On Saturday 9 November the preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games reaches exactly 1,000 days before the Opening Ceremony.
While the preparations continue to accelerate, Brazilian youths are participating in Olympic sports in Belém, the capital of Pará State in the north of Brazil. Almost 4,000 athletes aged between 15 and 17 years old, from all states of the country, are competing in 13 disciplines in the biggest edition of Brazilian School Youth Games, officially opened on Thursday7 November.
Some of these athletes were part of the group of 1,000 youths that, this Friday 8 November celebrated the 1,000 days to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games milestone in the grass of Mangueirão Stadium, forming the number 1,000.
Agberto Guimarães, Rio 2016 Executive Director of Sport & Paralympic Integration, "An event like this is an excellent start for future high level athletes; it can multiply the contact with Olympic values and sports. Each of these 4,000 athletes will spread this engagement through their schoolmates, teachers, friends and family. Celebrating the 1,000 days to go milestone during the competition in Belém means touching the whole country with the spirit and magic of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."
Sarah Menezes, Brazilian Judo Olympic Gold Medallist at London 2012 Games, "I first encountered the sport of judo at school, when I was nine years old, and, with practice, took part in tournaments and obtained good results to be acknowledged. I am sure that several athletes who compete in the School Youth Games can be part of Brazilian National team, despite their youth. They must believe in their talent, because everything is possible in our lives. It's just about believing, practicing and dedicating yourself."
Vitor Hugo Mourão dos Santos, 17 years old, School Youth Games winner in 2010, second placed in the Youth World Championship in 2013 and integrant of Brazil's athlete's delegation in Copenhagen, in 2009, when Rio was appointed to host the 2016 Games, "The School Youth Games are extremely important as everything starts at school. For 2016, I will still be too young, but I look forward to competing and gaining experience. I notice that the practices with my coach are working and will be in a good shape to qualify for the Rio 2016 Games."
Julio César de Oliveira, 17 years old, winner of School Youth Games in 2012 and medalist at Australia's Youth Olympic Festival in 2013 (silver in the 4x100 relay and bronze in the 400m hurdles), "Several kids start developing their will to practice and compete thanks to the School Youth Games. I am excited to have the chance to be in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and have lots of friends and family watching me competing and supporting me."
Below are some background stories regarding the 1,000 days to go image:
• Over half of the youths who participated in the photo are athletes who competed in the athletics tournament, which started this Friday, with 562 competitors.
• The other half was composed by youths who have benefited from the Pro Paz, a programme that looks forward to spread a culture of peace in poor communities of Pará state through public policies and sports and cultural activities.
• The Mangueirão Stadium, which is included in the Rio 2016 Pre-Games Training Camps Guide, regularly hosts national and international athletics meetings and holds the South American public record in the sport's competitions, with 42.640 people in 2004.
• The strip used to form the statement "Rio at 1.000" showed a rendering of the Rio 2016 official logo produced by Belém's graffiti Dime França and Sebá Tapajós, as well as Minas Gerais native Hyper.
• Also included in the photo are former marathon athlete Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima (bronze medalist in Athens Olympic Games, in 2004, and winner of the Pierre de Coubertin medal, the most important Olympic award) and judo athlete Sarah Manezes (gold medalist in London 2012 Olympic Games), who are ambassadors of the Brazilian School Youth Games.
• A two-time Brazilian School Youth Games winner, in 2005 and 2007, Sarah Menezes is part of a group of athletes that debuted in the Olympic Games less than 1,000 days after having disputed the school tournament. The first Olympic appearance of the judo athlete was in Beijing, in 2008. In London, in 2012, four other athletes participated in the School Youth Games less than 1,000 days before competing in the Olympic Games in the British capital - Geisa Arcanjo (a finalist in hammer), Aldemir Gomes (semifinalist in the 200m), Jonathan Henrique Silva (26th placed in triple jump) and Tamiris Liz (reserve in the 4x100m relay at the age of 16).
• Also included in the photo is former athlete Agberto Guimarães, fourth placed in the 800m in Moscow Olympic Games, in 1980, and two-time Pan-American champion (800m and 1,500m) in Caracas, in 1983. A Pará native, he is now the Sports and Paralympic Integration Executive Director of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee.