Brazil has set a training camp in the small Portugese city of Rio Maior for their athletes to train as the country’s sporting activities remain shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In early March Brazil’s Olympics Committee, as a part of its Emergency Programme to Support the Olympic system, was looking for places to set up the camp for their athletes to train. The committee, fearing a severe setback in athlete performances before the Tokyo Games, settled in Portugal as a training base for them. Since mid-July, 72 high-performance swimmers, judokas, boxers and gymnasts have started training at the Rio Maior Sports Center to keep in shape.
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The camp currently has over 100 athletes who tested negative for Covid-19 before leaving the country and again after they entered Portugal. The commencement of the camp was planned in such a way that it starts exactly a year before the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. They expect over 200 Brazilian athletes and staffers in 16 sports to join in by December.
Training in Brazil has been severely restricted due to sporting arenas remaining closed ever since the outbreak. Even in the capital city, infrastructure originally built for the Rio Olympics is accessed by very few and even if they do open up, athletes are fearful of returning to them, fearing that the country’s protocols and prevention measures haven’t been optimal.
Brazil has recorded nearly 90,000 deaths due to the coronavirus and more than 2.4 million cases have been registered. Their numbers are second only to the United States. Rio Maior just 46 miles north of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon has zero cases.
“Rio Maior gives us a bubble,” Marco La Porta, deputy chairman of Brazil’s Olympic Committee, says. “All workers at the sports centre live in the city. And that gives the athletes a very big assurance. In Brazil, they just don’t know who has had some contact with the coronavirus. We are trying to close a gap.”
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The Portugal Olympic Committee has helped all athletes who have sought special permission to enter Portugal for training. Tourists from Brazil, are, however, barred from entering the European Union because of the number of cases of coronavirus in Brazil.
Brazilian athletes have been training for various events in Rio Maior for the last 10 years and negotiations to make it the team’s official base ahead of the Paris Olympics in 2024 are in progress.
The facilities at Rio Maior include an aquatic park with two pools, a diving platform, an athletics stadium, a multi-use gymnasium, tennis courts and a football pitch. Various cities are being used for other sports also-- Coimbra for judo, Cascais for sailing and Sangalhos for gymnastics.
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Brazil’s Olympic body will use the $3 million sanctioned for the Tokyo Games in order to keep the camp running. Each athlete’s cost of being present at the camp is $70 per day in Rio Maior, covering accommodation, five meals a day, training facilities, laundry, and transportation.
As part of protocol, athletes will have to wear face masks all day except when they are training, running or at the gym. Their buffet meals will be set at different times, mostly one sport at a time to avoid crowding in the restaurant. Every interaction outside training areas will be restricted and social distancing is recommended.
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