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2000: Brasília, candidate for Olympic Games in Brazil

21. March 2018

The dream of Brasília to host Olympic Games in the year 2000 started to take shape in 1988, when Joaquim Roriz took over as Governor of the Federal District of Brasília. The initial idea had been to have Olympic Games as part of the huge commemoration of 500 years since the ‘discovery’ of Brazil. In the same year, Brasília also celebrated 40 years since the foundation of the Brazilian capital.

Marcio Cotrim and Heleno Fonseca Lima, both connected at the time to the marketing department of the Brazilian Bank (Banco do Brasil), proposed the original idea for a candidature. The Brazilian Bank was already well established as sponsor for a variety of sporting events and festivals in the country. The project was soon taken over by Paulo Octávio, entrepreneur and real estate dealer in Brasília and –more importantly – a close personal friend of Fernando Collor, then candidate for the presidency of the Brazilian Republic. Paulo Octávio was passionate about the Olympic Games and had watched very Games since 1980. His wife Anna Christina Kubitschek was none other than the daughter of the Vice-governor of the Federal District of Brasília, Márcia Kubitschek, and the granddaughter of the founder and former President of Brasília, Juscelino Kubitschek.

With the election of Fernando Collor as President of the Republic of Brazil in 1989, the dream of a candidature became a concrete Government. Paulo Octávio declared during an interview on 19 August 2012 in the journal Estação Notícia, that he had started a national campaign with athletes, coaches, sport officials and academics back in 1989 to shape the idea of Brasília being the host for Olympic Games 2000. He also emphasized in the same interview, that “[…] one year later, in 1990 and with my election as federal deputy, the work got power. An association had been created to attract private sponsors alongside famous names of the sport world like Bernard Rajzman, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, Zico and many other optimists, who worked hard on the creation of a dossier for our candidature”.[1] The moment could not have been chosen better, with Brazil exhilarated by the inauguration of Fernando Collor, the first President to be directly elected by the people after 25 years of closed elections without public involvement. He took office on 15 March 1990 and was suspended on 2 October 1992 after impeachment proceedings against him were initiated by the National Congress because of various corruption scandals. To avoid the impeachment process, Fernando Collor stepped down on 29 December 1992.

President Fernando Collor was only 40 when he became President, and he and his young advisors were aiming to create a modern Brazil, projecting an image of youth and entrepre-neurship, compared to the dictatorship of ‘old men’. During his campaigns, Collor presented himself as a champion of the poor – the descamisados (shirtless ones) – and the salvador do Brasil (saviour of Brazil), promising to stamp out corruption and privilege. The President and his allies presented themselves as sportsmen – playing football, practicing jet-ski, flying airplanes, playing tennis, going jogging and being guests at fitness centers. Being healthy and in good shape became a political statement and many political decisions were taken at the tennis centre or the fitness clubs of Brasília. In the early days of his presidency Fernando Collor said: “Facing the transformations in our accelerated times of history, one has to look for new ways to insert the country in the world […]”. In the same speech he added: “[…] Brazil should be open to the world. We want integration, growth and competition. Diplomacy has to act intensively on bilateral and multilateral bases looking always for new ways of cooperation, might it be in science and technology, might it be on economic fields, might it be regarding political dialogues […]”.[2] To present a candidature to host Olympic Games fitted well with these goals.

The candidature of Brasília to host the Olympic Games 2000 reflects the important historical changes Brazil taking place in the early 1990s. With Brasília 2000, Brazil had an extraordinary opportunity to put the country on an international stage and present a modern and competitive nation after decades of dictatorship.


The project

As new Governor of the Federal District of Brasília[3], Joaquim Roriz nominated Marcio Cotrim as Secretary for Culture and Sports, and Sérgio Lima da Graça as Deputy-Secretary for Sports. Sérgio Graça was a long-term friend of Paulo Octávio and knew the sports scene of the Federal District by heart; he also knew André Gustavo Richer, who was President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee (Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro – COB) at that time. In a federal decree, published as official minutes number 225 (year XXXI, 26th November 1990) and referring to a meeting of 23 November 1990, Fernando Collor officially nominated the “Commission Pro-Olympics 2000” (Comissão Pró-Olímpica 2000). These were the members of the commission:


President: Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Zico)

Representative of the Federal District: Marcio Cotrim

Representative of the Secretary of Culture and Sports of the Federal District: Sérgio Lima da Graça

Representative of the Brazilian Tourism Association (EMBRATUR): Ronaldo do Monte Rosa

Representative of the sportswomen and sportsmen of Brasília: Heleno Fonseca Lima

Representative of the private entrepreneurs: Paulo Octávio Alves Pereira


The Brazilian Olympic Committee and its President André Gustavo Richer, a former Olympic athlete known for his integrity and dignity, did officially not support the candidature but neither did they vote against Brasília. The reason for that might have been that the candidature was not initiated by sport officials, but had been a political decision at the highest level.

In 1992, the Commission Pro-Olympics 2000, headed by National Secretary of Sports Bernard Rajzman, attended the Olympic Games in Barcelona trying to present the project of Olympics in Brasília (Projeto Brasília Olímpica) to the international press. The political and economic situation in Brazil was at the time in turmoil. Fernando Collor was already facing constant stories about corruption in his government. The economy had serious problems. And criticism against the President grew stronger every day. Despite these problems, the dossier for the candidature of Brasília was delivered to the IOC through Paulo Octávio and Marcia Kubitschek by the end of 1992. With this delivery of the bid book, Brazil officially submitted for the first time ever a complete candidature to host Olympic Games.[4]

The bid book prepared by the Commission Pro-Olympics 2000 had been finalised in 1991 and placed a strong emphasis on the architectural projects signed by Oscar Niemeyer and Ruy Othake. The logo for Brasília 2000 depicted the cathedral of Brasília, a landmark created by Oscar Niemeyer. Nevertheless, other chapters of the bid book have to be regarded as failures. Very little information was given about the financing of the Games and no concrete proposal was made as how to organise the sporting events. And it must surely have been unacceptable that last minute notes had been in made in handwriting!

With the political and economic situation in Brazil so bad, discussions went on as to whether the candidature should be maintained. But the final decisions were made by the Governor of the Federal District as Brasília – rather than Brazil – became candidate. Many rumours also centred around the candidature of Brasília 2000, probably the most popular of them connected to João Havelange, then President of FIFA, who is reported to have told Juan Antonio Samaranch to ask the commission to withdraw the Brasília bid. This rumour has never been confirmed and no member of the Commission ever referred to any interference by João Havelange in the candidature. However, and despite all the rumours, the bid book was delivered and Brasília was visited by the IOC evaluation committee between 25 and 29 March 1993. The minutes of this visit were presented on 24 May 1993 as part of the “Report IOC enquiry commission for the games of the XXVII Olympiad 2000”.

Following this report, seven cities delivered their bid books: Sydney, Beijing, Manchester, Brasília, Berlin, Istanbul and Milan. Milan stepped down before the committee’s visit of the town on 13 March 1993. In the final evaluation the document states, that “the Commission felt that standards in general were currently below what is expected of an Olympic Bid” (p.49). The evaluation committee recognized quickly the unsteadiness between the commission for the candidature and the sports world. “[...] The Bid Committee lacks any sports experts in its membership and appears to be very far removed from the National Olympic Committee” (p.49). But the major concern of the bid committee had been the political situation and the unstable Brazilian economy. Some comments also had been positive, like the efforts announced regarding preservation of natural environment and the proposal for the Olympic Village with well thought out transportation systems. Brasília had been excluded already in the first round, but nevertheless Brasília 2000 served as motivation for other Brazilian cities and their future candidatures.


The end of the candidature

As soon as the discussions started about the possible candidature of Brasília to host the Olympic Games 2000, the Brazilian sports world became euphoric. Support came in from all kind of entities, as Brasília 2000 was backed by the government. Entrepreneurs from different branches united in commissions and promised to pool their large public and private financial resources. For the Government of the Federal District, Brasília 2000 became a priority. Budgets for sport were raised significantly. Between 1990 and 1992, playing fields and sports grounds were modernised and Brasília could offer more physical education activities than ever. Sporting events were prestigious and even intellectuals, artists and businessmen took part in these festivals. The candidature of Brasília deceased already before the Olympic Games 1992 in Barcelona and, soon after, the first media reports of corruption scandals quickly spread through the whole country. Athletes, politicians, businessmen, academis and sport officials discontinued their support for Brasília 2000 and before long Fernando Collor stepped down.

When the evaluation committee of the IOC visited Brasília to evaluate the candidature, the commission of Brasília 2000 was already reduced to members of the Government of the Federal District and the deputy Paulo Octávio. During the visit it became obvious that the candidature could not count no longer on the support of athletes and sport officials. The bid committee recognized this problem and wrote in its report: “The Bid Committee is comprised of city government officials and the Commission felt that local politics figured highly in motivation for the Bid.”(p.49)

The candidature for Brasília 2000 reflected like a mirror the political situation in Brazil and was too closely connected to a government rife with serious corruption. This environment could not have been beneficial for a successful candidature.


First publication of this paper:

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2016: Brasília 2000: Candidate for Olympic Games in Brazil. In: Journal of Olympic History 24.1, 2016, 16-19.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker


[1]The interview is published at “[...] Um ano depois, em 1990, com a minha eleição a deputado federal, o trabalho ganhou força. Nasceu uma associação que atraiu patrocinadores privados e conceituados nomes do mundo esportivo, Bernard Rajzman, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, Zico e muitos outros otimistas que trabalharam arduamente na construção do dossiê de nossa candidatura”.

[2]Inaugural speech of the president Fernando Collor at the National Congress presenting the “Project of National Reconstruction” (O projeto de Reconstrução Nacional), Biblioteca da Presidência da República. P.20-21. “Diante dessas transformações que aceleram o tempo histórico, é preciso buscar fórmulas novas de inserção do País no mundo [...]. […] O Brasil estará aberto ao mundo. Queremos integração, crescente e competitiva. A diplomacia atuará, de forma intensa, no plano bilateral e coletivo, buscando a cada momento formas novas de cooperação, seja em ciências e tecnologia, seja no campo da economia, seja no diálogo politico […]”.

[3] Brasília is the capital of Brazil and located in the Federal District (Distrito Federal). The Federal District is one of 27 federal units in Brazil and encompasses 31 administrative regions with the so-called “pilot plan of Brasília” (Plano Piloto de Brasília) as administrative region I.

[4]After the election of Rio de Janeiro to host the Olympic Games 2016, a variety of information entered the internet stating that Rio de Janeiro should have been candidate for Olympic Games 1936, candidate for the equestrian games 1956 and the Olympics 1960. Wolf Lyberg, IOC Sessions, Vol. 2, p. 83 confirms the candidature of Rio de Janeiro to host the equestrian games 1956 with the bid voting at the 48th IOC Session in Athens on 13 May 1954. Regarding 1936 and 1960, no documentation is known at the IOC archives. It even might be possible that the candidature for 1936 came from Argentine, as Rio de Janeiro by mistake and quite often was called the Argentine capital in those times.

2000- Brasília, candidate for Olympic Games in Brazil

1949: Fluminense Football Club receives the Olympic Cup

07. March 2018

When Fluminense had been honored with the Coupe Olympique (Olympic Cup) in the year 1949 by the International Olympic Committee IOC, this cup formerly represented the efforts of the club to have organised the Regional Olympic Games back in 1922. The Fluminense FC had been the real organiser of the games in those times.

The Brazilian government had decided to realise the games at any case, even though if international financial support would fail to appear. Due to the recognition by the IOC, the games already turned to be international and therefore it would have been inconceivable to cancel the project based on economical constraints. The government nominated the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos CBD to realise the games. But neither a stadium nor the appropriate infrastructure existed to organise such an international competition. The Fluminense FC in Rio de Janeiro already had experiences organising football tournaments and other events. The cooperation between the government and Fluminense FC was obvious and on 5th May 1922 the two partners signed an agreement. The government accepted hereby to take over all costs needed to adapt the stadium for the event and also made available budgets to organise the games themselves.

From 1916 to 1930 Arnaldo Guinle had been the president of the traditional Fluminense FC. He also had been president of the CBD from 1916 to 1920 and handed over this duty to Oswaldo Gomes in 1920, who had been a former player at Fluminense FC. Soon after the start of the constructions at 1st July 1922 it became obvious that the original budget estimates would have been far to low. The construction had been officially authorised by the president of the organisation committee Coronel Estellita Werner, but the government escaped from its financial commitment. It was the Fluminense FC, who realised the games and took over a huge mortgage. At the end of the event the club had to take over the financial losses alone.

The engagement of the Fluminense FC was warmly welcome by the IOC. Henri de Baillet-Latour appreciated the club having offered its services to the fatherland and having undertaken all efforts and financial support possible to realise the games in the name of the government together with various sports associations and the public.

A formal appreciation only followed in 1949 when the IOC officially awarded the Coupe Olympique to Fluminense FC. Since 1906 this cup gets awarded annually to institutions that support the Olympic movement with significant contributions. Usually the cup gets handed over to associations and communities, but only once in history it had been awarded to a football club: the Fluminense FC. The club was a candidate for the cup back in 1924, when Pierre de Coubertin had still been president, but got rejected. Also a second tentative had not been successful in 1936 and the Brazilian member of the IOC, José Ferreira dos Santos finally could guarantee the cup being awarded to Fluminese FC in 1948. Adjacent to the award assembly 1948 the IOC changed its rules not to award the cup anymore to clubs in the future.


First publication of this paper (in Portuguese):

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2015: Histórias Inusitadas dos Primórdios do Movimento Olímpico no Brasil. In: N. Müller – N. Schneider Todt (ed.), Pierre de Coubertin. Olimpismo, Porto Alegre, 765-782.



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker

1949- Fluminense Football Club receives the Olympic Cup

1936: Brazil and the Olympic Games in Berlin

21. February 2018
Brazilian shooters

 Brazil as candidate to host the Olympic Games 1936

One of the topics discussed the last years had been the possibility of a candidature of Brazil for the Olympic Games 1936.[1] In the official minutes of the IOC Session organised in Monaco from 21st to 27th April 1927, Brazil is registered as one of the candidate countries.[2] In the minutes of the IOC Session in Berlin, having taken place from 22nd to 24th May 1930, Brazil was mentioned any more as candidate. Now the candidates had been cities and not countries any more. Those had been Alexandria, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Buenos-Aires, Cologne, Dublin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Nuremberg, Rome and Lausanne.[3] In the minutes of the IOC Session in Monaco 1927 eight countries are listed with dedicated cities: Switzerland (Lausanne), Italy (Rome or Milan), Germany (Berlin), Spain (Barcelona), Finland (Helsinki), Hungary (Budapest), Egypt (Alexandria) and Brazil (Rio de Janeiro). The text also emphasises, that the candidates had been presented by the respective governments. Despite the context of the minutes no other document could be secured that mentioned the candidature of Brazil for 1936.[4]

Even though Argentine had not been mentioned in the minutes of 1927, Buenos-Aires appears in the minutes of 1930. An important letter in the IOC archives might shed light to that contradiction.[5] In this letter, dated 10th August 1928, IOC President Count Henri de Baillet-Latour wrote to Argentine IOC member Riccardo Aldao, that the candidature of Buenos-Aires had been accepted and the city will be added to the list of candidates.

This letter is of additional interest taking into account that Brazilian IOC member Raul do Rio Branco, who participated at the IOC Session 1927 in Monaco, positioned himself at several occasions against a candidature of Brazil to be a host for Olympic Games. To his opinion Brazil was not prepared to organise Olympic Games caused by a lack of sports culture in his home country. In a letter Raul do Rio Branco wrote to his colleagues at the IOC on occasion of the recognition of the foundation of the Brazilian Olympic Committee 1935[6], he added a summary about his 22 years service as a member of the IOC (1913 to 1935).[7] An important paragraph deals with a critical approach about Brazil in the Olympic Movement and does not mention a Brazilian candidature at all. On the contrary Raul do Rio Branco seriously doubts the capacity of Brazil to host Olympic Games. Related to that he records a conversation he had with the two Brazilian officials Ferreira dos Santos e Roberto Trompovsky Jr. during the Olympic Games 1920 in Antwerp. The possibility of Brazil hosting Olympic Games had been discussed and Raul do Rio Branco called it an illusion that died with the death of Roberto Trompovsky Jr. in December 1922.

Brazil’s ambition to host Olympic Games goes back to the late second decade of the 20th century. In a small article published in the paper “Estado de São Paulo” at 2nd July 1919[8] criticism had been raised against a possible candidature of France for the Olympic Games 1920 in the light of promised Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro 1922.[9] It should not be forgotten, that Brazil did not participate in any Olympic Games back in 1919![10]

It should be allowed to summarize two hypotheses connected to the candidature for the Olympic Games 1936.

Hypothesis 1: It would have been possible, that the Brazilian government presented the candidature without accord to Raul do Rio Branco and did not follow up the process due to political and economical crises. Between 1927 and 1931 Brazil faced an extremely difficult situation with social and political movements leading to a coup d’état in 1930, when the military powers placed their President Getúlio Vargas. The economy of Brazil was based before on coffee production and changed to industrialisation with a strong bourgeoisie and a powerful middle class. Those new powers entered politics, reformed public institutions, influenced the industries and most important changed the Brazilian election system. At the same time first workers movements started to fight for a reduction of working hours and bad payments in the coffee production. The so-called “tenentismo” and the “coluna Prestes” are the most famous examples of these movements. Brazil had been mainly an agrarian country with dependency from exterior powers and the crises of 1929 demonstrated the power of the coffee oligarchs in Brazil. The oligarchs from Minas Gerais and from São Paulo managed an agreement later called “café com leite” (coffee with milk) to nominate one candidate for the federal government to maintain their political power in Brazil. Finally the candidate from São Paulo, Júlio Prestes won the elections, but could not take over due to the coup d’état 1930. The country had been very close to civil war ended by the strong hand of President Getúlio Vargas, who gained power by force and had been elected only several years later. He ruled the country until 1945 and committed suicide 1954.

Hypotheses 2: It might be possible that the records in the minutes of the IOC Session 1927 in Monaco are wrong. Brazil was not meant to be the candidate, but from the beginning Argentine. This mistake might have had happened during the process of transcription and Brazil got confounded with Argentine, what happened quite often in those times.


Politics Arrive in Sport

The 1936 Brazilian Olympic Team is known and well documented in the official reports of the games.[11] The number of athletes, the sport disciplines in which the Brazilians participated and the organisation of the journeys of the team to and from the games are known. In this respect, however, the contemporary Brazilian daily papers expressed astonishment that two Brazilian teams were sent to Berlin.[12] In search of the reasons, one inevitably comes across a flood of sources relevant to the history of sports in the archives of the Itamaraty[13], the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos CBD and the Comité Olímpico Brasileiro COB. These sources were evaluated here and viewed against the background of the events of the 1930s and in particular of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.


Two Brazilian Delegations at Berlin

81 Athletes from Brazil were recruited, of whom 72 actually participated including 6 women. These athletes did not take part in all the sporting disciplines; however, they were well represented in track and field events (10 athletes), swimming, water polo (15 athletes) and rowing competitions (22 athletes).[14]

It was not possible to celebrate any outstanding successes but amongst the Brazilian athletes there were some who later made careers as sports officials. Silvio de Magalhães Padilha took 5th place in the 400-metre hurdles and so became one of the few Brazilian athletes to reach the finals. He was later destined to become President of the COB[15] for a period of 20 years. Even more famous is Jean Marie Faustin Godefroid Havelange, the long-term President of the CBD and later of FIFA. Jean Marie Faustin Godefroid HAVELANGE participated in the 1500-metre freestyle swimming event and occupied the last place in the preliminary rounds being a long way off the pace.[16]

The successes of the two sisters, Sieglinde and Maria Lenk, were very important both from a sporting and a social point of view, not only in Brazil. The two swimmers came from a German immigrant family whose father Paulo LENK had introduced swimming for ladies in Brazil. Swimming played a central role in the Clube Estrela or Stern (Star) founded in São Paulo in 1919, which was primarily frequented by immigrants and their descendants. There, Sieglinde and Maria Lenk were destined to become Brazilian swimming stars and symbols of the feminist movement.[17] Maria LENK was the first woman ever to use the ‘butterfly’ stroke.

„Eu não foi muito bem, não. Infelizmente engordei um bocado por causa das seis refeições diárias do navio e não passei das provas semifinais. Mas entrei para a história por ser a primeira mulher a nadar borboleta, estilo que aprendi depois de ler una revista alemã.“[18]

The Brazilian team used the long sea crossing from Rio de Janeiro to Germany to train on deck. They could swim in a purpose-built swimming pool whilst tethered to the pool side.

„Dessa vez, construíram um tanque que servia de piscina no convés para que a gente pudesse treinar durante a viagem. Como o tanque era pequeno e não permitia que déssemos mais de duas braçadas, nosso técnico, Carlito, teve uma idéia genial: com uma corda, ele amarrava a gente na borda. Assim, eu podia nadar sem sair do lugar. Mas as ondas fortes faziam com que eu fosse lançada contra as paredes do tanque e boa parte da água era jogada para fora. Treinar ali era una aventura.“[19]

Like all participating teams in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the Brazilians were provided with support personnel for logistical arrangements and for their stay in Berlin. The honorary service officer Lt COLLATZ was available for their sojourn in Germany. The travel arrangements were supported by the Olympia Attaché, Councillor Bartling, who also maintained optimum relationships with Brazil in other respects and who, between 1934 and 1937, was an important German-Brazilian commercial advisor.[20]

The report on the Brazilian team revealed nothing unusual apart from certain astonishment in the contemporary daily press. The Rio de Janeiro publication Correiro da Manhã, for example, reported on 20th July 1936 that the reception of the teams in the Berlin Olympic stadium had been a truly festive event. The yellow and green flags of Brazil had flown alongside the swastika flags; a Hitler band played the Brazilian National Anthem. The event would have been completely harmonious had not two Brazilian Olympic teams arrived in Berlin. The two teams were combined without further ado, and, according to newspaper report, it had been a scandal that the non-selected athletes were not even allowed to participate as spectators. In the same daily paper Correiro da Manhã, the subject was once more discussed in detail on 1st August 1936. An article was headed “Rata Olympica” (Olympic Joke), which poked fun at the behaviour of Brazilian officials. They had to pay the penalty for the lack of coherent sports supervision in Brazil. [21]

Why did Brazil send two Olympic teams to Berlin in 1936? The athletes of one team were selected by the CBD, the traditional umbrella organisation for sport in Brazil. It had been founded as early as 1914[22] and always acted in the interest of the state, not least thanks to its presidents, and in particular to the one during the run-up to the Olympic Games in Berlin, Luis Aranha, the brother of the Minister of Justice Osvaldo Aranha. The latter was responsible for the establishment and expansion of the economic relations with the National Socialists in the Third Reich until 1937.[23] The documentation of political proximity was obviously a matter of concern for the CBD.

