Looking forward to Tokyo

It is hard to say with certainty (no one can predict the future), but after spending some time down at the Tokyo 2020 Japan House in Rio we got a flavour of some of the potential vibes of the city.

The one thing I can say for sure – and I know this is not exactly earth shattering stuff – but Tokyo 2020 will be different to the Rio games in every way.

Looking around the exhibition spaces at Japan House it was obvious the kind of atmosphere they are beginning to promote.

Rio has been based around those typical Brazilian characteristics: a sense of fun, passion, excitement and a bit of flying by the seat of your pants as well.

I got the impression Tokyo was already pitching its tent in an entirely different place. High-end technology, renewable energy and always trying to be on the cusp of something new.

In their “brand” booklet, it states: “Tokyo, find Japan’s unchanging traditions. Its unique culture ... pleasant days created by cutting-edge technology. Today Tokyo continues to revolutionise everything.”

Now of course this is marketing jargon but you get a clear sense of the change of direction Tokyo is heading in.

Rio, 'the marvellous city', has been a joy. I am hoping I will be saying a similar thing about Tokyo in four years time.

By Andy Bloss (article) and Tom Ellis (audio)


Planet Sport: A Legacy for Rio?

As the 2016 Games comes to and end and Rio hands over the Olympic baton to Tokyo we investigate the legacy that has been left for the Brazilian city.  Planet Sport reporters Tom Ellis and Andy Bloss talk to residents of Curicica, a neighbourhood in Rio, where homes were demolished to make way for the new Bus Rapid Transport route providing a fast transport system across the city. We hear from the Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, who believes the cost of the Games provides great value and ongoing benefits for the people of Rio. And Tom Ellis looks back on the sporting action from the 2016 Olympics and shares his personal highlights.

Reflections from Rio

They said it would be a security nightmare. They warned tourists they risked getting Zika if they travelled to Rio. They said it would be a logistical nightmare.

In the end Rio 2016 was an Olympic Games to remember. I can’t speak for everyone, but during our stay here not once did I feel threatened. My health has remained intact. There was not one issue about getting into or to any of the venues.

Thank goodness I didn’t listen to what ‘they’ said. Thank goodness Rio 2016 offered up one of the great sporting competitions. What a privilege to be a part of it all.

It seems strange to think that combined with the World Cup in 2014, this is my third month in Rio de Janeiro. Even stranger to think this could be my last time here.

Andy with fellow PfS team members Pete and Pedro.

Andy with fellow PfS team members Pete and Pedro.

It has been a wonderful experience and over the course of the last few weeks I feel that as well as witnessing some fantastic sporting moments - Mo Farah comes to mind - I have also had the opportunity to get to know the people of this city even more.

I have read reflections from a few journalists and they hit some important notes. It is without doubt that from a sporting perspective these games were a great success.

As I hinted at in the first few lines, Rio 2016 has not lived up to the pre-tournament hyperbole of being a city in decay.

However it would be naive to think everything is rosy. It would be naive to think that everyone in the city is behind these Olympics.

This is not to say that everyone who lives in poorer communities hated the Olympics (that is false). So many of the bars in Curicica, for example, had the Olympics on TV.

But as we saw when we walked around Curicica there are still many people living in poverty. Do I expect the Olympics to fix all this? Of course not. However, we would not be doing our job as journalists if we did not highlight these wider, bigger issues.

Sport is fantastic, it throws up the most incredible stories. But it can also shed a light on what is happening in the background. What we found, more so now than during the World Cup, is the importance of community. As people turn away from politicians, fed up with broken promises, many are relying on help and strength from those around them.

One such example in Curicica was the role of the church we were staying at. Giving out clothes and food to those who needed it, giving advice (not just prayer) to those who were in troublesome situations. Visiting drug addicts, shunned and forgotten by many, to give them their first proper meal in a week.

It is only because of the Olympics that we can highlight what is going on here. Community is important.

This was not the only time ‘community’ was mentioned. Cast your minds back to the morning we spent with a group of refugees, who were cheering on the Refugee Olympic Team. Through the Olympics these amazing guys and girls could highlight how they have been accepted in Rio, how they may have been forced out of their home communities but are now part of the Rio community.

Mariama, the refugee we spoke to from the Gambia, spoke passionately how she wanted to inspire other women in her position to have strong roles in community.

