Former England rugby sevens Captain Ollie Phillips who arrived in Rio this week on board the GREAT Britain entry, joined the Brazilian rugby Captain, Fernando Portugal, and rugby players from the Rocinha and Cantagalo favelas to lead local school children in their first ever rugby skills session. The session took place on Flamengo beach, in an initiative supported by the Rio 2016 Organising Committee’s Education Department.
Ollie Phillips is participating in the race while recovering from injury but hopes to return to the national team and play in the 2016 Olympics.
The 2009 IRB Player of the Year, Ollie Phillips, said: “Being here in Rio with the Clipper Race and having the opportunity to work with Fernando Portugal to introduce one of the UK’s national sports to kids in Brazil has been a highly inspirational and memorable experience.
“Brazil is famously a footballing nation but the opportunities for young people to be exposed to rugby and many more sports as they prepare to host the Olympics are vast. I hope very much to return here in three years as an Olympic athlete and see how the sport has grown in popularity.”
Rugby sevens makes its debut in the Rio 2016 Olympics and is still very much an emerging sport in Brazil, with only 10,000 players estimated to be participating throughout the country. The Rio 2016 Organising Committee’s Education Department are starting to work with local schools to help boost awareness and participation in the sport ahead of the Olympics to create a lasting legacy for rugby that extends beyond 2016.
Mariana Behr, Head of Education for the Rio 2016 Organising Committee commented: “Our goal is to take advantage of the Rio 2016 Games and incorporate the Olympic and Paralympic values into our schools’ teaching programme, as a way of inspiring kids to be champions in life. Introducing Olympic and Paralympic sports to students and encouraging them to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle is part of this process. It is great that we had this opportunity today.”
Assisting Ollie Phillips and Fernando Portugal with the coaching of the students from the Escola Municipal Guimarães Rosa school in Deodoro, the region where the Olympic rugby sevens events will take place, were coaches from Rio Rugby, which runs a social project teaching rugby in the Rocinha favela.
The coaches included Marcos Paixão who grew up playing rugby in the nearby Cantagalo favela and Ipanema Beach, who hopes to play for the Brazilian Olympic team one day. The project, called "Rugby is our Passion" uses rugby as an opportunity to bring focus and direction to young people in Brazil’s biggest slum neighbourhood which is home to nearly 70,000 people.
Justin Thornycroft, President of the Rio Rugby Foundation, said: “Rugby's underlining values of teamwork, courage, sportsmanship and respect are universal values that can help young people like Marcos Paixão deal with the challenges of growing up in the difficult environments that many face in Brazil, and helps equip them to carry these skills through to their adult lives as tools for social change.
“We are grateful to the Clipper Race for providing this opportunity during their stopover in Brazil. With rugby sevens making its debut in Rio 2016 we hope that more and more young people like these here today can be inspired to take up the sport and continue to develop these key life skills.”
Race 3, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Cape Town, South Africa starts on Saturday 12 October at 1400 local time (1700 UTC)