The COB, which was accredited by the IOC as the National Olympic Committee of Brazil positioned itself completely differently. The COB was founded on 11th June 1914[24] on the recommendation of the Brazilian IOC member Raul do Rio Branco, who lived in Switzerland and was a close friend of Pierre de Coubertin. Its first president was Fernando Mendes de Almeida, who, however, never made an appearance for his organisation. The CBD recruited the participating athletes for the 1920 Olympic Games on behalf of the COB, which was then completely consigned to oblivion until the 1930s. It was founded for a second time on 19th May 1935 with Antonio Prado Junior as President and Alaor Prata as General Secretary.[25] The COB team was welcomed by the organising committee of the Berlin Games at the railway station and escorted to the Olympic Village, where the CBD team was due to arrive on the following day.[26] (Fig. 38, 39)

These events during the days shortly before the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games were due to start can be better understood only when they are viewed in the context of German-Brazilian politics. Therefore, a glance at the diary of events of the years leading up to the games is a must.


Brazilian Politics and the Third Reich

In a so-called civil revolution, Getúlio VARGAS, born in Southern Brazil, seized power in October 1930. On 11th November 1930, he abolished the constitution and appointed old comrades-in-arms, gauchos and descendants of immigrants as ministers. The afore-mentioned Osvaldo Aranha was appointed Attorney General and Lindolfo Collor was allocated the newly created office of Labour Minister. Unlike the liberal and federalist policies of large-scale land ownership, Getúlio VARGAS set up a centrally organized Nation-State with industry and state-controlled labour unions.[27] With a new constitution, passed on 16th July 1936, this Nation-State was further reinforced. Rapid industrialisation took place with the help of the Third Reich, which was able to obtain raw materials from Brazil in return. Under the German economics politician Karl Ritter, the economic relationship between the two countries was strengthened. The Third Reich purchased goods in Brazil and deposited its payments in a so-called Ausländer Sonderkonto für Inlandszahlungen (ASKI) [Foreigners’ Special Accounts for Inland Payments], with which Brazil was able to finance Brazilian imports from the Third Reich.[28] Thanks to this import/export symbiosis, German-Brazilian economic activities trebled between 1935 and 1936, and from 1933, companies such as Siemens, Krupp, Stinnes und Bayer could be found in Brazil. In 1936, four of the nine Brazilian airline companies were German-owned: VASP, Luftschiffbau Zeppelin, Lufthansa und Condor. Two telegraph companies spread their networks across the country, of which, one was wholly German owned (Transocean) and the second operated with the support of German capital investment (Havas). It can be said that in the months before the Olympic Games in Berlin, German-Brazilian economic relationships had reached their peak.[29]

In the years before and during the Olympic Games in Berlin, Brazil received the Third Reich with open arms and benefited not insignificantly from the National Socialist ties of the “Auslandsdeutsche” (German expatriates) to their homeland. However, the political mood in Brazil changed abruptly with the foundation of the Estado Novo (New State) and Getúlio Vargas’ blatant aspiration towards dictatorship. In an important speech broadcast on 10th November 1937, Vargas said the following:

„Quero instituir um governo de autoridade, liberto das peis da chamada democracia liberal, que inspirou a Constituição de 34. […] Nos períodos de crise, como o que atravessamos, a democracia de partidos […] subverte a hierarquia, ameaça a unidade pátria e põe em perigo a existência da nação.”[30]

This new Nationalism also targeted minorities and the freedom of speech. Thus, the Ethnic German movement in Brazil was severely constrained, which has also to be viewed in the context of Brazil’s joining the Pan-American Union against the Third Reich in 1937.[31] Portuguese was introduced as the first language in the mainly private German schools.[32] On 18th April 1938, a decree was issued, forbidding all Brazilians, i.e. those born in Brazil, to join foreign organisations. This decree finally sounded the death-knell of German club culture in Brazil, which has been so strong during the first decades of the 20th century. Although many Ethnic German Brazilians were born in Brazil, they nevertheless adhered to German customs and German culture. Now, they were deprived of membership of German clubs and societies.[33] This resulted in most Ethnic German clubs adopting new names. For example, in 1938 the traditional German Deutsche Turnverein of São Paulo (founded in 1888) was renamed the Associação de Cultura Física.[34] Due to the decline of the influence of the German language and culture, the importance of the German clubs and societies in Brazil also diminished.

In the months before and during the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the relationship between Brazil and the Third Reich was exceptionally good. Even the propaganda of the Brazilian fascists leant towards that of their ideological brothers in Europe. The Departamento de Imprensa e Propaganda (DIP) was given the task of centralising, organising and controlling national propaganda, both domestically and abroad. Theatre, movies, leisure activities, sports, radio and literature were censored. With this extract from the statutes, the DIP aligned itself intentionally and explicitly towards the propaganda under Joseph GOEbbels in the Third Reich.[35] Even the Brazilian secret police, the Polícia política with its feared President Filinto Strubing MUEller collaborated closely with the Gestapo in the Third Reich. Filinto Strubing MUEller, known as “Patron Saint of Torturers“ was an ardent admirer of Heinrich Himmler and, in 1936, facilitated SS activity in Brazil. A close collaboration was fostered through Robert Lehr, the German representative of Zeiss in Brazil and the Brazilian ambassador in Berlin. In 1937, Filinto Strubing MUEller visited Heinrich Himmler in Berlin to discuss with SS organs the “Jewish and communist Infiltration in Brazil”. The result of this collaboration between the Gestapo and the Polícia política was, inter alia that, during Filinto Strubing MUEller‘s term of presidency, at least 20.000 people disappeared and many innocent souls were handed over to the Third Reich, the majority of whom was murdered in concentration camps.[36]

The rapprochement between Brazil and the Third Reich and vice versa was characterised by various motives. The Third Reich took great interests in the ca. 1,000,000 Germans and Ethnic German citizens in Brazil. Brazil on the other hand expected to benefit from an economic boom in the country. Finally it was their common objective to fight communism with all means available.

From 1934 to 1936, several fascist groups expanded their influence in Brazil. Primarily, German, Italian and Polish immigrants founded a nationalist movement, which became known as Integralismo. The ideological structures of the Integralismo corresponded to German or Italian fascism, which is why developments in several European countries were similar in some respects. Thus, Third Reich propaganda was bound to fall on fertile ground.[37]

In 1935, approx. 800,000 to 1,000,000 German-speaking inhabitants, who were acknowledged by the National Socialists to be ‘“Volksdeutsche“ (Ethnic Germans) lived in Brazil. Of these citizens, approx. 100,000 held German passports and 220,000 were born in Germany. The majority of the Germans living in Brazil had attended one of the 2,500 German schools and read one of the 10 German newspapers and magazines. As early as 1928, the Deutsche Zeitung (German Newspaper) published in São Paulo already had a circulation of 55,000.[38] The Deutsche Turnerbund (German Gymnastics Union) had 58 affiliated clubs with a combined membership of 8,000 and was organised precisely along Third Reich lines. As in the Third Reich, in Brazil the Gymnastics Union also stood solidly behind the National Socialists, as can be seen in the example of the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverein Rio de Janeiro (German Gymnastics and Sports Union Rio de Janeiro).[39]

The Deutsch-Brasilianische Jugendring (German Brazilian Youth Council), which regularly trained in Germany, was set up along the lines of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). The interweaving of German culture, politics and ideology on both sides of the Atlantic is also expressed in the generous financial support afforded to German schools in Brazil.[40]

Systematic promotion of German culture abroad was enshrined in the politics and administration of the Third Reich. This particularly applied to sports organisations, which after the “Gleichschaltung” (co-ordination by the NS regime) of sports associations and the foundation of the Deutsche Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (German Reich League for Physical Exercise) in 1934 were assimilated by the general National Socialist system. This order was valid both for domestic and foreign “districts“.[41]

German traditions survived for a long period, especially in Brazil, since Ethnic Germans settlements remained very homogeneous.[42] The white settlers were popular in Brazil, as was evidenced by a survey among the indigenous population conducted in the winter of 1933/34. Results showed that 97% of the Brazilians welcomed Germans and Italians, 45% Asians and only 18% Africans. This result was also echoed in a quotation by Osvaldo ARANHA in Washington on the 23rd July 1935: “We need a Brazil of white men…..nothing of other races.“[43] This claim to superiority of the white elite over Brazil is in line with the absurd view held by Adolf Hitler of the roll of the Germans in South America:

“Hier werden wir ein neues Deutschland schaffen. [...] Hier haben wir alles, was wir nötig haben. [...] Übrigens haben wir ein Anrecht auf diesen Kontinent. Die Fugger und Welser haben hier Beziehungen gehabt.“[44]

By fighting communism, Brazil and the Third Reich pursued another common objective. Since the foundation of the ANL (Aliança National Libertadora) (National Liberation Alliance) in 1935, the communists were openly and vigorously persecuted under Getúlio VARGAS. At the beginning of the thirties, Brazil faced two political options, either communism or fascism, of which the latter was destined to prevail under Getúlio Vargas.[45] The leader of the communist movement was Luís Carlos Prestes, who returned to Brazil in 1934 from Soviet exile and subversively founded the ANL. On 11th July 1935, the ANL was outlawed as a threat to national security. However, at this time, there was already strong support for the ANL from within the armed forces. The communist movement around the ANL could only be crushed by force of arms and with the help of the Polícia política. In the following months and years, the Brazilian regime stringently adopted the aggressive anticommunist policy of the Third Reich.[46]

In the years immediately preceding and during the period of the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics the relationship between Brazil and the Third Reich was extremely close. Above all, German interest was to bind the “Auslandsdeutsche“ (German expatriates) to National Socialism. Furthermore, by exporting technology and technological products from Germany and importing raw materials from Brazil, lucrative business relations could be built. Brazil shared not only the economic interests, but also in its search for its own political identity it was strongly influenced by the Third Reich (e.g.: Polícia política, propaganda politics). (Fig. 40)

Against this background, the sending of two Brazilian teams can be better understood, wherein political motives must have played a central role.[47] The team of the young and, in general, non-political COB united the Brazilian sporting idols of the day, Maria and Sieglinde Lenk, Piedade Coutinho and Scylla Venancio being the athletic idols of Brazilian swimming and women’s sport. With these swimmers, Brazil could present itself as a progressive and modern country. In addition, however, the authorities ensured nomination of both male and female athletes from the ranks of the so-called “Auslandsdeutsche“ (German expatriates). For example, the Brazilian rowing eight and cox consisted exclusively of German immigrants, and Hilda von Puttkammer represented Brazil in the foils. The far more developed sporting activities and the club culture of the immigrants compared with Brazilian tradition made their qualification for the national team easier. At the same time, the Brazilian regime was able to demonstrate an empathy with the Third Reich and to offer a number of athletes and officials the opportunity to gain ideological know-how from the Third Reich. For example, the “Auslandsdeutsche“ (German expatriates) as well as the Latin Americans, were entitled to both free travel and overnight accommodation during the Olympic Congress and the Kraft-durch-Freude-Konferenz (Strength through Joy Conference) in 1936.[48] Agents of the Polícia política travelled with the Brazilian teams to Germany to be trained by the Gestapo close to Munich (presumably in Dachau).[49]

It is obvious that far more tasks were allocated to the two Brazilian Olympic teams besides representing their country in sport. The journey to Berlin was one of the few during the years of the most intensive co-operation between Brazil and the Third Reich. The Brazilian delegations were pursuing far-reaching objectives beyond sporting exchange, which, unfortunately, today can only be surmised.[50]


The Brazilian participation at Chess Olympia 1936 in Munich

After the Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the Olympic Games in Berlin, the Chess Olympiad in Munich should define a third Olympic mega event in Germany 1936.[51] The political dimension of the event got additionally underlined by the location Munich, which had been regarded as “Hauptstadt der Bewegung” (capital of movement) by the National Socialists and the centennial celebration of the Chess Club Munich.[52] The German Reich had two main reasons to organise Chess Olympia 1936 in Munich despite a lack of membership at the World Chess Federation FIDE and therefore the unofficial status of the event.[53] The event was part of the German Reich propaganda promoting chess as an able-bodied game to ideologically educate the German “soldier”. And the Olympic year 1936 could be completed with a third mega-event after the organisation of the winter and summer Olympics.[54] Huge banners in Munich promoted the event; at one of the central squares – the Karlstor – luminous writings announced the event including the Olympic rings. The chess players even had been called “Olympioniken des Geistes” (Olympic champions of the spirit).[55]


The organiser

The German Reich forced 1933 all chess federations in Germany to connect to the “Großdeutscher Schachbund GSB” (Greater German Chess Association) including the powerful German Chess Federation and the Workers Chess Clubs. This political move enabled the German Reich to exclude communists and ideologically more important also Jews, since chess sports had been dominated by Jewish players worldwide and therefore also in Germany. With the officially proclaimed goal of aryanisation the GSB even excluded so-called Quarter-Jews from their association even surpassing the laws of the German Reich. The level of solidarity to the German Reich got also its expression in the design of the logo for GSB with the usage of the swastika inside a chess field. Even the NSDAP could not accept such a symbol as the GSB had not been part of the party! The GSB wanted to be recognised as a loyal and politically opportunistic institution inside the machinery of the German Reich. Already in the dusk of the Chess Olympia 1936 the German Reich promoted chess as a sports to mentally prepare German soldiers to war. It even had been called “Wehrschach” (able-bodied chess) and should be absorbed by everybody. Chess Olympia 1936 in Munich was designed and organised as tool of maximum propaganda starting the day after the Olympic Games in Berlin 1936.[56]

During the time of the Chess Olympia in Munich a huge chess event had been organised in Nottingham with the attendance of some elite players. For England this had been reason enough not to send a team to Munich, the same had been done by the US. The strongest nation in Latin America, Argentine did not send a team either, even though the organisers in Munich would have paid the travel costs. The Netherlands did send a B-team on purpose and refused to report the Munich event in its official chess press. Even it is not possible to state an official boycott for Chess Olympia 1936, indirect boycotts are obvious and in reverse participating nations should be regarded as to be sympathetic to the German Reich.[57] The only team participating from outside of Europe had been Brazil!


The organisation

Munich was not only the location for the biggest Chess Olympia ever organised since then, even it had not been officially accredited by the World Chess Federation FIDE and therefore remained an unofficial chess Olympia. It also had seen the most expensive and representative promotional features with banners from participating nations and oversized knightheads in front of the trade hall at “Theresienwiese”, where the games took place.[58] The event took place inside the trade hall at, it had been extremely hot mid August 1936 and around 3000 spectators had been brought from all over Germany to watch the event. As part of the opening ceremony a life size chess game had been performed, banners of all participating nations had been carried along towards a swastika flag, that finally was surrounded by them. Such symbolic propaganda approaches had not been seen even in Berlin, following the official report![59]

Chess fitted perfectly to the ideology of the National Socialists and had been promoted as “Volksspiel” (game for the people). Already back in 1933 the educational purpose of chess already had been emphasized in setting the “Wehrschach” (able-bodied chess) in close relation to able-bodied sport.[60] The able-bodied chess should be absorbed by everybody and the Chess Olympia 1936 in Munich was designed and organised as tool of maximum propaganda starting the day after the Olympic Games in Berlin 1936.[61]


The Brazilian participation

A quick view to the list of participating nations creates astonishment. 21 mostly European nations took part with 208 players. Each team could nominate maximum 10 players. Brazil had been the only team outside of Europe to send chess players. As mentioned earlier big chess nations like USA, Argentine and England did not come to Munich and preferred to participate at the chess event organised the same time in Nottingham. They did not officially boycott the Chess Olympia 1936, but probably regarded their absence as convenient. Brazil on the contrary did not participate in any international FIDE chess event ever before and many years after Munich, USA, Argentine and England never missed any. One might ask here, why Brazil made so many efforts to take part. Could it be because of the strong political relations between the Getúlio Vargas regime and the German Reich? It should not be forgotten that the Vargas regime demonstrated open solidarity to NSDAP especially during the Olympic year 1936. Lucrative business relations bound the two regimes, vast groups of German expatriates in Brazil officially confessed to the ideology of the German Reich and strong relations between the secret services existed.[62]

Brazil did not only send a team with appropriate chess players to Chess Olympia 1936 Munich, it also took care to exclude those not opportune to the Vargas regime. In order to understand the situation of chess in Brazil and the organisations behind, it will be necessary to share a glimpse of Brazilian chess history.

The first internationally recognized and highly respected Brazilian chess player had been João Caldas Viana Neto, who was able to reach a draw against famous German Richard Teichmann in Rio de Janeiro 1905. Around two decades later the first national chess competition had been organised in Rio de Janeiro 1927 with the winner João Souza Mendes Júnior from the organising city Rio. He had been born on the Azores Islands, but became a nationalised Brazilian and one of the dominant chess players during the early decades of chess in Brazil. Another important personality in Brazilian chess was Walter Oswaldo Cruz, the son of the even more famous influential doctor and one the first medical scientists with international recognition, Oswaldo Cruz. The national championship of 1932 had been badly organised due to political changes – Getúlio Vargas pushed himself to power after a bloodless coup d’état in October 1930 and chess doyen João Caldas Viana Neto passed away one year later. The small and fragile Brazilian chess community found herself paralysed and only had been able to organise the championship with two inscribed participants. The young Orlando Roças Júnior managed the win.          The final of the 7th Brazilian Chess Championship started in September 1935 with the two finalists Tomás Pompeu Acioly Borges and Orlando Roças Júnior. The later had been part of the carioca bourgeoisie like most Brazilian chess players of that time. They cooperated or at least tolerated the nationalist regime of Getúlio Vargas, himself a Brazilian bourgeois empowered by clienteles of this type of society. Tomás Pompeu Acioly Borges on the contrary derived from a family from Fortaleza in Northern Brazil and had been an active supporter of the anti-fascist “Aliança Nacional Libertadora” (National Liberation Alliance). The games of the two adversaries ended in chaos with Orlando Roças Júnior not respecting the decisions of referees and even provoking arguments with the result of a change of the president of the “Federação Brasileira de Xadrez” (Brazilian Chess Federation). Nevertheless and finally Tomás Pompeu Acioly Borges had been declared winner.[63]

But the best Brazilian chess player at the eve of the Chess Olympia 1936 in Munich had not been nominated for this international event.[64] On the contrary, Tomás Pompeu Acioly Borges was imprisoned from March 1936 to June 1937 and later immigrated to Argentine. The rules for the Brazilian Chess Championship were changed and Borges could never again participate at those championships.


First publication of this paper:

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2010: Brazil goes Olympic, pp. 127-144.

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2016: Brazil, Berlin and Bavaria – back in 1936. In: JOH 2, 2016, pp. 24-27.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker


[1] This topic already had been mentioned at De Franceschi Neto-Wacker – Wacker 2010, p. 165 without further remarks due to a lack of primary sources.

[2] Despite the usual process to nominate cities, the IOC registered only candidate countries during its IOC Session from 21st to 27th April 1927 in Monaco.

[3] The same minutes mentioned by mistake, that the Olympic Games of 1936 will be the 50th anniversary of the beginning of modern Olympic Games. In fact the games commemorated 40 years since the first Olympics in 1896.

[4] The last research at the archives of IOC took place by the authors at 10th May 2016.

[5] This letter is stored together with all further communication regarding the other candidate cities mentioned in the minutes 1930 in one and the same folder at IOC archives.

[6] Regarding the two foundations of the Brazilian Olympic Committee see also De Franceschi Neto-Wacker – Wacker 2010, pp. 85-104.

[7] When we carried out our research for the book De Franceschi Neto-Wacker – Wacker 2010 this letter did not exist yet in the IOC archives (folder Brazil). Probably it had been relocated later.

[8] Lamartine Da Costa had been so kind to forward this article to us.

[9] It had been agreed with the IOC to call the Regional Games in Rio de Janeiro 1922 Regional Olympic Games. See also De Franceschi Neto-Wacker – Wacker 2010, pp. 152-160.

[10] The only exception might have been Adolpho Christiano Klingelhofer, a Brazilian national, who participated at the Olympic Games 1900 in Paris and had been wrongly considered French. The first official participation of a Brazilian team took place in 1920.

[11]OrganisING COMMITTEE FOR THE XI 1936 Berlin OLYMPICS e.V. (ED): Official Report, Berlin 1937 (Vol.2); Wacker, Christian: “Brazil and Berlin 1936. The Brazilian participation in the 1936 Olympic Summer Games in Berlin”, in: Lennartz, Karl & Wassong, Stephan & Zawadzki, Thomas (ED.): New Aspects of Sport History. The Olympic Lectures, Saint Augustine 2007, p. 228-233.

[12]Correio da Manhã(Rio de Janeiro) from 20.07.1936 and 01.08.1936.

[13] The Brazilian Foreign Ministry is accommodated in the In Itamaraty building in Brasília.

[14]OrganisING ComMitTEE: Official Report, p. 596-597.

[15]OrganisING ComMitTEE: Official Report, Photo 654; Cardoso, Maurício:, 100 anos de Olimpíadas de Atenas a Atlanta, São Paulo 1996, p. 103.

[16]Cardoso: 100 anos, p. 103.

[17]OrganisING ComMitTEE: Official Report, p. 388; Guedes, Claudia Maria & Zieff, Susan Gail & Negreiros, Plínio José Labriola: ”Clubes de imigrantes em São Paulo – SP“, in: Da Costa, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2005, p. 198. For yet a few more years and at the venerable age of over 90, shortly before her death, Maria Lenk crossed the bay surrounding the Sugarloaf in Rio de Janeiro. More information about Maria Lenk can be found earlier in the chapter.

[18] “I did not perform very well. Unfortunately I put on some weight due to the six meals a day, which they served on the ship, and I was not able to get past the semi-finals. But I took my place in history being the first woman to use the ‘butterfly’ stroke, which I read about in a German magazine.” Revista do conselho federal de Educação Física(Journal of the Federal Council of Physical Education) from 24th June 2007.