And let’s not forget the actual Refugee Team. A group of people who can often be negatively stigmatised, welcomed into the Olympic fold. That is what community is about.

When we spoke to athletes, Christian and non-Christian, all of them pointed towards the support of their families and friends, in some cases churches and God, in their journeys to compete in the greatest sporting competition.

Community, it seems, is the buzzword.

So where does this leave us? Where does this leave Rio? Going forward, I hope more money is spent on bringing people out of poverty. I hope the legacy of these games is to help more people find community in whatever form that takes.

For us at Passion for Sport, we have witnessed the remarkable and the sublime to the harrowing and hard hitting. Rio has welcomed us with open arms and it will be a wrench to leave.

Tokyo 2020 will be an exciting project and a new adventure but we will never forget Rio. The marvellous city.

By Andy Bloss

Museum of Tomorrow – Rio looks to the future

I had to visit the Olympic Boulevard – there was so much talk about it! I hurried my pace across the 'Avenidas' as I heard the sounds of Felipe Cordeiro and his band and sure enough, he was wowing the crowds!

But wait, I mustn't be held back by this scintillating music – I was aiming for the big white building taking up much of the Boulevard – the Museum of Tomorrow, a new icon of the renewal of Rio de Janeiro's port area, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava who said he was inspired by the bromeliads (flowering plants) of Rio's botanical gardens. It's a science museum with a difference promoting exploration, reflection and planning of possibilities for the future.

I jumped the long queue, as journalists are officially allowed to do, and was led firstly into Brazil's notion of Creation – folk were lying on the ground and looking to the heavens as life developed around them.

The Museum examines the past, considers current trends and explores future scenarios for the next 50 years, approached from a perspective of sustainability and coexistence..

The interactive Museum poses questions such as, 'where do we come from?', 'who are we?', 'where are we?' and 'where are we going?', without giving answers. Six major trends of the next half century are explored: climate change, change in bio-diversity, growing population and increased life span, greater cultural integration & differentiation, advances in technology and expanded knowledge.

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The intention of the museum was to create something that would move visitors to understand our times in which we're living. Each section requires deep contemplation and if one's ideas of the future hadn't been challenged before the end section, then the ultimate outlook over the 'reflecting pool' with the star in the centre and the views of ships in the Guanabara Bay, mountains beyond and the vast span of the Niteroi bridge must bring the question to mind – What of our future? Does God feature in it? He can do!

By Norman Brierley

Boxer Joshua Buatsi reflects on Olympic Bronze

Extra training sessions, weeks and months away from his family and ditching eating burgers.

British light-heavyweight boxer Joshua Buatsi has made sure he has worked hard for this moment.

The 23-year-old from Croydon, south London, who is also finishing his sports science degree at St Mary’s University, received his Olympic bronze medal on Thursday. A remarkable feat considering he was unseeded before the Games began.

Amongst all the hype and amongst all the excitement, you would forgive Joshua Buatsi to have his head in the clouds.

Instead Buatsi was eager to reflect and thank all those who had played a part in his journey so far. From friends and family, to his coaches and those at his church in London.

It was refreshing to hear an athlete speak so openly and honestly about his faith, especially in the context of the boxing world which brings about its own pressures.

Reading the Bible before he goes into the ring is one example of how he intertwines his faith with his sport.

A decision is yet to be made on his future, whether or not to make the jump into the professional boxing world. It is clear this is something that will not be rushed.

Some people like to forget their roots, to move on to pastures new and let the past be the past.

Buatsi though, who grew up on the Shrublands estate, in south London, and was coached at his local South Norwood and Victory boxing club, is already looking forward to inspiring the next generation. He has already planned to visit the South Norwood gym and hand out some Team GB t-shirts to the kids at the club, as well as talking to them about his long journey to Olympic glory.

For those of us who are not elite athletes it is hard to understand the dedication it takes to reach the top echelons of sport.

Buatsi sacrificed spending time with friends and family so he could fit in extra training at Team GB’s base in Sheffield. He even apologised in his interview, saying one of the first things he was going to do was spend some time with those closest to him.

The future is obviously very exciting for Joshua Buatsi, and with his feet firmly on the ground, this bronze medal could be the start of another enthralling journey for the south London boxer.

