The power of the Olympic Games is in their ability to be a catalyst for change and transform the lives of young people from across the host nation. Once the final medals at this summer’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games have been awarded, the volunteers have returned to their day jobs and the 30,000 international media have filed their final stories of herculean athleticism, ten talented young athletes from Rio de Janeiro will be at just the beginning of their Olympic journeys.
This group of promising young sporting stars from disadvantaged backgrounds have won a place to train at Doha’s world-renowned Aspire Academy for Sporting Excellence as a result of the Qatar Olympic Committee’s (QOC) ‘Shine’ project. The athletes will receive the same specialised coaching and sport science support that has contributed to the success of Qatar’s World Champions, Mutaz Barshim and Ashraf Elseify, both graduates of the Aspire Academy.
Qatar’s world-class sports facilities attract some of the best global sporting stars for high-level training camps, including Bayern Munich, PSG, the British and Australian Olympic swimming teams and several athletics world champions. The QOC is committed to utilising Qatar’s knowledge and resources to support the careers of young athletes from around the world. The Shine project aims to use the opportunity of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to provide support and assistance that will help Brazil’s most talented athletes realise their full potential. H.E. Dr Thani Abdulrahman Al Kuwari, Secretary General of the QOC explains more:
“The Qatar Olympic Committee established Shine because we believe in the power of sport to transform lives. The Olympic Games will leave a compelling legacy for Rio and Brazil, and the Qatar Olympic Committee is determined to contribute to that legacy. We want to make sure that we grasp the opportunity of the Rio 2016 Games to leave a positive impact and inspire young people in Rio de Janeiro and Qatar.”
The QOC, together with the Qatar Athletics Federation and Aspire Academy, have partnered with the Rio de Janeiro Athletics Federation and Futuro Olimpico, an NGO founded by Brazil’s Olympic bronze medallist from Atlanta ‘96, Arnaldo de Oliveira, to organise the project. An athletics competition in the outskirts of the Brazilian capital in May saw almost 200 young athletes battle it out across 24 events to become one of the ten winners of the trip of a lifetime. Sheikha Asma Al Thani was very impressed by the level of competition and speaking from the event said:
“It was really inspiring seeing these athletes compete. They were really pushing themselves to their limits and to see them compete and win for the spot in Shine was incredible. I can’t wait to see them in Doha.”
For many of the winners, travelling to Doha will be the first time that they have left Brazil or have even been on a plane. 19-year- old 800m runner Saulo Santos Morais, describes his excitement:
“I can’t wait to feel the adrenaline and to know another country. It will be my first time in an airplane. This is a very gratifying opportunity that people from Qatar are giving to us. I can’t wait to have the chance to train in a different climate, a different place and somewhere that I have never seen.”
Sarah Morais, 21, is one of Brazil’s most promising young talents. The 400m runner feels that the Shine project is providing an opportunity to help athletics in Brazil as a whole. She explains:
“It’s what Brazil and athletics needed. Support from a foreign country changes our vision about what we are doing and is an incentive for athletes to pursue their goals. The trip to Qatar is a gift and it will also motivate the athletes.”
21-year- old Lucas Soares has his sights set on competing in the 2020 Olympic Games. He has already achieved strong results on a regional level, finishing third in the Rio de Janeiro Championships in 800m and second in the 400m hurdles. Commenting on the opportunity ahead, he said:
“I’ve heard that Qatar is very advanced in terms of technology. I really want to absorb everything possible, meet new people and to learn from high-level athletes. Athletics is everything in my life and I live for it. Futuro Olimpico opened a lot of doors for me and because of it I will go to Qatar. I want to thank everyone who gave us this opportunity.”
Founded in 2007, Futuro Olimpico aims to take athletics to students at Rio de Janeiro’s public schools. Currently around 200 students participate in the project, which offers them support not only on sports but also provides them with education, medical, social and psychological assistance. Arnaldo de Oliveira, who is devoting his life to giving back to the sport that gave him so much, explains, “Our goal is to transform our athletes into good citizens. We use athletics as a vehicle for social inclusion.” He feels that Shine will hugely benefit his athletes, as well as him personally:
“It is a unique experience and a great opportunity to meet new athletes, a new culture, and a high level training centre. They will see what an athlete needs to go through to win an Olympic medal. It will be an interesting exchange not only for the athletes but also for me as a coach. I will learn about their training style and discipline. I think that when we come back, we’ll have new ways of seeing things, new structures and positive thinking in order to create more Olympic athletes.”
The athletes will travel to Qatar with Arnaldo at the end of 2016 for the week-long training camp. The Aspire Academy regularly hosts training camps for Asia’s most talented young athletes enabling them to enhance their development and performance through tailored and optimised training programmes. The Shine athletes will benefit from the same experience, helping to provide new knowledge and expertise that will support their future training programmes.
In order to further strengthen the QOC’s support to Futuro Olimpico, the QOC will be asking members of the public to make a donation to the NGO when entering Bayt Qatar, the QOC’s hospitality house for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This will enable the NGO to buy uniforms and equipment and for further athletes to benefit from the partnership long into the future.
You can watch more about the Shine project in the QOC’s film here:
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