[19] “This time, they built a tank that served as a pool on deck so that we could train during the journey. As the tank was small and did not allow us more than two strokes, our technician, Carlito had a brilliant idea: He tied us to the side with a rope, so I could swim without moving forward. But the waves caused the ship to role so that I was thrown against the walls of the tank and much of the water was spilt. Training this way had been a real adventure.” Revista do conselho federal de Educação Física(Journal of the Federal Council of Physical Education) from 24th June 2007.

[20]OrganisING ComMitTEE: Official Report, p. 214.

[21] Bellers, Juergen(ED.): Die Olympiade Berlin 1936 im Spiegel der ausländischen Presse (The 1936 Berlin Olympics reflected in the foreign press). Muenster 1986, p. 127-129.

[22]De Franceschi Neto, Marcia: A participação do Brasil no movimento olímpico internacional no período de 1896 a 1925, (unpublished Doctorate Thesis) Rio de Janeiro 1999, p. 75.

[23]Bueno, Eduardo: Brasil: uma História, São Paulo 2003, p. 335. Osvaldo Aranha had massively offered his services to the National Socialists in Europe and also tried to approach Benito Mussolini, albeit unsuccessfully. Obviously, however, his commercial convictions took priority over political interests since, in 1937, Osvaldo Aranha convinced the Brazilian government to join the Pan-American Union under the leadership of the USA.

[24] More information about the founding of the first COB can be found in the chapter Brazilian Olympic Sports Politic.

[25] More information about the early history of the COB. De Franceschi Neto: A participação (1999) p. 103; Abreu, Neise & Hecksher, Raul & De Franceschi Neto, Marcia & Rajman, Bernard: „Comité Olímpico Brasileiro – COB”, in: Da Costa, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2005, p. 76-77.

[26]Cardoso: 100 anos, p. 103.

[27]Bueno: Brasil (2003) p. 327.

[28]Seitenfus, Ricardo Antônio: O Brasil de Getúlio Vargas e a formação dos blocos: 1930-1942, São Paulo 1985, p. 76-78.

[29]Katz, Friedrich: “Einige Grundzüge der Politik des deutschen Imperialismus in Lateinamerika“ (Some Main Features of the Politics of German Imperialism in Latin America), in: Sanke, Heinz (ED.), Der Deutsche Faschismus in Lateinamerika (German Fascism in Latin America), Berlin 1966, p. 21-23; Levine, Robert M.: The Vargas Regime, New York/London 1970, p. 25, 31; Seitenfus: Getúlio Vargas (1985) p. 76-81.

[30]“I want to establish a government authority, free of the burden of the so-called liberal democracy, which inspired the Constitution of 34. [...] In times of crisis like those we are going through, the democratic parties [...] undermine the hierarchy; endanger the unity of our fatherland and the existence of the nation.” Bueno: Brasil (2003) p. 334.

[31] Bueno: Brasil (2003) p. 335.

[32] Harms-Baltzer, Kaete: “Die Nationalisierung der deutschen Einwanderer und ihrer Nachkommen in Brasilien als Problem der deutsch-brasilianischen Beziehungen 1930-1938“ (The nationalisation of German immigrants and their descendants in Brazil as a problem of German–Brazilian relations 1930 –1938), in: Bock, Hans-Juergen(ED.): Bibliotheca Ibero-Americana, Bd. 14, Berlin 1970, p. 21ff. In article 150, letter d (p. 444) of the constitution of July 16th 1934 the following regulation, which became invalid in 1938, was also found. : “Ensino, nos estabelecimentos particulares, ministrado no idioma pátrio, salvo os de línguas estrangeira.“ (The lessons in the private establishments must be [held] in the mother tongue; excluded are those [establishments] with foreign languages).

[33]Levine: Vargas (1970) p. 27.

[34]Guedes & Zieff & Negreiros: „Clubes de imigrantes“, in: DACOSTA: Atlas do Brasil (2005) p. 197.

[35]Bueno: Brasil (2003) p. 336.

[36] Amongst the prominent victims are, inter alia, Erna Krueger, Olga Benario Prestes, and Elise Ewert. The number of unrecorded cases of victims abducted under Filinto Strubing Mueller may be a multiple of the 20,000 mentioned in the documents. Bueno: Brasil (2003) p. 336; Seitenfus, Getúlio Vargas (1985) p. 86ff.

[37]Levine: Vargas (1970) p. 26.

[38]Katz: “Imperialism” (1966) p. 22; Levine: Vargas (1970) p. 26f;Seitenfus: Getúlio Vargas (1985) p. 75.

[39]Bernett, Hajo: Der Weg des Sports in die NS-Diktatur (The development of sport under NS Dictatorship) 1983, p. 82f.

[40]Harms-Baltzer: Nationalisierung (Nationalisation) (1970) p. 34; Seitenfus: Getúlio Vargas (1985) p. 99;Artucio, Hugo Fernandez: The Nazi Underground in South America, New York 1942. A payment of 4 million Reich marks to German schools in Brazil is recorded.

[41] Bernett: NS Dictatorship (1983) p. 15-37.

[42] Harms-Baltzer: “Nationalisierung” (Nationalisation) (1970) p. 11ff.

[43]Levine: Vargas (1985) p. 20f.

[44]“Here we will create a new Germany. [...] Here we have everything we need. [...] By the way, we have a claim to this continent. The Fugger and Welser families have had relations here.” Rauschning, Hermann: “Gespräche mit Hitler” (Conversations with Hitler), Zuerich/New York 1947, p. 62f., p. 133f.

[45]Levine: Vargas (1970) p. 55f.

[46]Bueno: Brasil (2003) p. 332f; Seitenfus: Getúlio Vargas (1985) p. 86.

[47] In a more extensive study, the tasks of the two teams outside of sport could be examined. It has to be confirmed which athletes were sent from which sports clubs. A large number of hitherto not yet examined sources in the Itamaraty, at the CBD and the COB are expected to provide an interesting and surprising insight into the areas of conflict between sport and politics.

[48]KrUEger, Arnd & Murray, William (ED.): The Nazi Olympics. Sport, Politics and Appeasement in the 1930s, Urbana/Chicago 2003, p. 235f.

[49] Document in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty).

[50] Document in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty).

[51] Schach-Echo, Vol 5, Nr. 9,7, Sept. 1936, p. 212: “… dritte Großveranstaltung des olympischen Jahres…”.

[52]Tal, Mario: Bruderküsse und Freudentränen. Eine Kulturgeschichte der Schach-Olympiaden, 2008, p. 99.

[53] Due to the new ideological positioning of the “Großdeutscher Schachbund GSB” (Greater German Chess Association) the association decided already 1933 to step out of FIDE because of its national socialist ideology and its racist regulations especially against Jews. FIDE would never have had accepted these restrictions and the GSB simply acted before getting excluded by the World Chess federation. Therefore the Chess Olympia 1936 was organised without FIDE, even though FIDE did not boycott the event and left the decisions for participation to the member countries. See also Negele 2008, p. 22. Tal 2008, 103

[54] Tal 2008, p. 115.

[55]Richter, Kurt (Ed.): Schach-Olympia München 1936, Berlin – Leipzig, Vol. 1, 1936, pp. 29, 117.

[56]Negele, Michael: Propaganda auf 64 Feldern. Das Schach-Olympia München 1936. In: Karl, 3, 2008, pp. 20–26, p. 21. Tal 2008, pp. 92-95.

[57] Tal 2008, p. 103.

[58] Tal 2008, pp. 100-102, 115. Hungary won most medals and supported the GSB to return to FIDE in 1939.

[59] Richter Vol. 2, 1937, pp. 68-69. Munich as cultural centre of the German Reich had been the worthy location for an intellectual fight and an event to serve the peace, following the opening speech of the mayor of Munich, Karl Tempel. See also Richter Vol. 1, 1936, pp. 30-31.

[60] Post, Erhardt 1933: Erster Kongreß des Großdeutschen Schachbundes in Pyrmont, p. 9: “Neben dem Wehrsport, der der körperlichen Ertüchtigung dient, wollen wir zur geistigen Schulung und Erziehung das den ehrlichen Kampf darstellende Wehrspiel treten lassen, das uralte Schach.”

[61] Negele 2008, p. 21. Tal 2008, p. 95.

[62] De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia – Wacker, Christian 2011, Brazil goes Olympic, (2nd edition) pp. 134-144. Tal 2008, p. 105. Wacker, Christian 2007, Brasilien und Berlin. Die brasilianische Beteiligung an den olympischen Sommerspielen in Berlin 1936. In: ISHPES-Studies 13, 2, pp. 228-233.

[63] Costa.

[64] Nine Brazilian chess players participated at Chess Olympia 1936 in Munich: João Souza Mendes Júnior, Walter Oswaldo Cruz, Oswaldo Cruz Filho, Raul Herman Charlier, Ademar da Silva Rocha, Otávio Figueira Trompowsky, Cauby Pulcherio and Heitor Alberto Carlos. The ninth player is called J. Cruz in the official report Richter Vol. 1 1936, p. 33 and cannot be identified with certainty.

1936- Brazil and the Olympic Games in Berlin

1920-1932: Brazil at the early Olympic Games

08. February 2018

Today, the question “What motivates a nation to participate in the Olympic Games?” is seldom asked. After all, the Olympic Games are the greatest international sports competitions of all time and thus offer possibilities for national representation on the sporting world stage. Athletes voice their ‘dream’ of taking part in the Olympic Games, wherebytoday’s Olympic dreams span fromsocio-cultural exchange to financial incentives.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the prerequisites were different. Financial incentives were not on offer, since only amateurs were allowed to participate in the Olympic Games. In the age of ‘the Sport of Gentlemen’, athletes were usually expected to contribute towards the costs; e.g. to pay for travel and subsistence and to fund their loss of earnings. This was the more problematic for athletes from the Americas, since almost all events were staged in Europe. With no radio or TV at that time, the media was hardly able to raise the international standing and performances of an athlete.[1]

Not until the 20th century did Brazil very tentatively establish its international contacts in sport. The first exchanges between sports officials took place at the South American level in 1906, whilst athletes and teams followed with effect from 1913.[2] In the same year, Raul do RIO BRANCO became the first Brazilian IOC member, which only signalled the start of an approach to the Olympic Movement.[3] Also Pierre de COUBERTIN took the first steps in Europe to encourage the Latin American sports associations to adopt his ideas of Olympism and in 1917 he had a document on the subject published in Spanish.[4] Obviously, this was not enough to promote and expand the Olympic Games and Olympism in Latin American sports education long since accepted in Europe.[5] Brazilian athletes were unaware of Pierre de COUBERTIN’s ideals; neither did the Olympic Movement mean anything to them.[6] Brazilian athletes and sports officials saw their objectives as representing their nation abroad in a honourable manner and to promote international exchange. In this way, they conformed to the Olympic ideal of internationalism fairly well, without even realising it.

The Olympic ideals, which were known in the Europe of the 1920s, at least in the heartlands of Olympism, such as France, Hungary, Germany, England and Sweden, to name but a few, were as yet far from reaching Brazil.[7] However, not least thanks to the strong influence of the immigrants in the south of the country, the structures in Brazilian sport were nevertheless oriented towards Europe.[8] The amateur sport question, hotly debated in Europe and the United States, was addressed in Brazil in 1916 by the passage of an appropriate law.

„Art 1º – A Confederação considera amador todo aquelle que se dedicar aos desportos tendo em vista a sua educação physica e não lucros directos ou indirectos.

Art 2º – A Confederação não considera amadores:

–os que obtenham do exercício de qualquer desporto proveitos pecuniarios;

–os que tenham, no respectivo desporto, vantagens sobre os demais, pelo exercício de profissão que sirva de preparo physico a esse desporto;

–os expulsos ou eliminados de qualquer sociedade confederada por indisciplina em qulaquer acção ou acto delictuoso;

–os analphabetos.”[9]

Although the amateur ideal was one of the Olympic principles, it had its origins long before in English sport and the introduction of the Brazilian amateur law must also be viewed completely independently of the Olympic Movement. Ideas of ‘the Sport of Gentlemen’ did not arrive in Brazil until the spread of European sport at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.[10]

It’s a fact that Brazil’s participation in the Olympic Games had no influence on the politics of sport in the country, neither in the field of democratisation nor in sport education. Pierre de COUBERTIN’s educational and philosophical ideas hadn’t reached Brazil; interest in Internationalism and the amateur ideal had been motivated independently of Olympism.

In 1920, Brazil participated for the first time in the Olympic Games with a small team, which was not organised in a national context, neither did it have any national objective in Antwerp. The Brazilian athletes didn’t know international rules nor did they have the appropriate sportswear common in Europe. The swimmers violated the accepted competition rules, the water-polo players couldn’t stand the cold water, the oarsmen turned up with obsolete boats and the marksmen borrowed revolvers and ammunition from the US American team. Brazilian participation in the 1924 Paris games was characterised by improvisation, since neither the Brazilian government nor the Comitê Brasileiro de Desportos CBD had sent athletes. Sports enthusiasts, with appropriate private initiative, ensured that Brazilians were at least present.

Due to the Brazilian economic crisis, no team was sent to Amsterdam in 1928. The lack of control of economic policy and badly organised coffee plantations led with effect from 1920 to a massive increase in the coffee yield and, consequently, to a collapse in international market prices. Export product number one lost in value. At the same time, the quality of the coffee suffered due to the addition of grit, sand and other additives in an effort to increase profits. In 1927, 84% of the coffee sold worldwide came from Brazil; thus, the collapsing price hit Brazil correspondingly hard. In 1929, even large parts of the harvests were destroyed, which, however, could no longer avoid an economic crisis. The situation then deteriorated.[11]

Not until 1932, was Brazil in a position to send again a team to Olympic Games. Although the participants were selected centrally, only 82 of the 375 passengers embarking for Los Angeles were athletes. The Brazilian swimmer Maria LENK became the first South-American woman to compete in the Olympic Games. Due to political sporting conflicts in the country, even two Brazilian teams travelled to the widespread and internationally organised 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. The dictatorships in both Brazil and the German Reich had searched for and found their mutual soul mates.


Antwerp 1920: the first Olympic Medals

Brazilianathletes competed at the modern Olympic Games for the first time during the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, where they achieved respectable results. The marksmen were particularly successful, winning Brazil’s first ever gold medal.[12] The Brazilian team was selected and managed by the CBD, generously supported by the activities of the Comitê Olímpico Nacional CON. To ensure adequate financing of the participation, the CON President, Senator Fernando Mendes de Almeida called on the support of the Congress; however, he only succeeded in extracting a promise of 50% of the costs. Nevertheless, the Brazilian team set off for Antwerp on July 3rd 1920, which was reported in the Jornal do Brasil on the day as follows:

„Após uma série de alternativas prós e contra, segue finalmente para a Europa com destino a Antuérpia, a embaixada sportiva brasileira, que vae tomar parte em várias provas das Olympiadas a serem realizadas naquella cidade. Motivos imperiosos obrigaram a Confederação Brasileira de Desportos a retirar da embaixada a delegação de football, com grande pesar daquelles que confiavam no valor e na efficiencia technica do quadro brasileiro…“.[13]

The Brazilian army vessel Curvello carried the chosen athletes, who were, of course, accompanied by the entire Rio de Janeiro sporting press to Europe, as the Jornal do Brasil sardonically reported on July 4th 1920. A document signed by the delegates was presented to the President of the CBD in advance, which emphasized the extreme national importance of the mission:

„Nós, abaixo assignados, membros da delegação desportiva brasileira aos Jogos Olympicos de Antuerpia, animados no mais acrisolado patriotismo, sujeitamo-nos a embarcar no ‘Curvello’ em quaesquer condições, lamentando apenas que tão pequeno seja o sacrifício de nós exigido.”[14]

21 athletes, who participated in the swimming, water polo, high diving, rowing and shooting disciplines, were sent to Antwerp. Adolpho Wellisch who was living in Paris joined the team in Europe. The CBD Secretary General, Roberto Trompowsky junior was appointed leader of this mission and was accompanied by Ferreira Santos, the President of the Associação Paulista de sports Athleticos, as Secretary. As the vessel wouldn’t have been able to reach the competition venue in time, the marksmen, whose discipline was scheduled to be first, left the Curvello in Lisbon and travelled the rest of the journey by train. Despite poor accommodation and inadequate training facilities, which were blamed on insufficient time for preparations by the organisers and the aftermath of the First World War, the performances of the marksmen were rewarded with one gold, one silver and one bronze medal. Guilherme PARAENSE won the gold, Afrânio COSTA the silver and the marksman team of Afrânio COSTA, Guilherme PARAENSE, Dario BARBOSA, Fernando SOLEDADE und Sebastião WOLF the bronze medal.[15] Delighted with the result, Roberto Trompowsky junior sent the following telegram to the President of the Republic:

„Delegação Tiro Brasileiro acaba honrar Pátria Brasileira Brasil campeão mundial revólver Enthusiasticas e respeitosas saudações.”[16]

On August 14th 1920, the opening ceremony took place with the entry of the nations, on which the Jornal do Brasil also reported:

„O Tenente Paraense, campeão mundial de revólver, vinha á frente do team brasileiro, trazendo a bandeira do seu país e tendo como guardas de honra Demerval e Maurity. O Dr.Afrânio da Costa trazia um escudo onde estava gravado o nome do Brasil.”[17]

In Brazil, they hoped for success by the water-polo players, who, unfortunately, disappointed, as did the athletes in the other disciplines.[18] Nevertheless, one could be happy, as Roberto Trompowsky junior summarised as follows:

„A estréia dos desportistas nacionaes naquelles Jogos, em que se defrontam os mais cultos e valorosos expoentes da cultura desportiva do mundo, foi mais que auspiciosa, gloriosa(…) Em todas as diversas pugnas em que tomaram parte, os elementos nacionaes se destacaram, revelando ao mundo, como que numa aurora esplendente, o surto glorioso de uma nova raça, forte, audaz, grande e viril.”[19]

On August 27th 1920, Roberto Trompowsky junior hosted a banquet in honour of Pierre de Coubertin and Elwood S. Brown, during which the IOC officially promised to support the 1922 Games in Rio de Janeiro. The games were staged as part of the celebrations on the occasion of the centenary of Brazilian independence and, with the consent of the IOC, they were allowed to be classified as ‘Olympic’.[20]


Paris 1924: Brazilian Improvisation

The participation of a Brazilian team in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games was, for a long time, controversial and provided a further example of sport-political improvisation. The government offered a sum of 350 Contos de réis (the Brazilian currency at that time) to cover the costs of the athletes’ participation Disputes between the Comitê Brasileiro de Desportos CBD and the government, however, led to the latter withdrawing registration for the games.

„Através de muitas dificuldades e tropeços foi conseguida a inclusão no orçamento de uma autorização até 350:000$000 de auxilio á C.B.D. para comparecimento do desporto brasileiro á VIII Olympiada, que se inicia presentemente em Paris. Reconhecida a difficuldade de obter o auxilio pretendido, necessario se tornou limitar as pretenções desta entidade á participação em tiro, remo, football e water polo, incontestavelmente os desportos em que se apresenta mais provavel o exito dos amadores brasileiros.”[21]

As a result of this decision, Antônio PRADO JUNIOR initiated a campaign, starting in São Paulo, to also include track and field athletics in the Brazilian delegation. This led to considerable resentment by the CBD, and it was only after long discussions and arguments that the CBD agreed.[22] The recently founded track and field athletics association in São Paulo, the Federação Paulista, was tasked with team selection, however, it wouldn’t be possible to take advantage of the financial support from the government fund. Thus, Antônio PRADO JUNIOR together with Américo NETTO, the sports director of the O Estado de São Paulo magazine, launched a campaign for donations to which he also personally contributed a considerable sum to secure the costs of participation.[23] In the meantime, however, due to disagreement between the CBD and the Federação Paulista, the government had completely withdrawn its support, thus forcing the CBD to cancel registration. Once more, Antônio PRADO junior’s involvement paid off: With the support of the Brazilian member José FERREIRA DOS SANTOS, he persuaded the IOC to withdraw cancellation of the registration.[24]

The IOC agreed and, at the end of May 1924, the Brazilian team left for Europe under the leadership of Américo NETTO, who was accompanied by Alberto J. BYINGTON as secretary and A. J. HOGARTY as technical assistant. Twelve athletes took part in the games for Brazil, whilst Alberto J. BYINGTON played a dual role as secretary and athlete. The track and field athletes Alfredo GOMES, Narciso VALADARES, Guilherme ‘Willy’ SEEWALD, Álvaro de OLIVEIRA RIBEIRO, Alberto J. BYINGTON, Eurico TEIXEIRA DE FREITAS, Octavio ZANI and José GALIMBERTI failed to achieve significant success. The oarsmen Carlos and Edmundo CASTELLO BRANCO took the fourth, (i.e. last) place in the ‘Double Sculls’, another oarsman Henrique CARUSO didn’t even participate in the events. José MACEDO competed as a marksman.[25] For the first time, a Brazilian took part in the art competitions, organised since 1912 within the framework of the Olympic Games. L. Alvar da SILVA competed in the ‘Literature’ category and reached the finals.[26]


Los Angeles 1932: the First Brazilian Female Participant[27]

In the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Brazil participated with 67 athletes, in the same disciplines as known from previous games, i.e. swimming, track and field athletics, high diving, water polo, and rowing,[28] Maria Emma Hulda LENK was the only female member of the team destined to make history as the first South-American female participant in the Olympic Games. She was born in 1915 in São Paulo, the daughter of German immigrants, who had emigrated to Brazil only three years previously.[29]

Maria LENK was not only the first female Brazilian in the Olympic Games, she was also the first woman ever to use the ‘Butterfly’ technique in 1936 and, in 1939, she broke the world records in the 200 and 400 meters breast-stroke.[30] Like many other athletes of that time, she suffered from the outbreak of the Second World War, which put a stop to the Olympic Games until 1948. Maria LENK reached the peak of her sporting performance precisely during these intervening years and was thus deprived of the chance to crown her achievements with an Olympic medal. She was the first female member of the Conselho Nacional de Esporte CND (National Council of Sport) and, in 1942, became a professor at the Universidade do Brasil.[31] Preoccupied with the ideal of amateurism, she always was at odds with professionalism. Thus, she gave up her chair and contented herself with being just a researcher and even well into the 1940s she had qualms about publishing her own books.

“Escrevi vários livros. Eles de maneira geral tratam da natação em si. O primeiro foi o livro chamado ‘Natação’, em 1942, e curiosamente eu só pude publicar depois de me retirar da competição. Porque naquela época as leis do amadorismo eram tão rigorosas que escrevendo um livro o atleta se tornaria profissional.”[32]

In 1988, Maria LENK was called to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.[33] Following her death in 2007, the National Brazilian Swimming Trophy was renamed the Troféu Maria Lenk.[34]

The participation of Maria LENK in the 1932 Olympic Games marked a turning point in Brazilian’s sporting history. This was only possible because she was the daughter of German immigrants, who had brought the associated sporting traditions from Europe. At the early age of 10, she went swimming in the Rio Tietê (River Tietê) in São Paulo with her father, who wanted to strengthen his daughter’s lungs after pneumonia.[35]

“(…) o meu pai me levou para o rio Tietê, para me ensinar a nadar, porque na época não havia piscinas. (…) naturalmente meu pai me ensinando a nadar era uma coisa fora do comum, mas isso não quer dizer que chamava a atenção das pessoas.”[36]

Women played no part in the early years of Brazilian sport. It was not until more and more European immigrants arrived in Brazil that their sporting traditions were progressively imported. One of the first female protagonists was Blanche PIRONNET arriving from Belgium in 1912, who, in 1919, was already participating in a swimming competition in the river Tietê organised by the Italian Club Espéria.[37] This, however, was to remain an exception in a male-dominated world of sports, which excluded women’s participation until tentatively admitting them from the 1930s. Bertha LUZ of Swiss-English descent was at that time one of the pioneers of women’s emancipation in Brazil.[38]

In 1932, provided their husbands agreed, for the first time, married women were allowed to vote. Two years later, women’s suffrage was improved and since 1946 it is in line with that of men.[39] In this general political climate, the CBD was also obliged to organise competitions for women, particularly with respect to the forthcoming Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Only Maria LENK, supported by both the Rio de Janeiro and the São Paulo press, qualified. It is said that even the then president Getúlio VARGAS had publicly shown interest in the participation of the young swimmer in the Olympic Games.[40] This, however, strongly contravened a law that the very same Getúlio VARGAS had signed off, thus exposing his politics characterised by populism and inconsistency.

„Capítulo IX: Art.54 – Às mulheres não se permitirá a prática de desportos incompatíveis com as condições de sua natureza, devendo, para este efeito, o Conselho Nacional de Desportos baixar as necessárias instruções às entidades desportivas do país.“[41]

The conservative attitude of the government and the CBD was in sharp contrast to the efforts in sports education, for which the Brazilian reform educationalist, Fernando AZEVEDO can be mentioned as a representative. He regarded sport education as a part of education in general and wanted girls also to participate in physical education. However, the exercises should match their gracile persona, beauty and aesthetics. Too much physical exercise and energy should be avoided, in order not to endanger the role of the women-to-be from a reproduction point of view.[42]

Without doubt, Maria LENK was a pioneer of women’s sport in Brazil and must have made a striking impression during her training sessions in Amparo close to São Paulo. It was not even possible to convince the conservative families in the hinterland that their daughters should be allowed to wear swimming costumes. The consequence for Maria LENK was excommunication by the local bishop.[43]

Against the background of this political climate, the 17-year old Maria LENK, together with her father and the Brazilian Olympic team, boarded the freighter Itaquicê, which set sail for Los Angeles. Due to the ongoing economic crisis in the country, it was not possible for financial reasons to send a team to the 1932 Olympic Games, so once again they had to improvise. By sending a Brazilian team, the President of the Republic Getúlio VARGAS saw a welcome opportunity to promote Brazil and presumably also himself abroad and arranged the freighter for the passage.[44] Apart from the athletes, 55.000 bags of coffee were loaded, which during the journey to Los Angeles were to be sold in various ports en route. The proceeds were used to cover the passages for just 45 athletes; the others had to pay for themselves.[45]

Several anecdotes confirm that Brazilian participation in the 1932 Olympic Games became an adventure for many of the participants. It is said that the athlete Adalberto CARDOSO, for example, couldn’t afford to participate, so he disembarked in San Francisco, where buyers for coffee were sought. He then made his way across country to Los Angeles, primarily by hitch-hiking, and reached the stadium minutes before the start of the 10,000-metre race. Although he finished last, he was cheered by the spectators for his tenacity and his recent adventures. During the passage, the freighter Itaquicê had already encountered several difficulties, among others, when passing through the Panama Canal. Since the transit charges for freighters were significantly higher than for warships, without further ado two cannons were mounted on deck. Of course, this deception was soon exposed, but the charges for the athletes were waived when the true mission of the freighter came to light. Participation itself also caused problems, since most of the Brazilian athletes were unfamiliar with international rules. In the water polo match against Germany, for example, the Hungarian referee was so rudely attacked by the Brazilian team that it was disqualified and the CBD was banned indefinitely from international competitions. A long list of curious anecdotes could be told here, which illustrate Brazilian efforts to meet international standards.[46]

From a sporting point of view, the 1932 Olympic Games were not crowned with great success either. Only the rowing results were outstanding, with a fourth and fifth place. The pole-vaulter Lúcio ALMEIDA DE CASTRO took the sixth and Clóvis DE FIGUEIREDO RAPOSO the eighth place. For Maria LENK, and thus Brazilian women’s sport, participation was a complete success, as she swam for the first time in an international competition and learned techniques and training methods hitherto unknown to her. Furthermore, an awareness in the CBD was established, which finally led to six Brazilian women participating in the 1936 Berlin Games.[47]

Even the Brazilian team’s homecoming was characterised by problems, as during their absence the Revolução Constitucionalista (constitutional revolution) took place in São Paulo. São Paulo rebelled against the government of Getúlio VARGAS, the impact of which was felt by the city’s 32 returning athletes. On reaching Rio de Janeiro, they discovered that the direct land route to São Paulo was blocked. Again, they signed on aboard a freighter, which carried them to Ilhabela on the coast of the Federal State of São Paulo. From there, they continued their journey in small boats along the São Sebastião canal, then on foot through the mountains, hitch-hiking to Caçapava and finally by train to the metropolis.[48]

The Odyssey of participation in the Los Angeles Olympic Games thus finally came to an end. Despite the adventures, which had to be overcome, despite the financial hardships and despite the arduous journey, Brazil nevertheless managed in 1932 for the first time to assemble a team under the umbrella of the CBD. The era of athlete freelancing became a thing of the past!

First publication of this paper:

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2010: Brazil goes Olympic, pp. 105-126.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker


[1]POZZI, Luis & RIBEIRO, Carlos Henrique: „Esporte e Mídia“ (“Sports and the Media”), in: DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2005 (Atlas of Sports in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 2005), p. 722 to 724.

[2] TROMPOWSKY, Roberto: „Desporto“ (“Sports”), in: Diccionario Historico, Geographico e Ethnographico do Brasil, commemorativo do primeiro centenário da Independéncia Vol. I, Rio de Janeiro 1922. (Historical, Geographical & Ethnological Dictionary of Brazil commemorating the first centennial of independence Vol. 1. Rio de Janeiro 1922)

[3] See also hereto the chapter The Brazilian Road to Olympic Games. Raul do Rio Branco: the first Brazilian IOC Member.

[4] The Manuscript „Qué es el Olimismo?“ (“What is Olympism?”) is explained in more detail in chapter Jogos Regionais in Rio de Janeiro 1922. For a definition of Olympism see AIGNER, Heribert: „Olympismus“, in: GRUPPE, Ommo & MIETH, Dietmar (ED.): Lexikon der Ethik im Sport (Lexicon of Ethics in Sport), Schorndorf 1998, p. 395 to 401.

[5] NAUL, Roland: Olympic Education, Oxford 2008, p. 43 to 48.

[6] The subject of Olympic Education was more seriously discussed in Brazil with effect from 1990 thanks to the initiative of Lamartine Da Costas. The journalist and teacher Américo NETTO was the first to deal with Olympic values in: Jogos Olímpicos de hontem, de hoje e amanhan (1937) (Olympic Games, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow). TAVARES, Otávio & BELÉM, Cristiano & GODOY, Letícia & TURINI, Marcio & GOMEZ, Marta & TODT, Nelson: „Estudos Olímpicos – Academia Olímpica Brasileira – Educação Olímpica“ (“Olympic Studies – Brazilian Olympic Academy – Olympic Education”) , in: DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2005, (Atlas of Sports in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 2005)p. 751 to 753.

[7] TAVARES et. al.: „Estudos Olímpicos“ (“Olympic Studies”)(2005), p. 751-753.

[8] AZEVEDO, Fernando de: A evolução do Esporte no Brasil (The Evolution of Sport in Brazil), São Paulo 1930; SEYFERTH, Giralda: Imigração e Cultura no Brasil (Immigration & Culture in Brazil), Brasília 1990; TESCHE, Leomar: “Cluster esportivo do Rio Grande do Sul – Clubes Turnen“ (“Rio Grande do Sul Sports Group, Club Competitions”) in: DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2005 (Atlas of Sports in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 2005) , p. 47.

[9] “Art 1 – The Confederation considers everyone an amateur, who engages in sports with a view to its physical education and without profit either direct or indirect.

Art 2 – The Confederation does not consider amateurs:

those who receive financial gain from engaging in any sport;

those who take advantages of others through their sports by engaging in a profession that provides for physical preparation of these sports;

those who have been expelled or excluded from any confederated society for disruptive behaviour in any action or criminal act;

those who are illiterates.”

De Franceschi Neto, Marcia: A participação do Brasil no movimento olímpico internacional no período de 1896 a 1925 (Brazil’s Participation in the Olympic Movement during the Period 1896 to 1925), (unpublished Doctoral Thesis) Rio de Janeiro 1999, p.91 to 98.

[10] SALLES, José Geraldo do Carmo & SOARES, Antônio Jorge G.: “Evolução da concepção do amadorismo no Movimento Olímpico Intenacional: Uma aproximação conceitual” (“Evolution of the Concept of Amateurism in the International Olympic Movement: A Conceptual Approach”), in: TURINI, Marcio & DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Coletânea de textos em Estudos Olímpicos (Collection of Texts on Olympic Studies), Rio de Janeiro 2002, p. 851 to 867.

[11] FURTADO, Celso: Formação Econômica do Brazil (Economic Formation of Brazil), São Paulo 2007.

[12] This medal is kept in the well-ordered Centro de Memória do Esporte in Porto Alegre.

[13] “After a series of alternative pros and cons, the Brazilian sporting delegation which is going to take part in various Olympic events to be held in that city, finally left for Europe, destination Antwerp. Compelling reasons forced the Brazilian Sports Confederation to withdraw the football delegation; this was done with great regret as much trust had been placed in the value and technical efficiency of the Brazilian team …”. Jornal do Brasil of 3rd July 1920, p.10.

[14] “We, the assigned, members of the Brazilian sports delegation to the Olympic Games in Antwerp, are bursting with ardent patriotism and are embarking on the ‘Curvello’ in adequate conditions. We only regret that the sacrifice required from us is so little.” Protocols of the CBD 1920/1921, p.36.

[15] CARDOSO, Mauricio: 100 anos de Olimpíadas – de Atenas a Atlanta (100 Years of Olympics – from Athens to Atlanta), São Paulo 1996, p. 59.

[16] “The Brazilian shooting delegation has earned honour for the Brazilian homeland of Brazil being the world individual military revolver marksmanship champion. Enthusiastic and respectful greetings.” Telegram from 5th August 1920, quoted in the Jornal do Brasil, p. 10.

[17] “Lieutenant Paraense, the world individual military revolver marksmanship champion, marched ahead of the Brazilian team, carrying the flag of his country flanked by the guards of honour Demerval and Maurity. Dr. Afrânio da Costa brought a shield engraved with the name Brazil.” Jornal do Brasil of 16th August 1920, p. 9.

[18] The following athletes took part in the rowing event: Guilherme LORENA, João DÓRIA, Alcides VIEIRA, Abrahão SOLITURE and Ernesto FILHO. High diving: Adolpho WELLISCH. Swimming: Ângelo GAMMARO and Orlando AMENDOLA. Water polo: Ângelo GAMMARO, Orlando AMENDOLA, João DÓRIA, Alcides VIEIRA, Abrahão SOLITURE, Agostinho de SÁ and Vitorino FERNANDES.

[19] “The premiere of the national sportsmen in those games, facing the most experienced and courageous exponents of sports culture in the world, was more than auspicious, it was glorious (…) The national elements stood amongst all the various competitors who took part, heralding the dawn of a new bright world, the glorious emergence of a new strong, brave, tall and masculine breed.” TROMPOWSKY Jr., Roberto: “Desportos“, in: Diccionario Historico, Geographico e Ethnographico do Brasil (Commemorativo do primeiro centenário da Independência, Vol. I), Rio de Janeiro 1922, p. 414.

[20] Protocols of the CBD 1920/1921.

[21] “Despite many difficulties and stumbling blocks, the inclusion of the authorised budget of 350:000$000 was achieved to support the CBD Brazilian sport participation at the VIII Olympiad, which starts soon at Paris. The difficulty in obtaining the desired assistance was recognised and it became necessary to limit the team to participation in shooting, rowing, football and water polo, undoubtedly disciplines in which Brazilian amateurs are most likely to succeed.” CBD Files from the period between 1922 and 1926.

[22] CARDOSO, Mauricio: 100 anos de Olimpíadas – de Atenas a Atlanta (100 Years of Olympics – from Athens to Atlanta), São Paulo 1996, p. 66.

[23] TAVARES et. al.: „Estudos Olímpicos“ (“Olympic Studies”)(2005), p. 751-753.

[24] CARDOSO: 100 anos (100 Years) (1996), p. 66.


[26] COMITÉ OLYMPIQUE FRANÇAIS (ED.): Les Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade. Rapport Officiel (The Games of the 8th Olympiad – Official Report), Paris 1924, p. 607.

[27] “This chapter is dedicated to Maria LENK, who made women’s sport socially acceptable in Brazil. She spent her entire life constantly striving to preserve the history of Brazilian sport and always co-operated openly and unreservedly where her memories were concerned.”

[28] The Brazilian team comprised 87 persons of whom, however, only 62 participated in competitions. In addition, with 273 individuals a scandalous number of sporting officials travelled to Los Angeles, a fact that failed to pass without comment in the contemporary press. Contradictory information on the numbers of participants can be found In the Olympic Games statistics, therefore, data was taken from the official website of the Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro

[29] After her marriage, she took the official name Maria Emma Hulda LENK ZIGLER, although all her life she competed as Maria LENK. She died in 2007, after a respiratory arrest in a swimming pool of the Clube Flamengo, whilst engaging in her favourite activity – swimming.

[30] VALPORTO, Oscar: Atleta, substantivo feminino – vinte mulheres brasileiras nos Jogos Olímpicos, (Athlete, feminine noun – 20 Brazilian Women at the Olympic Games) Rio de Janeiro 2006, p. 26, 28.

[31] Today the University bears the name Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). Although, a few physical education courses already existed at that time, the Universidade do Brasil was the first university to include the subject in its curriculum in 1939.

[32] “I have written several books. They generally deal with swimming itself. I wrote the first, entitled ‘Swimming’, in 1942, and, curiously enough, I could only publish it after retiring from competition. Because, at that time, the laws of amateurism were so strict that one became a professional by writing a book.” This quotation is taken from an interview, which Maria de LOURDES MICALDAS had published on 27th February on the website. I, Marcia DE FRANCESCHI NETO-WACKER, would like to confirm this statement. I have spoken at length to Maria Lenk several times as we both frequented the same beach at Forte São João, Urca.


[34] The renaming was not approved by the FINA Swimming Association, as it was implemented by the COB and not by the CBD. Further details can be found in the chapter Brazilian Olympic Sports Politics.

[35] VALPORTO: Atleta (The Athlete) (2006), p. 21 to 29. Revista do conselho federal de Educação Física (Journal of the Federal Council of Physical Education) 24th June 2007.

[36] “(…) My father took me to the river Tietê to teach me to swim, because at that time there were no swimming pools. (…) of course, for my dad, teaching me to swim was something extraordinary, but that does not mean that it attracted attention.” This quotation is taken from an interview that Maria de LOURDES MICALDAS published on 27th February 2002 on the website.

[37] MOURÃO, Ludmila & VOTRE, Sebastião: „Esporte e Inclusão Social“ (“Sports and Social Inclusion”), in: DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte do Brasil (Atlas of Sports in Brazil), Rio de Janeiro 2005, p. 613.

[38] SOIBET, Rachel: O feminismo tático de Bertha Lutz (Bertha Lutz’s Tactical Feminism), Santa Cruz do Sul 2006.

[39] Women’s suffrage has existed for 76 years. More information may be found in a report dated 28th February 2008 at Discussions on votes for women were already initiated much earlier by Cesar ZAMA, an intellectual and doctor, in the Federal State of Bahia. He had already demanded such rights for women prior to the second Brazilian constitution in 1890. This initiative was supported by Rui BARBOSA (author, politician and co-founder of the Academia Brasileira de Letras [Brazilian Academy of Letters] and Minister of Agriculture), Nilo PEÇANHA (to this day, the only coloured Brazilian President, 1909 to 1910), Epitaçio PESSOA (Brazilian President from 1919 to 1922) and Barão do RIO BRANCO (Father of the first Brazilian IOC member Raul do RIO BRANCO). The time was not yet ripe, so the proposal was rejected. Rio Grande do Norte RN was thanks to the involvement of the feminists Celina GUIMARÃES and Alzira SORIANO 1927 the first Brazilian Federal State to introduce votes for women in 1927.

[40] VALPORTO: Atleta (The Athlete) (2006), p. 21.

[41] “Chapter IX: Art. 54 – Women will not be allowed to practice sports by incompatibility with their nature and in consequence, the National Council of Sports has to forward the necessary instructions to the sports bodies of this country.” (Law No. 3199 dated 14.04.1941) MOREL, Marcia & SALLES, José Geraldo do C.: “Women’s Football”, in: DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte do Brasil (Atlas of Sports in Brazil), Rio de Janeiro 2005, p. 263.

[42] AZEVEDO, Fernando: Da educação física: o que ela é, o que tem sido e o que deveria ser (Physical Education, What it is, what it has been and what it should be), São Paulo 1920.

[43] Revista do conselho federal de Educação Física (Journal of the Federal Council of Physical Education) from 24th June 2007.

[44] Probably, Getúlio VARGAS also had used Maria LENK’s popularity for his own ends as the photo of the two taken on the freighter suggests. DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Esporte do Brasil (Atlas of Sports in Brazil), Rio de Janeiro 2005, p. 888.

[45] PAIOLI, Caetano Carlos: Brasil Olímpico (Olympic Brazil), São Paulo 1985.

[46] FREITAS, Armando & BARRETO, Marcelo: Almanaque Olimpico Sport TV (Olympic Sports TV Almanac), Rio de Janeiro 2008; PAIOLI: Brasil Olímpico (Olympic Brazil) (1985); RUBIO, Kátia: Medalhistas Olímpicos Brasileiros. Memórias, histórias e imaginário (Brazilian Olympic Medalists, Memories, Anecdotes and Imaginary), São Paulo 2006.

[47] The following colleagues in Brazil are dealing with women’s sport: Ludmila MOURÃO, Sebastião VOTRE, Fabiano PRIES DEVIDE, Ana MIRAGAYA, Silvana GOELLNER etc.

[48] CARDOSO: 100 anos (100 Years) (1996), 84-85.

1920-1932- Brazil at the early Olympic Games

1922: Jogos Regionais in Rio de Janeiro

24. January 2018

As early as the formative years of the Olympic Movement, Pierre de Coubertin sought to include Latin America, Africa and Asia. Indeed, these efforts may be regarded as exceptional compared with those of other international institutions of the early 20th Century[1] However, international integration didn’t start to develop, albeit tentatively and noticeably, until after the end of the Second World War. As far as Latin America was concerned, Pierre de Coubertin was able to count on his companion Elwood S. Brown, the North American Director of the International Committee of the YMCA, who lent massive support to the desire to stage the Olympic Games in Latin America.[2] The manuscript “Que es el Olimpismo?” published in Spanish in 1917 served to support this aspiration. Pierre de Coubertin wrote in this booklet translated by Pedro-Jaime Matheu:

„A la intrépida juventud de la América Latina dedico estas páginas, escritas para ella con el objeto de incítala a prepararse, por una cultura muscular continuada y tenaz, al futuro esplendor de esas regiones privilegiada.” (Paris, December 1917, no page number).[3]

Continent 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940
Africa - 01 02 01 02
America 04 04 07 17 14
Asia - 01 03 04 07
Europe 21 32 28 42 39
Oceania 01 01 02 02 02
TOTAL 26 39 42 66 64


Tab. 1: Members of the IOC by continent


Although interest was expressed in enlarging the Olympic Movement’s sphere of activity, it was not yet possible to speak of an all-embracing international movement during the first two decades of the 20th century (Tab 1).[4] The officials stemmed mostly from Pierre de Coubertin’s personal environment, from diplomatic circles predominantly active in Europe or they were simply cosmopolitans (Tab. 2).[5] Before the 1920 Olympic Games only five Latin American countries had participated. The South American athletes also knew Europe well or, like Luis Subercaseaux, the Chilean participant in the 1896 Olympics, even lived there. At the time of the games, he was working in the Chilean embassy in Athens. That the 1904 games took place on the American continent didn’t change the fact that Latin American interest in the Olympic Movement had not yet been awakened.

