Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips arrived in Rio this week, aboard the GREAT Britain yacht in the Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race, and joined Brazil Sevens captain Fernando Portugal and rugby players from the Rocinha and Cantagalo favelas to lead local school children in their first ever rugby skills session on Flamengo beach, in an initiative supported by the Rio 2016 Organising Committee’s Education Department.
The Clipper Race is the world’s longest ocean race and the only global sailing event that is crewed by amateur competitors, from all walks of life. Phillips is participating in the race while recovering from injury but hopes to return to the England team and ultimately play for Team GB in the 2016 Olympic Games.
“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,” the IRB Sevens Player of the Year 2009 admitted.
“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 Games and is still very much an emerging sport in Brazil, with only 10,000 players estimated to be participating throughout the country.
“With just three years to go before Brazil host the Olympic Rugby Sevens, we are in a decisive and crucial stage to be promoting and growing rugby in Brazil. Events like this today are vital in raising the profile of our sport and inspiring children like the students from Escola Municipal Guimarães Rosa, to be our future generation of rugby players,” said Portugal.
“I am grateful to the Clipper Race for providing this opportunity during their stopover in Brazil. I wish Ollie and the GREAT Britain team all the best with the rest of their round the world race and I look forward to meeting him back to Rio in 2016 as my competitor on the rugby pitch.”
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 Olympic Games to create a lasting legacy for rugby that extends beyond 2016.
Mariana Behr, Head of Education for the Rio 2016 Organising Committee, said: “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 Phillips and Portugal with the coaching of the students from the Escola Municipal Guimarães Rosa school in Deodoro, the region where the Olympic Rugby Sevens competitions 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 and 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.
“Ollie Phillips and Fernando Portugal are excellent role models for our sport and we hope that many more young people like these here today can be inspired to take up the sport and continue to develop these key life skills.”
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is a 40,000 mile ocean odyssey across six continents which takes 11 months to complete. Twelve teams with a combined total of 670 crew compete from over 40 countries. As it travels around the world, the Clipper Race provides a platform for community engagement and international promotion of culture, sports, trade and tourism.
For more information on the Clipper Race, visit www.clipperroundtheworld.com
Player Quotes of Support
“More than anything, Sevens embodies the Olympic ideals of camaraderie, fair play and respect on and off the field of play.” – Shane Williams, Wales
“You play sport at the highest level to challenge yourself to be the best that you can possibly be and to compete with the best from all over the world, and what better stage to do that on than at the Olympics?” – Sue Day, England
“Going to the Commonwealth Games was amazing and to have the chance to go to the Olympics would be right up there with anything you could possibly dream of doing in sport.” – Tamati Ellison, New Zealand
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