As a result of this belief, the early history of the Olympic Games featured competition in the arts as well as sports. Events included architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, and music. Winners of these events were also awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals.
The goal of the Cultural Olympiad is to focus on the harmonies between culture and sport and to exemplify the values of the Games: friendship, respect, and excellence. While artistic endeavors are no longer contested for medals, culture and art continue to play a prominent role. This is most evident in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. However, exhibits and performances serve as precursors to the games and occur throughout the region at the various venues during the Games.
In the 2016 Rio Games this cultural event is called Celebra. It will feature six areas of artistic creation: literature, popular art, music, performing arts, visual arts, and dance. Celebra begins in April and runs through September. Innovators are being challenged to focus on the cultural diversity of Brazil by designing events encouraging audience participation, humanizing public spaces, and bringing inspiration to every day life. All Celebra events are free to the public. The list of events that will make up Celebra has not yet been made public, however below are some highlights of Brazilian culture that may become prominent themes.
Literature: Brazil has a rich literary history dating back to the 1500s. Exhibits may feature the works of well-renown authors such as:
- Machado de Assis regarded by many as the greatest writer of Brazilian literature. One of his most noted works, Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, is the tale of a politician and writer as told by himself after his death.
- Paul Coelho, one of the best-selling Brazilian authors. He penned The Alchemist, the story of a shepherd who goes on a journey searching for treasure and finds himself.
- Adriana Lisboa, a popular modern Brazilian author. Her work is recently receiving rave reviews in the United States since being translated into English. Crow Blue tells the story of a young girl, who suffers the loss of her mother at thirteen, and sets off to retrace her mothers travels through Brazil and the United States in search of her biological father.
Popular Art: One of the most diverse categories, some of the Brazilian culture and tradition highlighted may include:
- Brazilian cuisine, such as: caipirinha (k-eye-per-reen-yah) Brazil’s national cocktail made from fermented sugarcane juice; acarajé (a-ka-ra-zjeh) a deep-fried patty of black-eyed peas and onions stuffed with shrimp, nuts, and other ingredients; and feijoada (fay-zwah-da) a stew made of black beans, sausage, and pork.
- Tapestries of flowers, a tradition that began with Easter celebrations. Streets are covered in a base of sand or sawdust and elaborate designs are arranged on top with flowers, seeds, stones, and other organic materials.
- Traditional Brazilian festivals, the most well-known being Carnivale which is famous for its parades and the Bumba-Meu-Boi festival which features a dance using bulls made of wire frames to tell the story of a bull that was killed and brought back to life through healers and music.
Music: Brazilian music has its origins in African, Portuguese, and European styles. The music is full of passion and energy and is a very integral part of the Brazilian lifestyle.
- Bossa Nova is probably the most recognized. It is a blend of samba and jazz that became popular in the 1950s. The song most identified with it is The Girl from Ipanema.
- Brazilian Popular Music emerged in the late 1960s. It is a blend of styles: bossa nova, folk, rock, jazz, and samba. This is the most popular music listened to today.
- Choro is an instrumental style featuring flute, guitar, and chordophone. It originated in Rio in the 1800s.
Visual Arts: This category encompasses the art of painting, sculpture, cinema, and photography and may feature the work of:
- Sandra Cinto, a Brazilian painter and sculptor whose work has an ethereal, otherworldly quality to it. Much of her work encompasses landscapes and seascapes.
- Fernanda Montenegro, the first Brazilian actor nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Central Station.
- Sebastiao Salgado, one of the leading contemporary documentary photographers today, his work encompasses the history of Brazil and ecological topics and Felipe Dana, a photojournalist, whose work studies the impact major events, such as the Olympics and World Cup, has had on Brazilian society.
Dance: Brazilian dance, like it’s music, has its roots in African, Portuguese, and European styles. These dances exhibit soulfulness, sensuality, and passion.
- Samba (from semba meaning the invitation of a man to a woman to dance) is the best known. It is an African dance that was once banned for being too lewd.
- Carimbo (meaning drum) is a sensual dance in which the women often use a scarf or skirt as part of the movement. The Lambdada (meaning slap or hit) is a more modern form in which the body movements resemble waves.
- Forro (from forrobodo meaning a great party) is one of the most popular. It is usually danced with a partner in synchronization integrating often-complex steps.
Performing Arts: This category will likely be a blend of many of the aspects of all the others above. The goal is to bring these artistic endeavors to common spaces throughout Rio and Brazil; to bus stations, cafes, parks, open public spaces, trains, and boats just to name a few.
The impact of the cultural events has long reaching outcomes for the host country. Brazil has center stage in the months leading up to the Games and a worldwide audience for the two weeks while the Games are played. For many host countries, these events herald a boost in tourism and in doing so also boost local economies.
Check back monthly for more Olympic updates and commentary as I countdown to Rio 2016! For information on all things Olympic in Rio 2016 visit http://www.rio2016.com/en. To follow Team USA visit http://www.teamusa.org/.