By Andy Bloss (article) and Tom Ellis (audio)

PSFA: Olympics Football, Regeneration in Rio & EPL Review

On this week's Planet Sport Football Africa we go to the Olympics - Nigeria's dream of Olympic men's football gold ends, but they can still win bronze. We analyse the team's performance. Also we visit the Boulevard Olimpico – an area in downtown Rio that's been regenerated for the Olympics. It used to be a dangerous area and is now a popular place to follow the Olympics. We talk EPL as the Gambia's Modou Barrow puts up a great performance in their opening game of the season, and there was a big-money move for DR Congo's Yannick Bolasie.

Refugee in Rio: 'I feel like the world sees me'

UNIC Rio / Pedro Andrade

UNIC Rio / Pedro Andrade

I am one lucky person.

Not because I am here in Rio. Not because I have had this fantastic opportunity to watch some of the world’s best athletes. Not because I got to sit on a sun kissed Copacabana beach.

I am lucky because I have grown up with a loving family. I am lucky because I have had a good and free education. I am lucky because I have rights and live in a safe democratic country.

It goes without saying I take all these things for granted. But on a hot afternoon at the Olympic stadium it hit home what it means not to have these privileges.

On Tuesday myself and Tom Ellis were invited to watch a morning of athletics with around 20 refugees who are living in Rio de Janeiro. We sat with families from countries such as Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Syria and Colombia.

They were there at the invitation of the IOC primarily to cheer on the Refugee team who were competing that morning.

It was a genuine privilege to spend time speaking to some of the group who could not hide their delight at experiencing an Olympic games. Alhaji, from Sierra Leone, said this would be an experience that would be remembered for generations in his family.

But there was a deeper meaning to this occasion. This was a chance for some of them to share their stories, to stress the importance of accepting refugees and to denounce the negative tags that are placed on so many people who are forced away from their home countries.

We spoke Mariama Bah, a refugee from the Gambia who was passionate about raising awareness of equal rights for women.

She told us about how she was in an arranged marriage from an early age, falling pregnant at 14 years old. Mariama talked about her wish that she had got the opportunity to finish her education, her wish that women would no longer be treated as mere child bearing commodities.

At one point she broke down in tears as she talked about her dream to help other women like her escape similar situations and to live their lives as independent women who have rights and ownership over their futures.

It was moving to listen to her story. It also encapsulated a lot about what the Olympics is about. Inclusion, celebrating diversity and giving people a platform in front of a worldwide audience.

I will be playing Mariama’s interview to my classes at my school (an all girls school) because it is a story that needs to be shared, for young people to understand how fortunate many of them to live in a country of free speech.

For Mariama, she may never get to go back to her home country again but as she explained to us, her hope is that she can be a strong advocate for the rights of refugees, a beacon of hope in an area of life where too often hope seems a long way away.

By Andy Bloss (article) and Tom Ellis (audio).

A Games for All?

When I tell my kids about Rio 2016 I will no doubt tell them what an amazing games this was and what a privilege it was to experience this great city for a second time.

However, if I was to ask some of the people here in Curicica - the community we are staying in during this project - about what they would tell their children about the 2016 Olympic Games, I think they would come up with a different response.

I have mentioned already in one of the earlier blogs about how I was fed up with the constant negative press, especially in England, about the games. From the Zika virus to crime and gang activity.

So from the outset I want to stress this is not a blog designed to jump on the bandwagon.

Instead this is a blog from the grassroots. A blog which will hopefully give a voice to people who have not had the chance to express their views on Rio 2016. A blog which focuses on this wonderful community in Curicica and how the Olympics has impacted them.

Curicica is a real bustling place. It borders the notorious City of God favela although it does not share its reputation. It is up and coming in many ways yet there are parts where people are living in poverty.

As we walk through the poorer part of the community it is clear that basic needs are not being met. For example, when it rains heavily, the river - which is located behind the community and forms the border with the City of God - floods. People have to vacate their homes as they fill up with sewage and dirty water from the river.

We meet a lady called Andrea who invites us into her home. It consists of three small rooms. A living space, a bedroom with one bed (for three) and a tiny bathroom. Andrea shows us the back of the house which backs onto the river. It is clear people have tried to create their own flood barriers. It is also clear that they are not good enough.