Name Country Member
José Benjamin Zubiaur ARG 1894-1907
Carlos F. de Candamo PER 1905-1922
Manuel Quintana ARG 1907-1910
Oscar N. Garcia CHI 1911-1914
Raul do Rio Branco BRA 1913-1938
Carlos Silva-Vildosola CHI 1919-1921
Francisco Ghigliani URU 1921-1936
Marcelo T. de Alvear ARG 1921-1932
Jorge Matte-Gormaz CHI 1923-1939
Alfredo Benavides PER 1923-1957
Arnaldo Guinle BRA 1923-1961
José Ferreira dos Santos BRA 1923-1962
Ricardo C. Aldao ARG 1923-1949


Tab. 2: IOC members from South America (entry before 1925)


Year Country


1920 Brasil 03
1924 Argentina / Uruguay 06 / 01


Tab. 3: Medals for South American countries 1896 to 1924


Between 1896 and 1922, it was only thanks to the dedication of idealistic athletes and various individuals that Latin-American countries participated in the Olympic Games at all. The medal tables of those years support this (Tab. 3).[6] Furthermore, in his article, Wolf Kraemer-Mandeau confirmed that the majority of the Latin American IOC members were living in Europe and were committed to the Olympic Movement for purely idealistic reasons. Without exception, they were members of the upper class and had little or no contact to sport in their countries of origin. The affiliation of its members to the Bourgeoisie, meanwhile, is a phenomenon dating back to the early IOC organisation, which is not restricted to Latin America (Tab. 4).[7]

Origin 1896-1920 1921-1939
Royalty 6 5
Nobility 35 18
PresidentMinisterAmbassadorMember of the parliament 1131 -5112
Businessmen 11 20
Intellectuals 26 22
Army members 11 8
Sportsmen 2 -
TOTAL 97 91

Tab. 4: Origin of the IOC members


In 1940, Avery Brundage travelled throughout South America and according to his own account he covered a distance of 20,000 miles. In his correspondence with the then IOC President Henri de Baillet-Latour he reported on the status of sport describing major progress in the field of amateur sport. He touched on several problems, some of which seemed difficult to solve, but he also offered a number of proposed solutions. In his reply Henri de Baillet-Latour didn’t seem to be surprised, since, after his own tour in 1922/1923, he also brought back similar impressions to Europe.[8]

At the 1923 IOC session in Rome, Henri de Baillet-Latour, still a member of the Belgian IOC at that time presented his own experiences in South America. Referring to the 1922 Jogos Regionais da América do Sul in Rio de Janeiro, he lamented the shortcomings and imperfections of the games, which reflected the sport-political situation in South America. Furthermore, he spoke of a complete ignorance of the rules, which were changed and interpreted as needed. Due to a lack of sporting education of athletes and public alike, there was no respect for referees, the chauvinism of some athletes led to a sporting defeat being misunderstood as a national dishonour. “Leur ignorance était complète“ (their ignorance was complete), adjudged the IOC President-in-waiting with respect to the Olympic idea. Henri de Baillet-Latour therefore proposed that National Olympic Committees with direct contact to the IOC be established in all South American countries and a Director of Latin American Games be named.[9]

Even the involvement of the first few South American IOCmembers was dubious or simply not available. Two early Argentinean IOCmembers were excluded from the committee. The founder member José Benjamin Zubiaur (1894-1907) only turned up at the inaugural meeting in 1894[10], and took no further part in any subsequent IOC sessions. Manuel Quintana (1907-1910) used his IOCmembership for personal gain. Pierre de Coubertin wrote of the Argentinean IOC members:

„In this part of the world we had had many disappointments: a series of Argentinean members who had been of no help at all, and either complete lack of understanding or attempts at independence that were carried to the extreme and were exceedingly annoying for us.”[11]

In view of a lack of knowledge about the ideals of Olympism by South American members some anxiety seemed justifiable. Since these ideals were considered imperative for the development of sport in Latin America, Pierre de Coubertin wrote the document “Que es el Olimpismo?“. He wrote the following comments about this manuscript:

“… et de M. J.P. Matheu, consul général de San Salvador, l’un et l’autre président et secrétaire général du “Comité de propagande olympique de l’Amérique latine”, fondé sous nos auspice, il y a un an. Les publications de ce groupement, conjointement avec la brochure largement répandue par le Comité olympique d’Espagne, ont aide efficacement à répandre l’idée olympique dans les pays de langue espagnole.”[12]

“In Brazil sport was slow in developing, but in Mr. do Rio Branco, a former football captain, and now Minister in Bern, we had a reliable and devoted colleague. In 1916, I was able to set up in Paris an interim Committee, whose kingpin was Mr. de Matheu, Consul General of El Salvador, and which thanks to him carried out the most active propaganda. An illustrated brochure entitled “Que es el olimpismo?” was widely distributed in South American countries, …”[13]

Despite these efforts, the principles of Olympism remained widely unknown even after 1922, although the Olympic Movement was progressively catching on in South America.


The Centennial Independence Trade Fair

In 1822, Brazil became independent and thus it was planned to celebrate the centenary of this event in 1922. Once more, there was an opportunity, to present itself to the world and to gain international recognition. It was intended to present Brazil with all its unusual cultural features in a national exhibition as a republican nation, which, at long last, had consigned the colonial period to history. Later, countries from Europe, Asia and North America were also invited to participate, which turned the original national presentation of Brazil into an international exhibition for the centennial independence celebrations.[14]

„Art.1º: A Exposição Comemorativa do Centenário da Independência Política do Brasil, a realizar-se nesta capital, de 07 de setembro próximo a 31 de março de 1923, passa a denominar-se ‘Exposição Internacional do Centenário da Independência – Rio de Janeiro’, compreendendo sob essa denominação, a parte nacional a que se refere o nº 2 do dispositivo acima citado, e a seção estrangeira…”[15]

For this international exhibition the biggest possible area had to be found close to the centre, which could only be created artificially in the countryside around Rio de Janeiro, which was characterised by mountains and marine inlets. The city planners’ modernisation concept also included the demolition of the slums, for example at the Castelo Hill, which was razed and removed by a 1921 municipal decree. The rubble was used to build an artificial peninsula to the west of Aterro do Flamengo, on which the Santos Dumont airport was opened in 1936. This area offered adequate space for the international exhibition.

A Series of Sports Festivals

The Jogos Regionais da América do Sul, conforming precisely to the Olympic tradition, together with the international exhibition were staged as part of the centennial celebrations.[16] Combined with a South American football competition and the Jogos Militares, they were staged as part of the Jogos do Centenário, the Games of the Century. The games were renamed Jogos Latino Americanos, after the participation of Mexico was announced. However, in the contemporary press, the term Jogos do Centenário usually meantonly the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul, which explains the misunder-standings and confusion in the nomenclature that persists to this day.[17]

Already on the fringes of the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, the Brazilian delegation was granted Olympic approval for staging the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul.

„A commissão dos Jogos Olympicos em reunião desta noite approvou uma moção reconhecendo os Jogos Latino-americano de 1922 como ‘parte integrante do movimento Olympico’…”[18]

The aforementioned commission further agreed, that the rules of the 1906 games in Athens had to be followed and that the YMCA should perform a supervisory role. This seemed logical, as the lively and very active YMCA member Elwood S. Brown had enthusiastically campaigned between 1919 and 1922 in several speeches at the IOC for regional games around the globe.[19] His ideas were well received, however, the YMCA rarely participated in putting the ideas into practice. This also applied to the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul. The YMCA officially supervised the preparations for these games and repeatedly and regularly expressed discontent at the lack of progress of the work. Early in 1922, the organisers in Rio de Janeiro were requested to submit their plans for the games. The deadline for submission of the documents was missed twice and it was not until the third agreed deadline that the documentation was presented.[20] Moreover, the Brazilian government had assured the YMCA, that the games would be organised to the satisfaction of all. Such behaviour could indeed be described as ‘typically Brazilian’. In principle, nobody in the organising committee was interested in the concerns of the YMCA. It was precisely this attitude, which gave rise to entirely adverse reports from the YMCA and the Argentinean press, which were prompted from time to time.[21]

As the organisers of the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul in Brazil had the ideological and moral support of the IOC, they had no need to deal with the YMCA. While the preparations for the games in Rio de Janeiro ran flat out, the participants of the 1922 IOC session in Paris discussed possible difficulties of a traditionally Protestant institution like the YMCA in a predominantly Roman Catholic country like Brazil.[22] However, this could have hardly been the reason, that the Brazilian YMCA had not been involved in the organisation of the games, since the YMCA in Rio de Janeiro was ecumenically oriented since its foundation in 1893. The Brazilian press, therefore, was happy simply with the presence of Elwood S. Brown:

„O Sr.Elwood Brown, representante do Comité Olympico Internacional, da Federação Athletica Internaional de Amadores e Secretário Geral do Comité Internacional das Associações Christãs de Moços, junto á Commissão Organizadora dos festejos Desportivos do Centenário e que, durante a realização dos Jogos Latino-Americanos permaneceu entre nós…”[23]

Officially, the Comitê Brasileiro do Desportes CBD was ordered by the government to organise the centennial games. In June 1922, a special commission of the sports department of the Brazilian army was appointed to support the CBD in organising the games in a timely fashion. At that time, Coronel Estellita Werner was President of the military sports department and thus became also the head of the organising committee. His area of responsibility covered all sports events of the Jogos do Centenário, i.e. the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul, the South American football tournament and the Jogos Militares.

Other nations also took part in the various games of the Jogos do Centenário. The teams of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Mexico were represented in all three competition events, whist Paraguay only participated in football. Teams from Japan, England and the USA also arrived to participate in the Jogos Militares. Details of the games, such as the program and procedures, can hardly be establishedany longer. For sure, the following disciplines were offered at the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul: Boxing, swimming, track and field athletics, tennis, tug-of-war, fencing, shooting, basketball, equestrian sport and high diving. Some sports, such as the equestrian event, track and field athletics and fencing, were offered twice, i.e. at both the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul and at the Jogos Militares. In parallel to the games, horse racing was also on the agenda, the significance of which for Brazilian society was described in a contemporarysource.[24]

On September 2nd 1922, at 3.30 pm, even before the opening ceremony, the first tennis tournament was held. Under the title “Os jogos sportivos do centenário” (The Sporting Competitions of the Century) importance was attached to Brazil’s national pride.

„Hontem, foram iniciadas as provas sportivas latino-americanas, tão ansiosamente esperadas pelos innumeros afficionados reunidos nesta Capital, com a realização da primeira prova de tennis. O Brasil iniciou assim, a commemoração solemne do anniversario de sua emancipação política, consagrando primeiramente o sport, que se propoz abrilhantar grandes festejos, cumprindo assim o dever de levar aos olhos dos extrangeiros amigos que nos visitam, a primeira demonstração do nosso progresso desses cem anos de independencia – o progresso sportivo.”[25]

The opening ceremony took place on September 13th 1922 in the Fluminense FC stadium, the significance of which for the successful execution of the games will be referred to later.

„Á 1 hora da tarde chegou o Sr.Dr.Epitácio Pessoa, Presidente da República sendo introduzido na tribuna de honra, onde já se encontravam as seguintes pessoas: Conde de Latour, representante do Comité Olympico Internacional, Dr.Pandiá Calogenas, Ministro da Guerra, General Gamelin, Chefe da Missão Francesa, os Ministros do Chile, da Argentina, do Uruguay, o chefe das delegações extrangeiras, autoridades civis e militares.”[26]

It was originally intended to end the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul on October 18th 1922 with a closing ceremony; however, this was postponed. Changes to the time schedule and the procedures can be described as symptomatic of these games. Spontaneity was the watchword of the organising committee, thus, for example, competitions were postponed or cancelled and other competitions, such as water polo, were suddenly included.[27] About one year after the games Henri de Baillet-Latour reported:

“Les Jeux de Rio, dans leur ensemble, n’ont pas été parfaits mais les critiques dont ils ont été l’objet étaient fortement exagérées…Ils furent un miroir reflètant exactement la situation sportive des pays qui y ont pris part, et les causes de leur imperfection trouvent leur origine dans les défauts dont sont affligés les autorités et les athlètes en général de l’Amérique latine…”[28]

Despite recognition of the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul by the IOC, the latter hadn’t participated in the organisation or even contributed to the costs of the games at any time. The same also applies to the YMCA, which defined its task as a supervisory organ. The sponsorship of the so-called regional games had also been discussed at the 1923 IOC session in Rome, however, with the sudden death of Elwood S. Brown the whole subject faded into the background.[29] A last ditch attempt by Argentina, Peru, Chile and Paraguay during the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam to bring the second regional games to South America, also failed.

As a direct result of hosting the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul, Arnaldo Guinle and José Ferreira dos Santos were appointed IOC members. Both were recommended by Henri de Baillet-Latour, who got to know both on his American tour and regarded them as worthy Olympic fellow campaigners. Their appointment took place in Rome in1923.[30] Arnaldo Guinle entered the annals of the IOC with a memorable record, since, during his membership from 1923 to 1961, he was absent from 36 sessions. Nevertheless, thanks to the personal efforts of Averil Brundage, he became an honorary member of the IOC.[31]

Arnaldo Guinle was the first CBD President and from 1947 till 1950 President of the Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro COB. José Ferreira dos Santos was President of the COB from 1951 till 1962. Both had personal reasons for supporting the Olympic Movement, which lay outside careers in sport, since the former was a businessman and the latter a doctor. For both, the Olympic idea and its promotion were dear to their hearts.[32]

Unfortunately, Roberto Trompowsky junior as one of the central candidates for the Olympic Movement in South America has been largely forgotten since he passed away shortly after the games in December 1922. Henri de Baillet-Latour refers to this fact in his report in Rome 1923.

“Malgré la concurrence des Fêtes du centenaire ils ont été un succès et nous pouvons rendre un légitime hommage au labeur de ceux qui les ont organisés, notamment au regretté Dr.Trompowski, mort malheureusement depuis, qui avait trouvé en MM.Jess Hopkins et F.Brown, directeurs Physiques du Y.M.C.A. à Montevideo et à Rio, des auxiliaires précieux.”[33]

Through the Olympic Movement, Brazil, which for 300 years had sought international recognition by projecting the image of a harmonious society, of a country of opportunities with a unique cosmopolitan culture, had discovered an opportunity to get closer to achieving its objectives


Fluminense FC stages the Jogos Regionais

We have already referred several times to supervisory bodies and organisation committee chairmen of the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul, however, the actual organiser of the games has been lost in the mists of time. Repeatedly, and unfortunately erroneously, it was emphasised, that the YMCA had organised the games. In fact, however, it only played a sometimes delicate supervisory role in the actual staging of the games.[34] Since the Brazilian government had decided that the games should be held in any event, be it with or without international support, they of course, also reserved the right to appoint the commission for mounting the games. During that era of instability, it seemed sensible and secure to entrust the Fluminense Futebol Club with the actual staging of the games.

President Epitácio Pessoa, who had held office since 1919, was about to hand over to his successor Artur Bernardes on November 15th 1922, who had been elected on March 1st 1922. Shortly after the election, it alreadybecame apparent that Artur Bernardes’ term of office would be plagued by innumerable rebellions and attempted putsches. Usually, it was the left wing and communist groups who wanted to take over political control, since the government had plunged Brazil deeper and deeper into debt. In March 1922, the Communist Party of Brazil was founded, which wasn’t accorded recognition until five years later. However, Rio de Janeiro witnessed the first bloody rebellion, which was triggered by left-wing armed forces as early as July 1922. These revolts continued and, from 1925 to 1927, led to a march of communist factions of the armed forces throughout Brazil, which achieved no results and was largely unsuccessful. This so-called Tenentism movement shook the republic to its foundations, however, it was finally crushed.[35] Despite all the difficulties and turbulence, Epitácio Pessoa persisted with his policy of Internationalism and promoted the centenary of independence together with the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul [36]

Due to the recognition by the IOC, these games had already become an international project, thus its cancellation on the grounds of a difficult economic situation was unthinkable. The Confederação Brasileira de Desportos CBD was officially appointed by the government to host the games but they had neither the necessary stadia nor the appropriate infrastructure for such an international competition. Thus, it was indeed fortuitous, that the later IOC member Arnaldo Guinle was both CBD President from 1916 to 1920 and President of the traditional Fluminense Football Club from 1916 to 1930. Furthermore, after 1920, Oswaldo Gomes, a former Fluminense FC player, managed the CBD. Since the club had already taken over the responsibility for staging the South American football tournament within the framework of the Jogos do Centenário, it seemed reasonable, to also entrust Fluminense FC with the organisation of the Jogos Militares and the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul. On May 5th 1922, the Board of Directors of the Club signed a corresponding contract with the government, which committed the latter to paying for the extension of the stadium and all other necessary expenses.[37] After the construction work was started on July 1st 1922, it soon became evident, that the budget was inadequate. Although the start of building was officially authorised by Coronel Estellita Werner, the head of the organising committee, the Brazilian government escaped its financial obligations. Nevertheless, Fluminense FC implemented the games by raising a mortgage on its assets (Fig. 11-12). “The club got stuck with the debts, while the government accepted the plaudits”, adjudged Paulo Coelho Neto in his commemorative publication on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Fluminense FC in 1952.[38]

The involvement of the football club was heartily approved by the IOC and Henri de Baillet-Latour had already paid tribute to Fluminense FC for its services to the fatherland, as they spared neither effort nor expense to stage the games in the name of the government, various sports associations and the public.[39] Formal recognition did not follow until 1949 with the presentation of the Coupe Olympique by the IOC to Fluminense FC. This cup has been awarded to institutions that had provided outstanding services to the Olympic Movement annually since 1906 and only intermittently since 1998. Usually, this cup is awarded to associations and communities; this was the only time it had been awarded to a football club: namely Fluminense FC in 1949.

“Ainsi que nous vous l’avons communiqué télégraphiquement, nous avons l’honneur de vous faire savoir que lors de sa session de Rome de Comité International Olympique à l’unanimité à attribué à votre club la coupe olympique pour 1949.”[40]

The club had applied for the Coupe Olympique as early as 1924, which was declined at that time, when the IOC was still chaired by Pierre de Coubertin. A second attempt also failed in 1936, before the Brazilian IOC member José Ferreira dos Santos finally succeeded in 1948 in reserving the cup for Fluminense FC. By the way, after this award, the IOC decided, that the Coupe Olympique could not be again awarded to Clubs in the future.

Backed by the experience of the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul, Rio de Janeiro applied for the first time to host the 1936 games; however, it did not even reach the final elimination round. Further applications followed in 1956 (equestrian competitions), 1960, 2004, 2012 and 2016. On October 2nd 2009, Rio de Janeiro was granted the honour to host the 31st Olympic Summer Games.

The early Olympic Games including those of 1920 were time and again accorded a regional character, which had little in common with today’s global sports festival. The sporadic participation of South American athletes and the engagement of a few isolated sport officials are the result of personal networking by Pierre de Coubertin and fit this image. For Europeans it was far easier to support the Olympic Movement in an honorary capacity, since interested parties from overseas continents had to contend with high costs and time-consuming journeys by sea. Thus, it is not surprising, that most of Pierre de Coubertin’s South American fellow campaigners lived and worked in Europe.

Feelings for the Olympics were first awakened in parts of South America by the Jogos Regionais da América do Sul in Rio de Janeiro in 1922. The Olympic Games acted as godfather to this international sports festival, which was also attended by Henri de Baillet-Latour as a representative of the International Olympic Committee. Despite slight criticism from different parties the games had been regarded as a success. The authorities at the IOC therefore required continuing with similar events around South America.

„Viennent ensuite les „Jeux de l‘ Amérique latine“, qui ont été inaugurés à Rio en septembre 1922 et sont destinés à se renouveler tous les quatre ans.”[41]

„Whether the Games at Rio were to become a truly stable, regular institution or not, it was worthwhile seeing them renewed in the near future for the benefit of other cities further apart from each other – as a result of inadequate transport rather than actual distance – than was the case in Europe.”[42]

            Fluminense FC staged the games together with the Jogos Militares and a South American football tournament as part of the Jogos do Centenário. These sporting events were part of the international exhibition on the occasion of the centenary of the independence of Brazil and reflected Brazil’s great desire for international recognition.

But it was not until the 1936 games in Berlin, that several teams from South America participated, which speaks well of an Olympic awareness or even of an Olympic Movement within the corresponding national sports associations.[43] The National Olympic Committees have been systematically strengthened since then, which has led to isolympic games conducted along the lines of the Olympic example, although, at continental level. The Pan-American Games have been held regularly since 1953 and the South-American Games since 1978.


First publication of this paper:

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2010: Brazil goes Olympic, pp. 145-168.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker



[1]Bibliography and literature, which would enable more detailed information on this topic, were studied in Norbert MÜLLER’s private archives in Mainz, Germany and in the Musée Olympique in Lausanne.

[2] TORRES, César: “Jogos Olímpicos Latino-Americanos de 1922 – Rio de Janeiro”, in: DA COSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Atlas do Desporto no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro 2006, p. 206-207.

[3] “I dedicate these pages to the intrepid youth of Latin America, written for them with the objective of prompting them to prepare themselves for an unremitting and enduring muscular culture, for the future glory of those privileged regions.” The booklet “Que es el Olimpismo?” was written by Pierre de Coubertin in 1917 and translated into Spanish by Pedro-Jaime Matheu in order to propagate Olympism also in Latin America. A copy of this booklet was kindly provided by Otto Schantz.

[4] LYBERG, Wolf: Fabulous 100 Years of the IOC – facts – figures – and more, much more. Lausanne 1996, p. 45.

[5] IOC (ED.): The International Olympic Committee One Hundred Years – the Idea – the Presidents – the Achievements. Vol. II, Lausanne 1994, pp. 215-228.

[6] KRAEMER-MANDEAU, Wolf: “National and International Olympic Movements in Latin America“, in: NAUL, Roland (ED.), Contemporary Studies in Olympic Games Movement. Frankfurt 1997, p. 182-204. Although, according to the Olympic Charter, medals are won by athletes and not by countries, the list in question is arranged by country.

[7] LYBERG: Fabulous 100 Years, p. 45.

[8] This information was taken from Norbert MÜLLER‘s private archives. Box 42, page 5: Letter from Avery Brundage to Henri de Baillet-Latour; box 42, page 1: Reply from Henri de Baillet-Latour to Avery Brundage.

[9] Norbert MÜLLER’s private archives, Box 42, page 1: Reply from Henri de Baillet-Latour to Avery Brundage.

[10] José Benjamin Zubiaur is not portrayed on the famous foundation photo of 1894!

[11] IOC (ED.): “Pierre de Coubertin, Olympic Memoirs”, 2nd edition Lausanne 1997, in: MÜLLER, Norbert (ED.), Pierre de Coubertin. Olympism. Lausanne 2000, p. 466. (Original in French, 1932).

[12]Coubertin, Pierre de: “Circulaire du président du C.I.O.”, Lausanne Janv. 1919; Comité International Olympique (ED.), Pierre de Coubertin. Textes choisis Vol. II. Zürich 1986, p. 674. “… and of Mr. J.P. Matheu, Consul General of San Salvador, respectively the President and Secretary General of the “Latin American Olympic Propaganda Committee”, founded under our auspices one year ago. The publications of that group, along with a pamphlet widely distributed by the Spanish Olympic Committee, have been effective in spreading the Olympic idea in Spanish-speaking countries.” For the English translation see: MÜLLER, Norbert (ED.), Pierre de Coubertin. Olympism. Lausanne 2000, p. 738.

[13] IOC (ED.): “Pierre de Coubertin”, p. 466.

