By Sam Green, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Soldiers from Brazil and the United States will take on servicemen from Iran, North Korea and Venezuela in Rio this weekend – but Cariocas need not worry as the clashes will happen on sports fields rather than battlefields. The fifth Military World Games will be held in the city from July 16th-24th with around 6,000 athletes from more than 100 countries competing under the banner ‘Troop of Peace.’
The event is organized by the International Military Sports Council (CISM), which aims to use sport to unite soldiers who may previously have been on opposing sides in combat.
With competitors due to arrive from North and South Korea, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Afghanistan and the U.S., the event should provide the opportunity for valuable friendship building.
“The main objective is to show that the military is open-minded and searches for peace, even if we are in battle,” said Brazilian Navy captain Marcio Agnese, who will look after the visiting delegations. “It will be amazing to see countries who sometimes have political problems on the same field of play with a very good atmosphere between them.
“We have North Korea, Vietnam, the USA, Venezuela and Iran coming and everyone is so friendly and respectful with each other at these events. It touches deep in your heart.”
Captain Agnese said Olympic champions in fencing and shooting would be present along with Olympic athletes from many other sports. Previous Military World Games competitors have included Kenya’s former marathon world-record holder Paul Tergat, and Russian gymnast Alexei Nemov, who won twelve Olympic medals.
The games will feature twenty different sports, from mainstream disciplines such as track & field, swimming, boxing and football (soccer), to military specific events such as orienteering and naval pentathlon, which comprises an obstacle course, life-saving and utility swimming, a seamanship race and an amphibious cross-country event.
There will also be events which are seen in the Olympics but have strong military traditions, such as equestrianism, shooting and modern pentathlon, which was championed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, and based on the five skills needed to be an ideal 19th century soldier. George S. Patton, who was general of the US Army during the Second World War, competed in the first Olympic modern pentathlon in 1912.
Among the more unusual events taking place is skydiving, and, fittingly for Rio, beach volleyball will make its Military World Games debut as a demonstration sport.
The games was seen as helpful in Rio’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, and many consider it a dress rehearsal for the 2016 Olympics. During the IOC’s inspection of Rio’s Olympic preparations last month, Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s Olympic Games executive director, referred to the Military Games as one of a series of “mega events” Rio would be staging in the coming years.
The Military Games will take place all over the city, with the flagship venue being the Engenhão Stadium, which will host the track & field competition. Also being used are Copacabana Beach (triathlon and beach volleyball), the Maracanãzinho Arena (volleyball) and Vasco de Gama’s São Januário Stadium (football).
Rio beat Turkey for the right to host the event in 2007, with the crucial factors being the sports infrastructure already in place for the 2007 Pan American Games and the strong support of the authorities.
For more information visit www.rio2011.mil.br.