The call from Andrea is to be provided with better housing. More investment in making houses for purpose. We ask her about the Olympics, what has it brought to the community? The community is still waiting for that question to be answered.

Andrea goes on to tell us how a child once had his head bitten by a rat which came into the house. That should give you an idea of the kind of conditions we are looking at and should give you an idea on the problems of how investment has been distributed in Rio.

I ask Paulo what the church is doing to help. He tells me the church donates as much as it can in the form of food and fresh clothes. Although many people from this part of the community do not go to church, Paulo makes sure that his church goes to them. Personally, I think that is exactly what church should be about. Actions, doing something, rather than words.

We then headed towards another part of Curicica, where one of the main Olympic highways is. For those of you who have listened or seen some our work during this project, you may have heard about us talking about travelling around Rio. We have done a lot of it.

One of the new systems which was brought in was the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit). It is basically a long bus which has its own lane and gets around the city quickly. There are many positives about it and it will be there for everyone to use once these games are over.

As always though there is another side, a side which Paulo and Felipe were about to show us during our walk around Curicica. We drive up to the underbelly of one of the new flyovers which have been built to cater for the Olympics and new transport system. Quite quickly you could see what had happened in the course of building this road.

A row of houses ran alongside the road but they looked strange. As though someone had just sliced straight through a street of homes with a knife. It turned out that is exactly what had become of this part of Curicica.

Hundreds of families were forced to move out as the government built one of their Olympic legacies. I asked whether these displaced families, who obviously did not have much choice in the matter, were re-homed? To a place quite far from here, was the answer. To a place nicknamed the ‘the big field’. Compensation payments were small.

You could still see piles of rubble where homes had been knocked down. You could also see a hospital and next to it a baby care unit. Those too, were also no longer around. They are yet to be replaced.

It is clear that this is a community which is still trying to seek answers as to what exactly these games will offer them and whether the legacy will be positive, negative or if there is actually any legacy at all?

Many of the people I have spoken to in Curicica are excited about the Olympics and are delighted to be welcoming people from different countries. I couldn’t help but think though that many people have been shortchanged. Money from the government in Rio has dried up and there is obviously going to be no quick fix.

I asked Paulo what the answer to these problems are?

He said: “At the moment we do not know what the future is going to hold in terms of after the Olympics. All we can do is continue to support the community, spread hope, and show the same love and care as we always have done.”

For a community that has welcomed us with open arms, I hope they get the positive answers they are looking for.

By Andy Bloss (article) and Tom Ellis (audio report).

Olympian Dan Smith: I've been through hell and back

Australian swimmer Daniel Smith had dreamed of representing his country since the age of five. But his life spiralled out of control as he became caught up in a life of drink, drugs and crime. He tells the story of how he went ‘through hell and back’, before being selected for the Olympic Games in Rio, and of how his faith has made him a new person.


South African sprinter Carina Horn shares her story

South African 60m and 100m sprinter Carina Horn had a great 2015 season and equalled the 100m national record in a time of 11.06, a record which had not been equalled or broken for 25 years. Carina missed out on the 2012 Olympics and was disappointingly left out of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. However, this increased her motivation, and she made it through to the semi finals of the 100m at Rio 2016.

Michael Johnson's Passion for Sport

Michael Johnson had a distinguished career in track and field where he won 4 Olympic Gold medals and 8 World Championships and still holds the 400m world record of 43.18 seconds. He has been the only one to win both the 400m and the 200m at the same Olympics.

Since retiring from the track in 2000, Johnson has continued to develop sports business opportunities as well as acting as an athletics pundit and been involved in charitable sports ventures such as the Laureus programme.

Passion For Sport reporter Norman Brierley asked the 4 time Olympic gold medallist what was the most significant part of his illustrious career so far and if progress was being made on the issue of drug abuse in the sport.

Planet Sport: Soaking up the Rio atmos and Felix Sanchez


This week's Planet Sport programme is up, presented by Adrian Barnard!

With the Olympic Games in Rio now well underway we talk to visitors outside Olympic Park and hear from Planet Sport correspondent Tom Ellis in Rio about the atmosphere and highlights from the first week's events.  And we talk to double Olympic 400m hurdles champion, Felix Sanchez from the Dominican Republic about his Olympic triumphs and his faith as a follower of Jesus Christ that is the foundation of his life.