[14]TÓRTIMA, Pedro: “Exposições Mundiais e Nacionais: A Participação do Brasil”, in: ADONIAS, Isa (ED.): Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro – 150 Anos, Rio de Janeiro 1990, p. 294.

[15] “Article Number 1: The exhibition commemorating the centenary of political independence of Brazil, to be held in this capital from 7th September to 31st March 1923, shall be called the ‘International Exhibition of the Centenary of Independence – Rio de Janeiro ‘, included under that title are the national section, referred to in paragraph 2 of the document mentioned above, and the foreign section …”. This paragraph was published in decree No. 15569 dated 22. July 1922. ADONIAS, Isa: “Exposição do Centenário da Independência do Brasil – Rio de Janeiro – 1922”, in: ADONIAS, Isa (ED.): Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro – 150 Anos, Rio de Janeiro 1990, p. 313.

[16] A comparison with the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, St. Louis in 1904 or London in 1908 springs to mind. MUELLER, Norbert & WACKER, Christian (ED.): Pierre de Coubertin and the arts, Lausanne 2008, p. 72.

[17] Die Jogos Regionais da America do Sul were termed by contemporary commentators and in secondary literature as Jogos do Centenário, Jogos Olímpicos do Centenário, Jogos Regionais, Jogos Regionais da América Latina, Jogos da Feira Internacional do Rio de Janeiro etc.. DA COSTA, Lamartine: “Exposição Internacional do Rio de Janeiro – 1922: Um marco histórico do Movimento Olímpico na América Latina”, in: Coletânea do IV Encontro Nacional de História do Esporte Lazer e Educação Física, Belo Horizonte 1996, p.411-416.

[18] “In this evening’s meeting, the commission of the Olympic Games approved a motion recognising the Latin American Games of 1922 as ‘an integral part of the Olympic Movement’…”. Jornal do Brasil of 24th August 1920, p. 6.

[19] BUCHANAN, Ian: “Elwood S. Brown“, in: Journal of Olympic History 6, 3, 1998, p. 12-13.

[20] TORRES, Cesar R.: “‘Spreading the Olympic Idea’ to Latin America”, in: Journal of Olympic History 16,1, 2008, p. 18.

[21] TORRES: “Spreading“, p. 16-24.

[22] LENNARTZ, Karl: “Le Présidence de Henri de Baillet-Latour (1925-1942)”, in: IOC (ED.): The International Olympic Committee 100 Years – The Idea – The Presidents – The Achievements, Vol. I, Lausanne 1994, p. 283.

[23] “Sr. Elwood Brown, representing the International Olympic Committee and the International Amateur Athletics Federation beingalso secretary general of the International Young Men’s Christian Association, stands together with the organizing commission of the Centenary Sports celebrations and stays with us during the Latin American Games…”. Jornal do Commercio of 24th October 1922, p. 3.

[24] CALMON, Francisco: “Desportos“, in: Diccionario Historico, Geographico e Ethnographico do Brasil (Commemorativo do Primeiro Centenário da Independência – Vol. 1), Rio de Janeiro 1922, p. 416.

[25] “Yesterday the Latin American sports competitions, so eagerly awaited by innumerable fans united in this capital, began with the first tennis event. Brazil started well, holding a solemn commemoration of the anniversaries of its politics of emancipation, honoring first of all sports, which may enliven great festivities, thus fulfilling the duty of presenting to the foreign friends visiting us, the first evidence of our progress after one hundred years of independence – sporting progress.” Jornal do Commercio of 3rd September 1922, p. 9.

[26] “Dr. Epitácio Pessoa, President of the Republic arrived at 1 o’clock and was introduced to the VIP spectators’ box, where he met the following dignitaries: Conte de Latour, representing the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Pandiá Calogenas, Minister of War , General Gamelin, Chief of the French Delegation, the Ministers of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, the head of the foreign delegations, civil and military authorities.” Jornal do Commercio of 14th September 1922, p. 10.

[27] Surprisingly, the Belgian water polo team turned up in Rio de Janeiro (!) and played against the Brazilian selection.

[28] “The Rio Games on the whole have not been perfect but the criticism to which they were subjected were highly exaggerated … They were a mirror reflecting the exact sportive situation of the nations that participated, and the causes for their imperfection find their origin in defects which, in general, afflict the Latin American authorities and athletes…”. Visit report by Henri de Baillet-Latour on the occasion of the IOC Session in Rome 1923, p. 1.

[29] TORRES: “Spreading“, p. 16-24; BUCHANAN: “Elwood“, p. 12-13.

[30] Files of the IOC-Session in Rome 1923 in the IOC.

[31] LYBERG: Fabulous 100 years.

[32] PAIOLI, Caetano: Brasil Olímpico. São Paulo 1985, p. 37.

[33] “Despite competition from the centenary celebrations, the games have been successful and we can pay a legitimate tribute to the work of those who organized them, including dear Dr. Trompowski, who unfortunately has since passed away, and who found valuable aids in Jess Hopkins and E. Brown, the YMCA physical directors at Montevideo and Rio.” Files of the IOC-Session in Rome 1923 in the IOC, p. 2.

[34] DA COSTA: “Exposição Internacional”, p. 411-416; TORRES: “Spreading“, p. 16-24.

[35] PRESTES, Anita Leocadia: Os militares e a reação republicana: As origens do tenetismo. São Paulo 1994.

[36] Epitácio Pessoa was also not unknown on the international political stage. For example, as the leader of the Brazilian Delegation, he participated in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and was elected as a judge at the Permanent Court of International Justice, later to become the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

[37] COELHO NETO, Paulo: A Historia do Fluminense. Rio de Janeiro 1952. With greatful thanks to the marketing department of Fulminense F.C for further information.

[38] COELHO NETO: “Fluminense“.

[39] With greatful thanks to the marketing department of Fulminense F.C for this information.

[40] “As we informed you by telegraph, we have the honour to confirm to you that, at its meeting in Rome, the International Olympic Committee unanimously awarded the 1949 Olympic Cup to your club.” Original letter held in the Marketing-Department of Fluminense FC.

[41]”Then there had been the”Games of Latin America”, which were inaugurated in Rio in September 1922 and are intended to be renewed every four years.” Coubertin, Pierre de: “Avant les Jeux Olympiques. La formule d’une organisation,” in: Le Gaulois, 28 avril 1924. See also: Comité International Olympique (ED.): Pierre de Coubertin. Textes choisis Vol. II. Zürich 1986, p. 341-342.

[42] IOC (ED.): “Pierre de Coubertin”, p. 496.

[43] DE FRANCESCHI NETO-WACKER, Marcia: “Brasilien und die Olympische Bewegung 1896 bis 1925 “, in: Stadion 25, 1999, p. 131-137; WACKER, Christian: “Brasilien und Berlin 1936. Die brasilianische Beteilgung an den Olympischen Sommerspielen in Berlin 1936“, in: LENNARTZ, Karl & WASSONG, Stephan & ZAWADZKI, Thomas (ED.): New Aspects of Sport History. The Olympic Lectures, Saint Augustin 2007, p. 228-233.

1922- Jogos Regionais in Rio de Janeiro

1914: Foundation of the Comité Olympico Nacional

10. January 2018
Rio de Janeiro

Brazil at the Dusk of the first Olympics

In 1894, the IOC and hence the Olympic Movement were founded at the Sorbonne in Paris. At the same time, Brazil had abolished the monarchy and was the last country in America to abolish slavery.[1] In the steppes of Bahia in the hinterland of the first Brazilian capital Salvador (until 1763), the government attempted to suppress the Canudos movement between 1893 and 1897. Its extremely popular leader, Antônio Conselheiro, campaigned for more rights for the populace in a religious environment. The Brazilian government together with the major landowners crushed the Canudos movement, leaving behind one of the most severe economic crises in the history of Brazil.

The desperate economic situation and massive international pressure led to the abolition of slavery in 1888. This extreme tardiness compared with international standards is a testament to the backwardness of Brazilian society in the second half of the 19th century. The nation was morally isolated within the global community. The government and the economic elite could only regain recognition with appropriate concessions to modernisation and try to catch up with the states of the northern hemisphere.[2]

A wave of immigration was linked with the banning of slavery since now workers were needed on a wage basis. Thousands of people from Italy, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Poland and other countries moved to Brazil to cover the acute shortage of skilled workers. With the immigrants, new sporting traditions, such as German gymnastics, were brought to Brazil, which had a lasting influence on national sports developments. The new societies and in particular the German communities retained their language, customs, festivals, music, dances, games and also their sporting traditions, they founded sports clubs and gymnastic associations.[3] Unlike the former slaves, the immigrants were highly rated as workers; they were regarded as strong, physically stable and morally prepared to carry out their work as free people. The universally held view of workers subjected to decades of suppression and slavery was entirely negative. They were regarded as “… vagabundos e ociosos, desorganizados social e moralmente …“, not competentto perform systematic labour.[4] The cultural characteristics of the immigrants, on the other hand, were regarded as enrichment for Brazil.[5]

On 15th November 1889, a military putsch put an end to the monarchy in Brazil. Although General Deodoro da Fonseca managed to force the emperor to abdicate his throne without bloodshed, the republic was nevertheless founded by a putsch and not by a social revolution, which of course had to have consequences.[6] The monarchy had already been enormously weakened, after the last emperor Dom Pedro II had led the country into economic ruin by waging war against Paraguay and had named his daughter Isabel as heir of the throne. This displeased both the military elite as well as the traditionally male dominated bourgeoisie, which had long since favoured republicanism. It was precisely this section of society that longed for modernisation and pressed to implementindustrialisation in the country. This first republic lasted until 1920 and was determined by the Brazilian Belle Époque, which was most evident in the big cities such as Rio de Janeiro. The modernisation elites, which had also spread across Europe, were sought after and innumerable intellectuals, artists and scientists were lured to Brazil. In this way, the country’s international recognition, which had been lost in the late 19th century, should be regained.[7]

The majority of the Brazilian population contrasted sharply with the elites of the Belle Époque. Many former slave families moved to towns like Rio de Janeiro in the hope of finding work and occupied the old dilapidated houses in the centre, which the elites had forsaken in favour of the new districts close to the beach, such as Copacabana, Leblan and Botafogo. Hygienic conditions were disastrous, thus, the slum areas were regularly hit by epidemics and sickness. Solutions had to be found! Therefore, the municipal authorities addressed the three main urban problems: the modernisation of the harbour, a sewage system and an urban planning reform. The engineer Lauro Mueller, doctor Oswaldo Cruz and city planner Pereira Passos were appointed to translate these plans into action. Jointly, the objective was defined to ‘civilize’ Rio de Janeiro, to give the city a ‘European flavour’. Apart from the essential sewage system, from 1903, public squares and a road network were built. People hoped that this would all herald social and cultural changes, which would open the way to the modern world of capitalism.[8]

Also for the simple folk in the hinterland general living conditions were precarious. In his famous 1902 work “Os Sertões“, Euclides da Cunha reviews the Canudos movement and highlights the contrasts between the residents of the coastal regions and those of the wide steppes, which as a rule were completely cut off from any political or economic development. Just before the government armed forces crushed the Canudos movement, the first Olympic Games of the modern times were staged in Athens. In crisis-stricken Brazil, people only casually took note of the games, however, in 1896 no less a personage than the national writer Machado de Assis reported this event with the following lines:

„Vamos ter…Leitor amigo, prepara-te para lamber os beiços. Vamos ter Jogos Olímpicos, corridas de biga e quadrigas, ao modo romano e grego, torneios da idade média, conquista de diademas e cortejo às damas, corridas atléticas, caça ao veado (…) É quase um sonho esta renascença dos séculos, esta mistura de tempos gregos, romanos, medievais e modernos, que formarão assim uma imagem cabal da civilização esportiva.”[9]

With the outbreak of the First World War, Europe descended into chaos and Brazil’s hopes for renewal and modernisation faded, especially since the most essential partners, England as investor and France as a cultural example, were particularly badly affected by the outbreak of the war. For three years, Brazil remained neutral in fear of a threatened offensive by the German Reich in the Atlantic and it was not until towards the end of the war that they joined the Allies. However, the hope of attaining international recognition in this way was not fulfilled!

Early Sports in Brazil

In the late 19th century, Brazil also started to adopt the rules and procedures of sport generally used in Europe. Only a few sport disciplines, such as for example rowing, which had been practiced in Rio de Janeiro since 1851, were already institutionalised previously.[10] Roberto Trompowsky junior, a member of the Comitê Brasileiro de Desportos CBD, described the situation in Brazilian sports in 1922 as follows:

„O desporto vencia, e com esta victoria modificava-se radicalmente os habitos, a educação da mocidade que, tambem, a pouco e pouco, ia perdendo o aspecto macilento, a pallidez e a movimentação tarda de outr’ora, ganhando em alacridade, vigor e saude. E foi toda uma floração maravilhosa e intensa de desportividade de tal sorte que o Brasil, em poucos annos, recuperou o que perdera em decades de inactividade.”[11]

The development of sport in Brazil went hand in hand with the country’s political development. In the search for modernisation and a nationalism following the fall of the monarchy, products, know-how and culture were imported from Europe. Sport, and in particular English sport, could also be regarded as such an imported product.[12] The CBD defined its tasks in the protocols of July 8th, 1914 to December 5th, 1916 as follows on page 6:

„O desporto moderno não é mais simples diversão de gente sem trabalho e rica, que precisava de um meio para matar o spleen; hoje é inspirado por outras ideas, que, de tão elevadas, o transformaram em grande ideal social…Saude, caracter e instrucção são os três termos que synthetizam o fim do desporto…Formar homens com saude, caracter e instrucção e offerecel-os á Pátria, eis a aspiração ultima do desporto.”[13]

Although the CBD pointed out that modern sport should not be just the preserve of the ‘idle rich’, illiterates were not accepted as amateurs. However, they constituted the majority of the Brazilian population.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Brazilian nation, though no longer in its infancy but still structurally extremely weak, had neither a national sports association nor a federation of Brazilian sports clubs such as L´Union des Sociétes Françaises des Sports Athlétiques USFSA, which had existed in France since 1887. Thus, it should not be surprising, that the anecdotes about Brazilian individuals Christiano Adolpho KLINGELHOEFER, Santos DUMONT and Raul do RIO BRANCO, who more or less by chance became involved with the Olympic Games or the Olympic Movement, do not represent organized Brazilian Olympic politics. Those three protagonists share the distinction of having spent most of their lives in Europe and can hardly be regarded, therefore, as representatives of an Olympic Movement in Brazil.

Early Brazilian Olympic Sports Politics

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Brazilian sports scene had no knowledge of umbrella organisations and was characterised by autonomous behaviour and, of course, the inevitable related conflicts. The ethics applied were ambivalent, since, although there were official rules governing sporting practice, the clubs seldom adopted them. Therefore, government and sports officials rarely got under each other’s feet, particularly since the government made no financial contribution to sport. The clubs’ overheads for sports facilities and equipment were born by prosperous sponsors.[14]

Due to its very early popularity, Brazilian football is a very good example of the effects of this duality. The intense rivalry between teams resulted in escalating costs. Good players had to be supported to retain their club membership. Therefore, the football clubs in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo started selling tickets to spectators in 1917, to pay for equipment and maintain the stadia. Recruitment of new players became the clubs’ top priority. The players either came from prosperous families, who could afford to allow their sons to play football rather than pursue a professional career, thus making them true amateurs as was demanded at that time. Or they were so-called Amadores marrons (brown amateurs) coming from the lower social classes, who were unable to devote their time exclusively to football and therefore had to earn a living in a part-time job.[15]

Other sporting disciplines were increasingly faced with similar problems, since fewer and fewer athletes were able either to afford their own keep or pay for equipment and the maintenance of facilities. To find a solution for these problems, in 1914, the Federação Brasileira de Sports and the Comité Olympico Nacional were founded. These institutions were intended to develop a joint sports policy for Brazil. First, the Federação Brasileira de Sports successfully sought recognition from international associations, with the exception of FIFA.[16] The discussions about amateurism in sport, however, dragged on, as both sports organisations were run by purists and conservatives, who didn’t accept professionalism. The Brazilian government intervened in 1916 with the foundation of the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos CBD, which was placed above and de facto took over the two older associations. The first two paragraphs of the CBD statutes published on 5th December 1916 are particularly interesting.

„Art.1º – A Condereração Brasileira de Desportos, fundada em 08 de Junho de 1914, com a denominação de Federação Brasileira de Sports, é constituída por todas as Federações, Ligas e Clubs, que nos Estados dirigem os respectivos desportos.

Paragrapho 1º – Em cada Estado e no Districto Federal, á proporção do desenvolvimento desportivo, existirão tres instituições, uma de desporto terrestre, outra de desporto aquatico e a terceira de desportos aereos, e só estas serão filiadas á Confederação.

Paragrapho 2º – Á Confederação poderão ser filiadas sociedades desportivas isoladas, desde que no respectivo Estado não exista outra sociedade do mesmo desporto.

Art.2º – A C.B.D. terá as seguintes attribuições:

1º – Representar os desportos nacionaes junto aos poderes constituidos.

2º – Representar os desportos nacionaes no estrangeiro.

3º – Promover o desenvolvimento e congraçamento dos desportos.

4º – Servir de tribunal de ultima instancia para derimir as questões que surgirem entre federações ou sociedades desportivas directamente filiadas.

5º – Procurar uniformisar os regulamentos e codigos desportivos.

6º – Fazer convenções, tratados e relações com sociedades desportivas estrangeiras.”[17]

In 1917, this new sports organisation was recognised by FIFA with reservations and in 1923 unreservedly. Until 1927, the CBD was the only umbrella sports organisation in Brazil, which co-ordinated the sports in the country reasonably successfully, even though the clash of personal interests of the members and those of the organisations caused problems time and again.[18]

The foundation of the Comité Olympico Nacional CON in 1914

The most important result and reaction to Raul do Rio Branco’s letter (see blog 27th Dec. 2017: 1913: Raul do Rio Branco, first Brazilian IOC member) was the simultaneous founding in 1914 of the National Olympic Committee and the Brazilian Sports Federation, later to be named the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos.[19] The foundation took place on June 8th 1914 at the headquarters of the Brazilian Federation of Rowing Societies in Rio de Janeiro with the objective, to take Brazil to the 1916 Olympic Games to Berlin. Álvaro Zamith refers to Raul do Rio Branco’s letter as follows:

„…Todos vós conheceis as expressões enthusiasticas da carta-circular de Raul do Rio Branco, o filho do grande Barão, um dos grandes protectores do sport em nossa terra; saibamos aproveitar a sua boa vontade e competencia no assumpto.”[20]

Already a year previously, Raul do Rio Branco pointed out that rumours of such a foundation were rife:

„…visto que neste momento mesmo, por informações que elle (Coubertin) acabava de receber, estava se iniciando no Brazil, depois da propaganda de sócios da liga Olympca portugueza, a organização de uma Federação brasileira dos sports e de um Comité Olympico Brasileiro…”[21]

Álvaro Zamith also made reference to this information:

„…Foi para generalisar que se constituiu em 1913 o Comité Olympico provisorio, iniciativa arrojada, mas por isto mesmo digna de apoio, do Jornal do Brazil. Não foi possível, por motivos diversos, fazer o que se desejava; nem tudo, porém, ficou perdido; a semente foi lançada em bom terreno e quer me parecer que em breve poderemos annunciar urbe et orbe, que está constituido o Comité Olympico Nacional…”[22]

Another important motive for the foundation of the National Olympic Committee was the prospect of international exchange, again reflecting the national craving at that time for international recognition.

„As palavras do distincto sportman [Zamith] não representavam apenas o pensamento de quem as pronunciara, mas traduziam com fidelidade a aspiração de um nucleo de desinteressados sportmen que viam nas relações internacionais novos elementos para o sport patricio.”[23]

The Comité Olympico Nacional CON was officially founded on 8th June 1914 at the headquarters of the Brazilian Federation of Rowing Societies Federação Brasileira das Sociedades do Remo. The following associations were represented: Liga Metropolitana de Sport Athletico (Metropolitan Athletic Sports League), Federação Brasileira das Sociedades do Remo (Brazilian Federation of Rowing Societies), Automovel Club Brasileiro (Brazilian Automobile Association), Commissão Central de Concursos Hípicos (Central Commission for Equestrian Competitions), Club Gymnastico Portugez (Portuguese Gymnastics Club), Centro Hippico Brasileiro (Brazilian Equestrian Centre), Jockey Club Brasileiro (Brazilian Jockey Club), Aereo Club Brasileiro (Brazilian Aviation Club). Furthermore, the Comité Olympico Nacional CON was founded by the following luminaries: Drs. Fernando MENDES DE ALMEIDA and Ernani PINTO (Motor Sports), Coronel James ANDREW, Raul de CARVALHO and Leutnant Armando JORGE (Equestrian Sport), Dr. Candido MENEZES DE ALMEIDA (Tourism), Commander Jorge MOLLER and Second Lieutenant Ricardo KIRCK (Aviation), Dr. Alvaro ZAMITH, Dr. Mario POLLO and G. de ALMEIDA BRITO (Athletic Sports), Commander Raul Oscar de FARIA RAMOS, Captain Ariovisto de ALMEIDA REGO, Dr. Antonio de OLIVEIRA CASTRO and Alberto de MENDOÇA (Swimming and Rowing), Major Bernardo de OLIVEIRA and Dr. Alberto PEREIRA BRAGA (Shooting), J. PINHEIRO BARBOSA and J. Pedro DIAS (Gymnastics, Weightlifting).[24]

A somewhat later entry refers to the subsequent election of a Board of Directors:

„O Comité reuniu-se posteriormente, elegeu a sua diretoria, mas não poude dedicar-se a trabalhos positivos, porque logo depois a guerra, que arruina a Europa, annullou todos os projectos, que tinham sido formulados para os jogos olympicos, que deveriam se realisar em 1916, em Berlim.”[25]

Dr. Fernando MENDES DE ALMEIDA was elected President of the Executive Committee. He was supported by the two Vice Presidents Dr. Álvaro ZAMITH and Captain Ariovisto de ALMEIDA REGO. G. de ALMEIDA BRITO became National Secretary, J. PINHEIRO BARBOSA Secretary of Protocol and Raul de CARVALHO Treasurer.[26]

The National Olympic Committee obviously continued to exist in the interim, however, there is no documentary evidence of its existence again until 1920 and thereafter:

„Tendo conhecimento em 30 de Janeiro de 1920 de que o Comité Olympico Nacional acceitara o convite feito pelo C.O.Internacional para que o Brasil se representasse e resolvera dar a Confederação Brasileira de Desportos a attribuição de indicar e preparar a representação brasileira, effectuou a diretoria em 5 de Fevereiro uma reunião conjuncta com os membros do C.O.Nacional para tomars as primeiras medidas, que foram approvadas em 7 de Fevereiro.”[27]

Despite the existence of a National Olympic Committee, the teams for the Olympic Games were selected by the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos CBD. A corresponding competence was attested to the CBD, which could be compared with other countries and was in accordance with international standards.[28] It should be remembered that a distribution of tasks according to today’s standards didn’t exist in that time, as both organisations were still in a learning phase. Based on a CBD protocol of 1920, which refers to the Olympic Congress in Lausanne and questions about the venue of the 1922 Jogos Regionais, this can be explained.

