changes perspectives and revolutionizes viewpoints, as in these photos, which provide a portrait of a city and its inhabitants as they have never been seen before In Brazil, the democratic nature of sports is, after all, guaranteed under the Constitution. Article 217 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution – adopted in 1988, four years after the horrors of dictatorship had come to an end – describes sports as a social right, for which the State is, at least in part, responsible. Whether as a consequence of its constitutional obligation or of an inclination to comply with its people’s wishes, the most recent census of the State of Rio, conducted in 2003, counted 155 stadiums, 1,685 small playing fields, 367 swimming pools, and 39 athletics tracks. As recently as 2012, the local government spent 56 million reals (18 million euros) on “social sports” activities – not the on World Cup, with its controversy, nor even on the Olympics, with its expectations, but on its inhabitants’ daily battle to achieve their potential through motion.
Text by Gea Scancarello