A Walk Down Boulevard Olympico

One of the talking points before the Rio Olympics, and no doubt it will continue after, was what will the legacy of the games be in Rio de Janeiro?

There are definitely lots of issues arising from this question and I am sure there are locals and people who know Rio better than I do who can offer some great insight into this.

It is also an issue I hope to revisit in the next ten days or so while we are still here in Rio de Janeiro.

However I couldn’t help but feel positive after a last minute decision to visit the port area of the city on Tuesday night.

Two years ago this area of Rio was pretty rundown. I should know as myself and Tom Ellis got lost there one time and were trying very hard get away from there pretty quickly.

A concrete flyover ran through the centre of it creating a dark and dingy area underneath. The surrounding area consisted of shells of a bygone factory era.

But fast forward to 2016 and it is like the place has had one of those miraculous makeovers you see on daytime television.

The area is now one of the designated Olympic Live Sites and I could not believe the transformation. The place was alive with people.

The features which are there to stay (obviously much of the Olympic sponsorship nonsense will go) include a new tramway system which has replaced the now knocked down flyover. A new museum on the port front. A new graffiti mural which is one of the longest in the world. And much more open plan and modernised setting.

This area of Rio has now become a place to stay rather than a place to escape from. The mural especially is fantastic and reflects the colour and vibrancy of the city. Those who live near the area told us they could not believe the change.

It is only a small example, and I know there are lots of negative points to do with the Olympic legacy in Brazil and specifically in Rio. I doubt, for example, that many of those who are without good sanitation and drainage will care about the rejuvenation of an old port area.

But it is important though to find positives and the turnaround of this small area in Rio over the space of two years is quite remarkable.

Hopefully there will be many more transformations to come.

Andy Bloss is one of our English language producers working with Tom Ellis to gather material from around Rio during the Olympics. He was part of the Passion for Sport team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, in this blog, he comments on his experiences of his return to Rio. 

Home Advantage?

There is nothing quite like singing for one of your own.

For those of you who follow a football team or any sporting team I am sure you agree that seeing one of your club’s homegrown players do well fills you with a sense of pride.

On a larger scale if we think back to London 2012 and to that magical evening of 'Super Saturday', one of the reasons why it was extra special was because we, as Brits, witnessed sporting success on our own turf.

Watching Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford win gold for Great Britain, in Great Britain was a moment we will never forget. For those who were lucky enough to be inside the stadium that night it would have been electric.

Here in Rio de Janeiro, four years later, I have already been fortunate enough to sample the home crowd atmosphere and it was better than I could have anticipated.

On Saturday, day one of the Olympics, we had tickets to boxing in the morning and football in the evening. Both events (I find it strange to call football an ‘event’) featured Brazil.

I know us Brits have a friendly rivalry with our Australian friends but even I felt a bit of sympathy for Eric Jason Whateley as he walked out for his fight at the Riocentro Arena.

Whateley was up against Brazilian, Juan Nogueria, and as he entered the ring the crowd treated him like a pantomime villain. Boos and whistles rained upon him from all sides.

Compare that to Nogueria’s welcome. The Paulista (born in Sao Paulo) was greeted not just as a Brazilian but one of Rio’s own. The arena erupted as he strode into the ring, people stomping their feet, banging their seats, singing his name. The place was alive and kicking.

Poor Eric Whateley, this was just not his show. Every jab, hook and block made by Nogueria was met with a cacophony of noise. He responded. Seeing off Whateley 3-0. As the judges announced their verdict the home crowd went bonkers, Nogueria went bonkers, it was pure home-made passion. This is what it's all about, I thought.

What came next however took the atmosphere at the boxing to a whole new level. Next stop was the Olympic Stadium to see Brazil take on Sweden in the women’s football.

It is common knowledge that Brazilians love their football. It is one of their great passions. Their men’s and women’s teams are gold medal hopefuls but even with this at the back of my mind I was still not exactly sure what to expect.

After all the last time I had watched a game of football featuring Brazil with Brazilian fans, they had lost 7-0 to Germany during the 2014 World Cup.

As we approached kick off the stadium was a sea of yellow. Youngsters were jumping around excitedly, ready to see some of their heroes, everyone seemed to be there.