„Em 6 de abril de 1921, recebemos um aviso do Sr.Ministro do Interior, incluindo um convite do ‘Comité International Olympique’, convidando-nos a participarmos do Congresso Olympico a reunir-se em Lausanne, sob o patrocinio do governo suisso. Por intermedio do Sr.ministro da Relações Exteriores, conseguimos que o Sr.Raul do Rio Branco, nosso ministro em Berna, acceitasse o encargo de nos representar nesse Congresso. Enviámos ao illustre compatriota as instrucções relativas á nossa representação e tivemos o prazer de constatar a maneira brilhante com que S.Ex. deu desempenho ao mandato de nós recebido.”[29]

Once more it becomes clear that the beginnings of the Olympic Movement in Brazil were tied to independent actions and that a coherent organisation was still unable to function. Therefore, the organisation of a team had to be taken over by the CBD.

Thus, the National Olympic Committee was founded in 1914 and it can be safely said that it survived until 1924, however, it rarely acted and always in conjunction with the CBD. Unfortunately, we do not have any information about any activities of the committee from the years 1925 to 1935, so that it was officially relaunched in 1935 with the format that is still valid today.[30]


First publication of this paper:

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2010: Brazil goes Olympic, pp. 63-69;


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker


[1]The so-called Lei Áurea, which abolished slavery in Brazil, came into effect on 13th May 1888.

[2] SKIDMORE, Thomas E.: Uma História do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro 1998, p. 101.

[3] PINTO, Leila: “A Legitimidade do Moderno Sentido de Esporte: Um olhar sobre a historia do Esporte no Brasil”, in: Coletânea do IV Encontro Nacional de História do Esporte Lazer e EducaVão Física, Belo Horizonte 1996, p. 177.

[4] “… vagabonds and never-do-wells, socially and morally disorganised …”. WISSENBACH, Maria Cristina: “Da Escravidão à Liberdade: Dimensões de uma Privacidade Possível”, in: SEVCENKO, Nicolau (ED.): História da Vida Privada no Brasil, Vol. III, São Paulo 1998, p. 49-130.

[5] SEYFERTH, Giralda: Imigração e Cultura no Brasil. Brasília 1990, p. 98.

[6] SKIDMORE: História do Brasil, p. 108.

[7] SEVCENKO, Nicolau: “O Préludio Republicano, Astúcias da Ordem e Ilusões do Progresso, in: SEVCENKO, Nicolau (ED.): História da Vida Privada no Brasil, Vol. III, São Paulo 1998, p. 14-15.

[8] MARINS, Paulo César: “Habitação e Vizinhança: Limites da Privacidade no Surgimento das Metrópoles Brasileiras”, in: SEVCENKO, Nicolau (ED.): História da Vida Privada no Brasil, Vol. III, São Paulo 1998, p. 143.

[9] “We have to prepare, dear reader, to lick our lips. We have to go to the Olympic Games with two and four-horse chariot races as in Roman and Greek times, mediaeval tournaments, laurel wreaths for the winners, ladies strolling, athletes racing and hunting deer (…) as in a dream, the centuries will be relived in this blend of Greek, Roman, Medieval and modern eras, to form a comprehensive impression of sporting culture”. From a quotation by SEVCENKO, Nicolau: “A Capital Irradiante: Técnica, Ritmos e Ritos do Rio“, in: SEVCENKO, Nicolau (ED.): História da Vida Privada no Brasil, Vol. III, São Paulo 1998, p. 568. All Portuguese quotations are given in original writings of the certain era and are not transferred to modern Portuguese.

[10] JESUS, Gilmar: “Os Esportes e os Espaços Públicos na Belle Époque Carioca“, in: Coletânea do VI Congresso Brasileiro de História do Esporte, Lazer e Educação Física, Rio de Janeiro 1998.

[11] “Sport has won, and this victory is radically changing habits. Youth education is changing bit by bit and they are losing their emaciated looks, pallor and sluggish movements and are gaining enthusiasm, energy and health. And there was a wonderful intense flourishing of sportsmanship in Brazil in but a few years, which has regained the losses of decades of torpor.” TROMPOWSKY Jr., Roberto: “Desportos“, in: Diccionario Historico, Geographico e Ethnographico do Brasil (Commemorativo do primeiro centenário da Independência, Vol. I), Rio de Janeiro 1922, p. 413.

[12] MELO, Vitor: “O Esporte no Contexto Cultural do Rio de Janeiro do Final do Século XIV – Um projeto de Pesquisa”, in: Coletânea do IV Encontro Nacional de História do Esporte Lazer e Educação Física, Belo Horizonte 1996, p. 522.

[13] “Modern sport is no longer simply a preserve of the idle rich, who needed a means of countering boredom; today it is inspired by other ideas, is well developed and has become a great social ideal … Health, character and education are the three terms that define the objectives of sport … Develop healthy, morally strong and well-educated individuals and present them to the fatherland, this is sport’s highest aspiration.” The early CBD protocols are not divided into months, weeks or days but are preserved as a total package in the archives of the Comitê Brasileiro de Futebol CBF.

[14]HELAL, Ronaldo & SOARES, Antonio Jorge G. & CARMO SALLES, José Geraldo do: “Futebol” (“Football”), in: DACOSTA, Lamartine (ED.): Altas do Esporte no Brasil (Atlas of Sport in Brazil), Rio de Janeiro 2005, p. 257 to 258.

[15]HELAL et. Al.: “Futebol” (“Football”) (2005), p. 257.

[16]HELAL et. Al.: “Futebol” (“Football”) (2005), p. 257 to 258.

[17]„Art.1 – The Condereração Brasileira de Desportos (Brazilian Sports Confederation, founded on June 8, 1914 under the name of Federação Brasileira de Sports (Brazilian Sports Federation), was established to administer the respective sports for all federations, leagues and clubs.
Paragraph. 1 – With regard to sports development, in each state and Federal District, there will be three institutions, one for terrestrial sports, one for aquatic sports and the third for aerial sports, and these will be exclusively affiliated to the Confederation.

Paragraph. 2 – The Confederation may be affiliated to individual sports clubs, if the state in question has no other entity taking care of it.

Art.2 – The CBD has the following duties:

1 – To represent the national sports together with the affiliated powers.
2 – To represent the national sports abroad.
3 – To promote the development of sports festivals.
4 – To serve as a tribunal of last resort to decide issues arising between federations or directly affiliated sports clubs.
5 – To find a way to unify sporting regulations and codes.
6 – To manage conventions, treaties and relations with foreign sports clubs.”

This information can be gathered from the protocols of the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos CBD in the Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro COB: Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916.

[18]This information can be gathered from the protocols of the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos (Brazilian Sports Confederation) CBD in the Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro (Brazilian Olympic Committee) COB: Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916.

[19]This information can be gathered from the protocols of the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos (Brazilian Sports Confederation) CBD in the Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro COB: Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916.

[20] “… You all know the enthusiastic reactions in the circular letter from Raul do Rio Branco, the son of the famous Baron, one of the great protagonists of sport in our country; we know how to appreciate his goodwill and competence in this matter.” Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916, p. 10.

[21]“… because at this very moment, he [Coubertin] had received the information from the Olympic partners of the Portuguese league, that Brazil should have founded the Brazilian Federation of sports and a Brazilian Olympic Committee …”. The relevant letter can be found in the Sr. Raul do Rio Branco file in the Musée Olympique in Lausanne.

[22] “… to sum up, in 1913 the Olympic Committee was provisionally inaugurated on the initiative and with the very valuable support of the Jornal do Brazil. For various reasons, it was not possible to achieve the objectives; however, all was not in vain; the seed was planted in good soil and it seems to me that we may soon announce urbe et orbe, that we have a National Olympic Committee…”. Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916, p. 10.

[23]“The words of the distinguished sportsman [Zamith] not only represented the thoughts of the person who uttered them, but faithfully translate the vision of a core of disinterested sportsmen who recognise international relations as a form to be introduced to the national sports.” Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916, p. 11.

[24]Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916.

[25]“The Committee met later to elect its board, but could not make a positive contribution, because soon after the war, which laid Europe to waste, it cancelled all projects that had been planned for the Olympic Games and which should have been staged in 1916 in Berlin.” Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916, p.12.

[26]Pages from 8th June 1914 to 5th December 1916.

[27]“Having been informed on January 30th 1920, that the National Olympic Committee accepts the International Olympic Committee’s invitation for Brazil to be represented by and decisions made through the Brazilian Sports Confederation to select and prepare the Brazilian delegation. On 5th February a meeting with members of the National Olympic Committee will be organised to discuss the first steps, which should be approved on 7th February.” The protocols of the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos (Brazilian Sports Confederation) CBD are kept in the archives of the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (Brazilian Football Confederation) CBF. See p.34.

[28]TROMPOWSKY Jr.: “Desportos“, p. 414.

[29]“On April 6, 1921, we received a message from the Minister of the Interior, including an invitation from the ‘Comité International Olympique’ (’International Olympic Committee’) inviting us to participate in the Olympic Congress in Lausanne, under the patronage of the Swiss government. Thanks to the intervention by the Minister of Foreign Affairs we were able to get the consent of Raul do Rio Branco, our Ambassador in Berne, to represent us [CBD] at the congress. We sent the instructions to represent us to our illustrious compatriot and we were pleased to see the brilliant way in which His Excellency performed the mandate he received from us.” Protocols of the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos (Brazilian Sports Confederation) ( CBD, p. 21.

[30]DE FRANCESCHI NETO-WACKER, Marcia: “Brasilien und die Olympische Bewegung 1896 bis 1925“ (Brazil and the Olympic Movement 1896 to 1925), in: Stadion 25, 1999, p. 131-137.

1914- Foundation of the Comité Olympico Nacional

1913: Raul de Rio Branco, first Brazilian IOC member

27. December 2017
Barão do Rio Branco

In 1913, an Olympic Congress was convened in Lausanne, to which the diplomatic representations from Berne were invited. Among the guests was also Raul do Rio Branco, the Brazilian ambassador in Switzerland, who was a long-standing friend of Pierre de Coubertin. The latter grabbed the opportunity to appoint Raul do Rio Branco as an IOC member.[1] Raul do Rio Branco was the son of the famous historian Baron do Rio Branco, who, among other things, defined Brazil’s borders which are still valid to this day. Furthermore, he is considered to be one of the most prominent campaigners for the international recognition of Brazil and ensured the participation of Brazil in the Second International Peace Conference in 1907. Raul do Rio Branco accepted the appointment as an IOC member, since he wanted to be of use to his fatherland. As his first official act, on April 30th 1914, he sent a circular letter to the various responsible sports officials in Brazil, to encourage them to promote the Olympic idea in their homeland.[2] In the introduction to this circular letter, the newly appointed IOC member obviously seemed surprised:

„O Barão de Coubertin que me tinha conhecido outrora nos terrenos do Sport e do athletismo e que tinha deixado de me ver durante vários annos, encontra-me de novo agora como Ministro do Brasil na Suissa, declarou-me, com certa surpresa minha, que ele resolvia apresentar a minha candidatura a membro do Comité Olympico Internacional de que elle é presidente, como delegado do Brasil…”[3]

Then, Raul do Rio Branco raised some objections, for examplethe fact, that he was completely surprised by his appointment, since he had only poor knowledge about sports in Brazil and he would hardly be able to combine his diplomatic duties in Berne with the IOC membership. Pierre de Coubertin replied, that many members were working in the diplomatic service after all, and that he, Raul do Rio Branco, had already given proof of his sense of responsibility and his competence. He would witness the rebirth of sporting culture in the world anyway, and could be of real service to his fatherland

Raul do Rio Branco’s reply to Pierre de Coubertins invitation had quite a personal character, although he was conscious of his roll as a diplomat and thus an advocate of Internationalism. Certainly, he was also influenced by his famous father Baron do Rio Branco, who was described by his contemporaries as a “…maior cidadão da patria…“ (…most important citizen of his native land…).[4] National concerns must also have been important to his son.

Raul do Rio Branco’s quoted letter also refers to the need to found a national Olympic Committee and to appoint additional IOC members from Brazil. Alluding to the status of sports in Brazil, he advocates the promulgation of the Olympic ideals but regards the participation in Olympic Games to be of secondary importance:

„Por enquanto não se trata ainda de participacão dos athletas brasileiros de destaque aos Jogos Olympicos da próxima olympiada que se dará em Berlim em 1916, visto que a escolha d’elles, o seu preparo e as despezas de viagem que difficilmente podem ser supportadas por moços isolados, exigem a fiscalizacão, a direção e o auxilio das várias federações brasileiras de sport, seja nautico ou terrestre de toda espécie…”[5]

Obviously, after initial hesitation, Raul do Rio Branco took his assignment seriously and participated in innumerable IOC sessionsand discussions, which is supported by the relevant files. According to the records, he cannot be suspected of having carried outa political mission on behalf of his homeland, however, he indeed demonstrated enormous enthusiasm at home for the Olympic Movement and the promotion of internationalism.


First publication of this paper:

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by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker


[1] Relevant documents are available in the archives of the Musée Olympique in Lausanne.

[2] The relevant letter can be found in the Sr. Raul do Rio Branco file in the Musée Olympique in Lausanne.

[3] “Baron de Coubertin who met me once on a sport and athletics ground and hadn’t seen me for several years since, now finds me again as Minister of Brazil in Switzerland. He told me, somewhat to my surprise, that he had decided to submit my application for membership as a Brazilian delegate to the International Olympic Committee, of which he is president, …”.

[4] INSTITUTO HISTÓRICO E GEOGRÁFICO BRASILEIRO (ED.), Rio Branco. Rio de Janeiro 1931, p. 4; AZEVEDO, Fernando: A Cultura Brasileira. Brasília 1996, p. 180.

[5] “At the moment it is not yet possible for Brazilian athletes to participate at the next Olympic Games, which will take place in Berlin in 1916, since their selection, preparation and travel expenses are difficult to support and the young isolated men require the supervision, direction and assistance of various Brazilian sport federations of all types, be they nautical or terrestrial…”. The relevant letter can be found in the Sr. Raul do Rio Branco file in the Musée Olympique in Lausanne.

1913- Raul de Rio Branco, first Brazilian IOC member

1905: Santos Dumont, Brazil’s first Olympic hero

13. December 2017
Santos Dumont

In 1905, the Brazilian adventurer and bourgeois Santos DUMONT was one of the first personalities to be honoured with the Olympic diploma by Pierre de COUBERTIN.[1] Alberto Santos DUMONT was born on 20th July 1873 on the estate of ‘Cabangu’ in João Aires, Minas Gerais, and took his own life on 23rd July 1932.[2] It was not until many decades later, on 26th July 2006, that his name was included in the official register of Brazilian national heroes and, since 1947, Santos DUMONT has been adopted as the patron of Brazilian aviation.

At the age of 18, Santos DUMONT travelled for the first time to Paris accompanied by his parents and there he first ventured into balloon free flight. For financial reasons, he was initially unable to devote himself to this future passion; however, he also developed an enthusiasm for innovations in automotive technology. Santos DUMONT’S parents recognised their son’s talents and, shortly after their return to Brazil, they sent him back to Europe, where he was able to further develop his ideas. Santos DUMONT lived in Paris until 1922 and became famous thanks to the numerous inventions he made between 1898 and 1906. When he returned to Brazil in the twenties, he was already a world-famous and highly respected inventor.[3]

Until 1897, Santos DUMONT experimented with automobiles and gained experience in driving cars. It was not until this time, that he successfully completed his first solo balloon flight in a balloon borrowed from Henri LACHAMBRE. After this pivotal experience, Santos DUMONT devoted himself almost exclusively to ballooning and became a pioneer in this field. The aim of every balloon pilot at the time was to win the coveted Deutsch de la Muerthe prize, named after the French industrialist Henri DEUTSCH DE LA MUERTHE, a pioneer in the business of oil field development and sponsor of a number of prizes for aviation and automobile technology.[4] The Deutsch de la Muerthe prize was awarded to those balloon pilots, who circumnavigated the Eiffel tower within 30 minutes, the start and finish of this flight being in Saint Cloud Park, nine kilometres distant and to the West of Paris. With an award and an associated prize of 100,000 Francs received from the scientific commission of the Aero Club de Paris, Santos DUMONT was able to properly prepare for the great event. He also endowed his own so-called Santos Dumont prize, the course being the same as that of the Deutsch de la Muerthe Prize, but with no time limit. The Aero Club de Paris administered and awarded the prize; however, it was never presented. Santos DUMONT won the Deutsch de la Muerthe Prize on 19th October 1901 and allegedly divided the 120,000 Francs prize money amongst his team and the poor people of the City of Paris.[5]

The Brazilian elite used Santos DUMONT’s award to raise the national consciousness, international recognition and to promote Brazil’s progress. Brazilian aviation was founded with a major event![6] In the very same year of 1901, Santos DUMONT was also awarded a prize in London and was celebrated as a hero in the English press. The portrait of this ballooning hero was published on postcards, photographs and knick-knacks throughout France.[7]

Within the framework of the 1904 St. Louis International Exposition, apart from the Olympic Games, a congress and an aviation competition were also organised.Santos DUMONT was invited to the United States to co-ordinate and to participate in these competitions. On the day of the competition, Santos DUMONT discovered, that his balloon had been sabotaged and its fabric had been badly slashed, whereupon he left immediately and the event was called off. Nevertheless, the American press had only words of praise for this sportsman, who not only designed but also tested and flew his own balloons.[8]

At the fourth meeting of the Olympic Committee in 1901 in Paris, Pierre de COUBERTIN proposed, to honour certain personalities, who had rendered outstanding services to the ‘Olympic Cause’, sport or physical education with an Olympic diploma.

“Le Comité International décide en outre, la création d’un Diplôme d’Honneur d’une grande valeur artistique et qui, attribué en de rares occasions à ceux qui avons rendu les services les plus longs et le plus signalés à l’œuvre Olympique, et à la cause du sport et de l’éducation physique, deviendra la plus haute récompense que puisse être obtenue dans cet ordre d’idées…”[9]

In 1905, the first diplomas were awarded to ROOSEVELT, Fridjoff NANSEN, William-Hippolyte GRENFELL and Santos DUMONT. The award was not intended for a sporting achievement, but for services to sport in general.[10] The festive diploma presentation ceremony was held on 13th June 1905 in the Palais des Académies in Brussels under the chairmanship of Pierre de COUBERTIN. The hall was decorated, inter alia, with the flags of Belgium, the United States, Norway, Brazil and England reflecting the host and the native countries of the honoured guests. It must have been regrettable and disappointing for the event organisers, that, apart from William-Hippolyte GRENFELL, none of the honoured celebrities attended the ceremony personally. Henry WILSON, the United States ambassador to Belgium represented Theodore ROOSEVELT, Fridjoff NANSEN sent Henrik ANGELL, the Norwegian representative in Belgium, and Santos DUMONT was represented by his personal friend Brunetta DUSSEAUX, who received the diploma to the strains of the Brazilian national anthem. The reason for awarding the diploma to Santos DUMONT is defined in the relevant citations.

“Ce que nous apercevons dans celle de M. Santos-Dumont c’est, Messieurs, le génie de la persévérance. Il l’a poussé à ses limites extrêmes. Nul n’a jamais atteint plus loin dans cette voie. La persévérance, Messieurs, est une des bases les plus essentielles du sport. La persévérance suppose l’échec; les victoires musculaires ont ceci de supérieur au point de vue éducatif qu’elles résultent toujours d’une série d’échecs et aboutissent presque nécessairement au succès, pourvu seulement que la persévérance puisse s’y superposer aux autres qualités nécessaires.”[11]

Whereas Theodore ROOSEVELT and Fritjoff NANSEN had sent messages of thanks to their representatives, Santos DUMONT abstained. Moreover, the diploma itself is also missing, which can be deemed further evidence that Santos DUMONT had little interest in this award. Apart from this episode, there are no other indications, that Santos DUMONT was interested in the Olympic Games or even that he would have been concerned with the Olympic Idea. Neither he nor his biographers mention the Olympic diploma; it seems to have played no part in Santos DUMONT’s life.[12] One reason might have been that Pierre de COUBERTIN‘S Olympic involvement was virtually unknown internationally, whereas Santos DUMONT was a media star.[13] The same also applied to Theodore ROOSEVELT and Fritjoff NANSEN, who both failed to attend the Olympic diploma award ceremony. For the international Olympic committee at that time, it must have been a privilege to be able to honour such personalities and not vice-versa.

It seems that Santos DUMONT, in principle, set no great store by awards. He attached no value to the numerous medals presented by the Aero Club de Paris, the Brazilian government, the French Academies of Sciences or the numerous other institutions, which had decorated him. Santos DUMONT only set great store by two things; a small St. Benedict coin and an ornate rosette. The former was presented to him as protection against accidents by Princess Isabel, the heir to the throne of Dom PEDROS II, whilst the latter was the emblem of his investiture as Grande Oficial da Legião Honra.[14]

Apart from Santos DUMONT’s Olympic diploma, bestowed at the beginning of the 20th century there was not the remotest contact to the IOC and Olympic Games. The interlude in St. Louis in 1904 was detached from the Olympic Games nor can any relationship be traced concerning Santos DUMONT’s friendly contact with Antônio PRADO JUNIOR, who was later to become the first President of the Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro.[15] One could describe Santos DUMONT as a ‘reluctant Olympic hero, who, together with important personalities of the day, was awarded the first Olympic Diploma, in which, however, he showed little personal interest.



DACOSTA, Lamartine & MIRAGAYA, Ana: Santos-Dumont, aviador esportista: o primeiro herói olímpico do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2016.

JORGE, Fernando: As lutas, a glória e o martírio de Santos Dumont, Rio de Janeiro 2007.