Speaking to those around us it was obvious that women’s football was not just a sideshow, it has a big following and they were excited. Especially as Brazil’s golden girl and captain, Marta Vieira da Silva (Marta), was playing.

When the teams walked out the noise was like a cup final. You could sense the anticipation of the crowd. They wanted a big result. The national anthem was sung with gusto and carried on as the teams had their pre match photo.

I just wanted to take it all in, it is not often you get to experience these kind of nights.

The game itself could not have gone any better for Brazil. They played with flair and imagination. Marta, the mercurial number 10, ran the show. Scoring two goals and producing some sublime moments of skill. The crowd lapped it up. There were people dancing in the aisles as Brazil ran out 5-1 winners.

People say this a lot about events in Brazil but I am not exaggerating or lying by saying the evening was just pure carnival. It was fun, exciting, loud and passionate.

What made it even more extraordinary was both these events, the boxing and football, were just the preliminary rounds. There were no medals at stake here as the Brazilian fans chanted and danced their way out of the stadium.

There is nothing quite like singing for one of your own.

Andy Bloss is one of our English language producers helping Tom Ellis to gather material from around Rio during the Olympics. He was part of the Passion for Sport team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, in this blog, he comments on his experiences of his return to Rio. 


Back in Brazil: Andy Bloss on his return to Rio

Andy Bloss is one of our English language producers working with Tom Ellis to gather material from around Rio during the Olympics. He was part of the Passion for Sport team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, here, comments on his first thoughts upon returning to Rio. 

I  had a strange sense of deja vu on Monday as I strolled down Atlantic Avenue in Rio de Janeiro. 

It is the main road which runs adjacent to Copacabana beach and as I walked down it was like I had never been away following the World Cup in 2014.

The sun, the sea, the sand, the sounds, the beautiful backdrop of Sugar Loaf mountain in the distance. It is all still there and it is still magical.

However despite this feeling of nostalgia there is obviously a lot of differences as the 2016 Olympics looms ever closer.

Unlike the World Cup which was spread around Brazil, the Olympics is very much putting the spotlight on Rio.

Over the next few weeks the world’s greatest sportswomen and men will be in one place and I can’t think of a city that deserves it more.

There are quite a few people (including those who live in Rio) who would disagree with that last sentiment.

It has been well reported, especially in England, about the downsides of Rio. This time the usual examples of crime and economic woes have been trumped by the spread of the Zika virus.

There is no doubt these are troublesome issues. Gang crime is seeping back into some communities following the pacification programme and Zika has reportedly impacted a huge number of families.

But having arrived in Rio you start to get a sense of perspective. We are staying in Curicica, a community not far away from the Olympic Park, and speaking to some of the locals here they couldn’t hide their smiles as I doused myself in mosquito repellent. It is easy to forget it but this is winter in Rio de Janeiro and “mozzie” danger is at its lowest.

In terms of crime and danger on the streets, I get the impression once again, just like two years ago, that picturing Rio as some kind of warzone would be doing a disservice to the brilliant people that live here. I have lost count already at the amount of times I have been helped by “Cariocas” who have obviously taken pity on me and my dreadful Portuguese.

Over the course of the next few weeks I hope we can highlight some of the issues in Rio but show, in a positive light, how the people of Rio and local churches are tackling them. We'll also be aiming show what the Olympic atmosphere is about and exploring Rio’s culture further. 

To be here in this city during the 2016 games is a huge privilege. There is no doubt that there are some rough edges here in Rio and these need to be highlighted, but it is also true to say (and no pun intended here) that the city also has a heart of gold. Bring on the games.

My top five things I am looking forward to (in no order):

  1. 'Super Saturday' on August 13th (Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and the 100m women's final)

  2. Witnessing some of the great social projects put on by local churches

  3. Acai smoothies

  4. Learning more about the culture and history of Rio

  5. Beach volleyball

Make sure you keep up to date with our Destination Rio project, and all that our team are doing in Brazil!

We're on our way!

So, after months of planning, discussions and fundraising events, it’s finally time to travel to Rio and begin the Destination Rio project at the 2016 Olympics Games.

Out team of five media professionals (see below) is ready and looking forward to bringing the sights and sounds of the big event to our worldwide audiences via radio, websites and social media. This will be the seventh successive Summer Olympics Games we have attended and we know how important it is to actually be in the thick of the action in order to give our listeners a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be there.