First publication of this paper:

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2010: Brazil goes Olympic, p. 74-81.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker


(1) DACOSTA, Lamartine: “Santos Dumont: O primeiro herói Olímpico do esporte brasileiro”, in: Coletânea do IV Encontro Nacional de História do Esporte, Lazer e Educação Física, Belo Horizonte 1996, p. 229 to 233. Three autobiographies by, and more than 24 biographies about Santos DUMONT have been written. They are summarised in the most recent biography by JORGE, Fernando: As lutas, a glória e o martírio de Santos Dumont, Rio de Janeiro 52007, p. 339.

(2) The cause of Santos DUMONT’s death was undisclosed for 23 years until 1955. The Governor, Pedro de TOLEDO instructed the doctor tasked with the investigation of the cause of death not to make the suicide public. After all, the Brazilian national hero’s reputation might have been damaged. JORGE, Fernando: As lutas, a glória e o martírio de Santos Dumont, Rio de Janeiro 2007, p. 327.

(3) AZEVEDO, Fernando: A cultura brasileira, Brasília 1996, p. 379.

(4) JORGE: Santos Dumont (2007), p. 74.

(5) JORGE: Santos Dumont (2007), p. 82.

(6) SEVCENKO, Nicolau: “O prelúdio republicano, astúcias da ordem e ilusões do progresso”, in: SEVCENKO; História da vida privada no Brasil Vol. III, São Paulo 1998, p. 34.

(7) NAPOLEÃO, Aluízio: Santos Dumont e a conquista do ar, Belo Horizonte 1998, p. 57.

(8) JORGE: Santos Dumont (2007), p. 198-200.

(9) “The International Committee also decided in favour of the creation of an ‘Honorary Diploma’ of great artistic value to be awarded on rare occasions to those who have rendered long-term and highly significant service to the Olympic Cause and to the cause of sport and physical education. This will become the highest compensation that can be obtained in this context…”. COUBERTIN, Pierre de: “La réunion du Comité International Olympique”, (“The reconvening of the IOC”) in: Revue Olympique, Juillet 1901, p. 37.

(10) COUBERTIN, Pierre de: Une campagne de vingt-et-un ans. (A 21-year Campaign) Paris 1909, p. 151; DACOSTA: Santos Dumont (1996), p. 229 to 233.

(11) “What we see in Mr. Santos-Dumont, gentlemen, is the spirit of perseverance. He has pushed himself to his limits. No one has ever gone further in that direction. Perseverance, gentlemen, is one of the most essential principals of sport. Perseverance requires failure; the muscular victories are, from an educational point of view, always the result of a series of setbacks and almost necessarily lead to success. Therefore perseverance can be superimposed on other necessary qualities.” COMITÉ INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIQUE (ED.): Congrès International de Sport et d’Education physique, Bruxelles 9-14 Juin 1905, Auxerre 1905, P. 242-245.

(12) JORGE: Santos Dumont (2007). Even in this last and detailed publication on Santos Dumont, there is no reference to a relationship between Santod Dumont, Pièrre de Coubertin or the IOC.

(13) JORGE: Santos Dumont (2007), p. 127. During the 1900 Paris World Exposition, the Concours internationaux d’exercises physiques et de sports and the Olympic Games organised as a part thereofwere an insignificant fringe event, whilst Santos DUMONT was treated as one of the main attractions.

(14) DUMONT VILLARES, Henrique: Quem deu asas ao homem: Alberto Santos Dumont, sua vida, sua gloria, São Paulo 1953, p. 463.

(15) JORGE: Santos Dumont (2007), p. 97, 237 to 238, 255, 277, 298, 307, 314.

1905- Santos Dumont, Brazil’s first Olympic hero

1900: Adolpho Christiano Klingelhoefer, first Brazilian athlete in Olympic Games

28. November 2017
Postcard from World Exhibition 1900

Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER was the first Brazilian athlete to participate in the Olympic Games.(1) However, to this day, he is erroneously recorded as a Frenchman in the relevant lists of participants.(2) He competed as an amateur in several athletic disciplines at the Concours Internationaux d’exercises physiques et de sports staged on the fringe of the Paris 1900 World Exposition. There, over a period of more than six months, a large variety of sports and entertainment events wasorganised, from traditional sports embracing ball games and athletics to car, motorcycle and motorboat races and even ballooning.(3) The athletic events for amateurs, in which Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER also took part, were later termed the Olympic Games. KLINGELHOEFER competed in the 60 and 200-meter sprint disciplines.(4)

Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER was born in Paris on 5th May 1880, theson of the Brazilian Embassy Vice-Consul and died in 1956. Although he was not born on Brazilian soil, which is normally a criterion for Brazilian nationality, he was never-theless born the son of a Brazilian diplomat abroad, which is why he had to be granted Brazilian citizenship. This is in accordance with article 6 of the Brazilian constitution of 1824 in force at that time.

„Art 6. São Cidadãos Brazileiros

I. Os que no Brazil tiverem nascido, quer sejam ingênuos, ou libertos, ainda que o pai seja estrangeiro, uma vez que este não resida por serviço de sua nação.

II. Os filhos de pai Brasileiro, e os illegitimos de mãe Brazileira, nascidos em paiz estrangeiro, que vierem a estabelecer domicílio no Imperio.

III Os filhos de pai Brazileiro, que estiverem em paiz estrangeiro em serviço do Imperio, embora elles não venham estabelecer domicilio no Brazil.“(5)

The athletes, who participated in the 1900 Paris Games, didn’t represent their native lands, as was to be the case in later Olympic Games, but represented their clubs, universities or colleges.(6) Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER competed for the famous Racing Club de Paris of which he was for many years one of its best athletes. Because he was a member of this traditional French club, he was recorded in the participant lists as a Frenchman, although he was, in fact, Brazilian.(7) The marathon runner Michel THÉATO, who was a Luxembourg national, was similarly treated and was also listed in the statistics as a Frenchman.(8) Ronald MACDONALD was termed US American for a long time, as he competed in 1900 for the Boston University Medical School, in fact he stemmed from Nova Scotia and was therefore a Canadian.(9)

In Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER another athlete has been discovered, who, to this day, has been recorded as a Frenchman but actually was a Brazilian national. However, his sporting career was always linked to the Racing Club de Paris, for which in 1899, 1902 and 1904 he became French Champion in the 110-meter hurdles. In 1901 and 1902, he also became French Champion in the 400-meter hurdles and in 1902 he even set a new world record. In 1902, he also played for the Racing Club de Paris rugby team, which won the French Championship.

Although Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER may never have set foot on Brazilian soil in his entire life and had probably lived and identified himself with respect to sport as a Frenchman, according to national law, he can nevertheless be regarded as the first Brazilian athlete to compete in Olympic Games.


MALLON, Bill: The 1900 Olympic Games. Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary, Jefferson 1998.

LENNARTZ, Karl & TEUTENBERG, Walter: II. 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, Kassel 1995

POSEY, Carl A.: The Olympic Century. The II Olympiad, Irwindale & Hongkong 2000.


First publication of this paper:

De Franceschi Neto-Wacker, Marcia / Wacker, Christian 2010: Brazil goes Olympic, p.70-74.


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by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker



(1) In the few surviving documents and files concerning his personal data, the spelling of his name is inconsistent. It is therefore not surprising, that Adolpho also appears as Adolphe, since Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER spent almost his entire life in France. Here, we wish to cordially thankUlf LAGERSTRÖM (Rio de Janeiro), who drew our attention to this athlete and to an associated internet discussion.

(2) MALLON, Bill: The 1900 Olympic Games. Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary, Jefferson 1998.

(3) POSEY, Carl A.: The Olympic Century. The II Olympiad, Irwindale & Hongkong 2000, p. 14 to 15.

(4) Since, at the 1900 Paris International Games, the awarding of three medals in gold, silver and bronze for the winner, runner up and third place respectively was not yet customary, as this practice only took effect from 1904; it is hardly reasonable to claim two bronze medals for Brazil retrospectively. As at the games in Antiquity, in 1900, only the winners were rewarded in Paris; runners-up and third-places were left empty-handed. MOLZBERGER, Ansgar: “Rituale” (“Rituals”), in: LÄMMER, Manfred & WACKER, Christian (ED.): Olympia: Werte, Wettkampf, Weltereignis), Cologne 2008, p. 6. (Virtues, Competition, International Event) Cologne 2008, p. 6

(5) “Art. 6. Brazilian Citizens are those:

I. Who were born in Brazil, either naïve or free, even if the father is a foreigner, provided that they are not in the service of their country.

II. The children of a Brazilian father and the illegitimates of a Brazilian mother, born in a foreign country, who will establish domicile in the Empire.

III. The children of a Brazilian father, who are in a foreign country in service for the Empire, even if they don’t establish their domicile in Brazil.”çao24.htm.

(6) LENNARTZ, Karl & TEUTENBERG, Walter: II. 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, Kassel 1995; MALLON, Bill: The 1900 Olympic Games. Results of All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary, Jefferson 1998, p. 4-13.

(7) Adolpho Christiano KLINGELHOEFER‘S nationality can also be verified from a document of 23rd November 1948. In the passenger list of a ship sailing from Europe to the United States he is registered as a Brazilian.

(8) MALLON: 1900 (1998), p. 10, 66 FN: 73.

(9) MALLON: 1900 (1998), p. 66 FN: 80.

1900- Adolpho Christiano Klingelhoefer, first Brazilian athlete in Olympic Games

1816: Baron Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin and Brazil

14. November 2017

The following story neither is a portrait of a famous athlete nor another puzzle piece in our field of the history of the Olympics nor a cultural historical analysis of a phenomenon in sports heritage. It is not related to sports at all! But the glimpse to follow sheds light on a story in Rio de Janeiro, Olympic Games city 2016, involving the grandfather of Pierre de Coubertin, Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin, who lived several months below the sugar loaf exactly 200 years before the year of the big event in 1816.

Brazil and Latin America in general only started to develop their Olympic activities in the beginning of the 20th century, even though involvement of personalities from Latin America go back as early as 1894.[1] The Brazilian Olympic Committee COB was founded in 1914, but not involved in organised sports at all. Even the nomination of the Brazilian team to the Olympic Games in Antwerp 1920 had been done by the Brazilian Sports Confederation (Confederação Brasileira de Desportos CBD) and not the Olympic Committee.[2]

The development of sports on an international level was still a task of individuals and not yet carried into the societies. Pierre de Coubertin recognised this gap and distributed to Latin America in 1917 a brochure called “Que es el Olimpismo?” with the support of the YMCA. But still involvement with the Olympic Movement in the 1920s and early ’30s was mostly confined to idealistic athletes and IOC officials who even lived in Europe. Pierre de Coubertin used his excellent connections in diplomatic circles to bind upper class European residents from Latin America to his Olympic ideas. But the Olympic Movement itself had not yet arrived in Latin America.[3]

For Pierre de Coubertin and other IOC Members the report of Henry de Baillet-Latour, who travelled to Latin America in 1922/1923 to observe the Regional South American Games in Rio de Janeiro 1922 among other duties, must have been sobering. The Count pointed out a lack of sporting education both on an athletes’ level but also inside the societies and suggested stronger relations between National Olympic Committees and the IOC as well as the nomination of a Director of Latin American Games.[4] Those might have been tasks too huge for Pierre de Coubertin to further develop Olympism in Latin America. Furthermore he stepped down as IOC President in 1925 and therefore never had a chance nor felt it necessary to visit Brazil.


Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin, the grandfather

Perhaps Pierre de Coubertin had heard about Brazil from inside the family. His grandfather, Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin, who died eight years after the birth of his grandson in 1871, travelled to Rio de Janeiro and stayed there for about six months. Probably he remembered some exciting stories from 1816, the year the Bourbons in France recovered power after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo 1815.

Most of what we know about Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin derives from a chronicle written by Paul de Coubertin, Pierre’s brother, in 1925 and few secondary sources. He must have been an excellent official, loyal to different political powers and always prepared to make decisions and to manage difficult situations during his different assignments in Northern Germany, Brazil, Belgium and Spain.

During his stay in Bremen and Oldenburg between 1809 and 1811, his management style as an official in implementing the French bureaucracy of the Bonaparte régime was described as fast acting with “Prussian” virtues like punctuality, commitment, reporting, writing minutes and others. He had been the antithesis of the stereotypical French bon viveur and womaniser – a drab and fully loyal servant of the Empire, sometimes even dry and unemotional.[5] In German chronicles he had been attested to be adaptable, using the German noble title “von” Coubertin instead of “de” Coubertin.[6]

The professional character of Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin seemed to have been straightforward, thoughtful and responsible. But he also had an emotional and sensitive side, frail and benevolent as described by an annalist 1815.[7] After his retirement from governmental duties in 1827, his preferred occupation became music and he had been an excellent violin player, receiving his artistic peers around him in the Coubertin castle in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuses near Paris.[8]

Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin was born 1788, one year before the French Revolution. His father, Louis François (1752-1807), was a lawyer and married to Jeanne Genéviéve Sandrier (1762-1826). The family, with the only son Julien and one daughter, probably stayed at the countryside during the revolution, as the castle Coubertin had not yet been destroyed.

He must have enjoyed an excellent education, because we find him again 1809 in northern Germany, where he served as a consular agent for the Bonaparte regime. At that time, Napoleon erected a continental blockade to cut off trade with Britain and established control of the port accesses in northern Germany. One year later, Holland and the three main ports in northern Germany were occupied by Napoleon. Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin was given responsibility for those ports.

Another year later, in 1811, he became Vice-Governor of Oldenburg and was responsible for reorganising the administration of the whole department and abolishing the 600-year-old city council. At the age of 23, he modernised the local and regional authority districts and municipalities of the Oldenburg region and can be regarded as a reformer and somehow the first Governmental President of the region.[9]

By the end of 1811, Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin disappeared from Oldenburg in mysterious circumstances. He asked for vacation, which was refused, and he evidently returned to France, where he stayed quiet until 1814. On the day of Napoleon’s abdication, 11th April 1815, he entered the new Bourbon army as Lieutenant. A year later he had been awarded the “l’ordre de Lys”, emblem of the Bourbons, and joined King Louis XVIII in Belgium. In 1816, Pierre’s grandfather was part of an official mission to Rio de Janeiro under the Duke of Luxembourg, but returned the same year. In 1817, he became Captain of the Cavalry, and a year later Captain of the General Staff. In 1821, he was awarded the title “Baron” by Louis XVIII and married Caroline de Pardieu, mother of the famous painter and father of Pierre, Charles de Coubertin.[10] Between 1823 and 1824 he participated for the last time in an official diplomatic mission in Spain.[11]

Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin made his career under King Louis XVIII, who died 1824; in the same year he returned home to castle Coubertin at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and stayed there for nearly 50 years more. He was twice elected Mayor of the small town and dedicated his life to art, music and culture. A year before his death on 17 February 1871, the Prussians occupied castle Coubertin and forced him to flee to the house of his wife’s family, where he finally died.[12]


Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin in Rio de Janeiro

In 1808 the Portuguese King João VI and his entire court were forced by Napoleon to leave Portugal for Brazil, and in 1815, the King declared Portugal, Brazil and Algarve an independent kingdom. Unlike other European rulers who decided to return to their kingdoms, João VI stayed in Brazil, which no longer had been colony and governed his Portuguese realm from there.

Diplomatic exchanges with the new powers in Europe started immediately and France despatched the Duke of Luxembourg, together with Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin as Goodwill Am-bassador (“Ambassadeur Extraordinaire”) to install the first French Consul General Jean-Baptiste Maler as the Bourbon representative. The visa for Coubertin is dated from February to December 1816[13] after having been appointed Mayor of the Duke of Luxembourg in November 1815.

João VI had requested a full infrastructure for Rio de Janeiro with a bank, press, schools, libraries, theatre, botanical garden and an academy of art and science. It had been obvious that artists from abroad would have to come to Rio de Janeiro to fulfill the duty to develop and document this exotic new kingdom. The huge potential in art and science in France also had been recognized by the

Portuguese ambassador in Paris, Pedro José de Meneses. Although many unemployed artists and scientists had been connected to the Bonaparte Empire, the ambassador had been rational enough to understand that artists were very well used to serve their contractors. On top of it, Joachim Lebreton perfectly understood to influence the Portuguese decision makers and was even able to convince the Portuguese minister, José Maria de Brito, to personally cover his expenses for the travel to Brazil.

The group of French artists and scientists had all been connected to Napoleon and therefore had been somewhat desperate for new jobs after the defeat of the Emperor 1815. The chance to develop an academy for art and science in Rio de Janeiro and get paid for it must have been highly attractive. Approximately 40 artists and scientists and their families arrived from Le Havre in Rio de Janeiro on 26 March 1816. That was the very same day that Maria I, Queen of Portugal, died and João VI officially became the King of the United Nations of Brazil, Portugal and the Algarves.[14]

Joachim Lebreton had been the intellectual and organisational leader of the group of artists and scientist, which had been called “Lebreton colony”.[15] The most famous of this them had been Joachim Lebreton himself (former secretary of the French Institute of Art), Nicolas-Antoine Taunay (painter at the same Institute), Jean-Baptiste Debret (historical painter), Grandjean de Montigny (architect) and François Ovide (engineer).

The foundation of an academy of art and science in Rio de Janeiro in 1816 happened more or less independently of arrival of the Duke of Luxembourg and Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin in Brazil. Jean-Baptiste Maler as diplomatic and official representative of the new Bourbon kingdom deeply mistrusted the “Lebreton colony” and had been supported by the Duke of Luxembourg and his followers (including Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin and the Austrian composer Sigismund Neukomm).[16] They stayed in Rio de Janeiro exactly during the first months after the arrival of the artists, probably making sure of controlling the implementation of the academy. Nothing is known about the political activities of Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin in Rio de Janeiro, but he produced a series of at least 23 watercolours, mostly landscapes, in a booklet during July and August 1816.[17] The “Lebreton colony” might have animated him!

Will this story change Olympic history? No! But it might shed light on an interesting personality, a highly capable official and manager, who was also attracted to art, music and culture. The son of Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin, Charles became a famous painter in Paris, his grandson Pierre an universalist involved in sports, art and culture, education, politics and more.



BANDEIRA, Julio – CORRÊA DO LAGO, Pedro: Debret e o Brasil. Obra completa, Rio de Janeiro (2nd edition), 2013.

Cipiniuk, Alberto: L’Origine de l’Académie des Beaux Arts de Rio de Janeiro, Brussels, PhD theses, 1990.

Lebreton, Joachim: Memória do Cavaleiro Joachim Lebreton para o estabelecimento da Escola de Belas Artes, no Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, 1816.

Kraemer-Mandeau, Wolf: “National and International Olympic Movements in Latin America”, in: Naul, Roland: Contemporary Studies in Olympic Games Movement, Frankfurt 1997.

MARIOT, Philippe: “Charles de Coubertin, peintre (1822-1908)”, in: MÜLLER, Norbert – WACKER, Christian (Ed.): Pierre de Coubertin et les arts, Lausanne, 2008, pp. 13-17.

Müller, N. – Todt, N. (Ed.) 2015: Pierre de Coubertin 1863-1937. Olimpismo –Seleção de textos. Porto Alegre: EdiPUCRS.

Neto-Wacker, Marcia – Wacker, Christian: Brazil goes Olympic, Kassel, 2010.

Schmidt, Gerold: “Bonaventure Julien Baron de Coubertin (1788-1871). Der Großvater des Gründers der Olympischen Spiele als napoleonischer Beamter in Bremen und Oldenburg”, in: Oldenburger Landesverein fuer Geschichte, Natur- und Heimatkunde e.V. (Ed.): Oldenburgische Familienkunde, Jg. 44, Heft 1, 2002.

Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz: O sol do Brasil: Nicolas-Antoine Taunay e as desventuras dos artistas franceses na corte de d. João, São Paulo, 2008.

Torres, César R.: Jogos Olímpicos Latino-Americanos. Rio de Janeiro 1922, Manaus, 2012 [written in Portuguese, Spanish and English]


First publication of this paper:

Wacker, Christian 2015: Baron de Coubertin and Brazil. In: Journal of Olympic History 23.1, 2015, p. 26/29.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

by: Marcia De Franceschi Wacker / Christian Wacker


[1]TORRES 2012, 115ff. Pierre de Coubertin had chosen the Argentinean José B. Zubiaur as member of the first IOC emphasizing that also athletics in Latin America raises its flag.

[2] NETO-WACKER – WACKER 2010, 85ff. Despite the foundation of the NOC the Brazilian Sports Confederation continued to control national sports and the very few international sports involvements. The COB was forgotten and its therefore makes no wonder that an Olympic Committee had been founded again in 1935.

[3] KRAEMER-MANDEAU 1997, 182ff; NETO-WACKER – WACKER 2010, 145f.

[4] NETO-WACKER – WACKER 2010, 148. TORRES 2012, 142ff published the report of Henry de Baillet-Latour.

[5] SCHMIDT 2002, 414, 446, 471.

[6] SCHMIDT 2002, 449.

[7]SCHMIDT 2002, 466-469. See also the characterization in RICKLEFS, Friedrich Reinhard: “Deutscher Edelmuth im Kampf mit Französischer Barbarey bey der Marine-Conscription im Oldenburgischen”, in: GERMANIA. ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR DEUTSCHLANDS GEMEINWOHL, Vol. 3.1, Oldenburg 1815, pp. 64-102.

[8] SCHMIDT 2002, p. 509.

[9] SCHMIDT 2002, pp. 406-413, 473-483.

[10] MARIOT 2008.

[11] SCHMIDT 2002, pp. 496-506.

[12] SCHMIDT 2002, pp. 507-509.

[13] SCHMIDT 2002, p. 502 mentions the year 1815 as year Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin travelled to Brazil. He obviously read the family chronicle written by Paul de Coubertin by hand in 1925 wrongly, as all watercolours produced by Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin in Rio de Janeiro are dated 1816.

[14] SCHWARCZ 2008, pp. 176-178, 195-197.

[15] SCHWARCZ 2008, pp. 175-188 analysed the group of French artists and scientists and convincingly states that those people around Joachim Lebreton did not arrive in Rio de Janeiro as an official diplomatic mission, but much more as a private collection of creatives. This is why the group has to be called “colony” and not “mission”.

[16] SCHWARCZ 2008, 14, pp. 209, 233-235.

[17] The watercolours are today in unknown private possession and therefore not published except two drawings published in a sales catalogue from Christie’s, Exploration and Travel, London, Friday, 27 September 1996, 10.30 am.

1816- Baron Julien Bonaventure de Coubertin and Brazil

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