Four of our team (Norman Brierley, Peter Ellis, Tom Ellis and Andy Bloss) are travelling on Sunday 31st July followed by Pedro Arias on Tuesday 2ndAugust. We will be based at a church in Rio de Janeiro just north of the Olympic Park which is on the western edge of the city. This will allow us to travel daily to the various venues where we will record interviews with athletes and sports fans as well as reporting on the many Christian events taking place during the games.

It will be three weeks of packed schedules and late nights as we negotiate the public transport system and get to as many events as we can.

You can follow our progress on the Passion for Sport website blog or via our social media accounts. You can also subscribe to our email updates which we’ll be sending out during the games – see below.

Please pray for the team as we cope with the practical arrangements of the public transport system, security and staying healthy!

Reporting from Rio: Spanish producer Pedro Arias

Pedro watches back Colombian James Rodriguez's wonder-goal on the big screen at the Fifa 2014 World Cup.

Pedro watches back Colombian James Rodriguez's wonder-goal on the big screen at the Fifa 2014 World Cup.

Pedro Arias has been a missionary for 27 years and he’s been serving the Lord at major sporting events such as the Olympic Games for the past 24 years. Originally from Colombia he is a sports journalist by profession. He also leads three churches in London.

Pedro has worked for different media companies as Editor-in-Chief and as both a TV and radio host. He has reported for several international media agencies at events such as the Olympic Games and Fifa World Cup and at an ATP professional final in Hannover, Germany.

He currently is one of the Spanish-speaking hosts of two international television sport programmes: Gillette World and Mobil 1.

In 2012 Pedro worked directly with the London Olympics Host Broadcasters broadcasting live to Spanish-speaking audiences worldwide.

Pedro covered his first Olympic Games as a radio reporter in Barcelona in 1992. Since then he has reported from Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). Throughout this time his reports have been designed with a specific aim, to introduce sports fans to Jesus. Since those early days in 1992 there has been a steady increase in the number of Christian and secular stations that benefit from his reports for the Spanish-speaking world, across the USA, Spain and Latin America. In 2014 radio listeners to over 800 Spanish-speaking stations around the world heard Pedro’s reports, features and interviews from the Fifa World Cup in Brazil.

This summer Pedro returns to Rio, the city he got to know at the World Cup two years ago. This time he will be using his professional skills and experience to report on the Games with a Christian perspective with the hope and prayer that many sport fans will come to Jesus and acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour.

Follow Passion for Sport’s reporting from Rio here.

Pedro Arias is seconded to Passion for Sport from Reach Beyond, a global mission that works to transform lives through media and healthcare.

Faith and Rio – interviews from the Diamond League Athletics

Passion for Sport reporter Norman Brierley was at the Diamond League Athletics in Birmingham last month. If you missed his thoughts on the event, you can catch up here.

Whilst there he spoke with the USA 800 metres runner, Chanelle Price, and asked how her training is going.

“Right now we’re just working on that strong finish. Everyone can get to the six but now we’ll decrease our load and put in some speed work these next 3-4 weeks and work on that strong finish.”

“The sport is a lot of sacrifices. You don’t get to live the average life. Everything we do – what we eat, what we drink, when we go to bed, what we do during the day. There’s always something we can be doing to get better. You get tired sometimes but what keeps me motivated is knowing that God requires that I give my all.”

At the time Norman spoke with Chanelle she had her eyes on Rio but sadly she has failed to make the cut after the US Trials last weekend.

Sunette Viljoen competes in javelin for the RSA and has won medals at almost every major championship. She’s a four time African Champion, she’s won gold in the Afro-Asian Championships and Commonwealth Games. And she’s twice won bronze at the World Championships – most recently last year in Beijing. But there’s one major event where success has so far eluded her – the Olympic Games.

“I look forward to Rio very much. I know what I can do. I have a lot of training that can be done. I just need to find that one solid throw I’m looking for - I know I have in me. Come Rio, I’ll be ready, I know I will be.”

Speaking about her faith, she said:

“You have to have an anchor. I don’t know how you can’t have an anchor – to pray for calmness and to pray for focus and to pray for strength on such big events. And you have to trust the Lord and you have to praise him whether it goes good or bad.”