Raucous Brazil fans turn deaf ear to Olympic spirit

Sun Aug 7, 2016 2:57pm EDT
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By Paulo Prada and Drazen Jorgic

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Olympic athletes and visitors might be forgiven if they feel like they accidentally stepped into one of Brazil's notoriously raucous football arenas, where insults, boos and outright hostility toward rival teams are common.

Be it at boxing, judo, fencing, or even tennis, hometown Brazil fans are treating many Olympic sports as if they were at Flamengo vs. Fluminense, a crosstown Rio rivalry where passions, in addition to spit and occasionally fists, frequently fly.

Early on Sunday, as Brazilian fencer Ghislain Perrier, parried lunges by Ma Jianfei, the local crowd jeered the Chinese rival, even though he won. At Rio tennis, a far cry from the practiced seriousness of tournaments like Wimbledon, Brazilian fans mocked Germany's Dustin Brown, ranked 86 in the world, when he missed an easy shot.

''Brazilian fans have no manners,'' says Juca Kfouri, a prominent Brazilian sportswriter and commentator. ''You will not find any respect for rivals or any of the Olympic spirit you might have had in London.''

Brazil's sporting culture, largely defined by the country's past success in football, is dominated by an often jingoistic attitude toward anyone not donning the local yellow.

''People seem to think it's a football match,'' says Guilherme Toldo, a Brazilian fencer who on Sunday was surprised by local booing, air horns and stomping directed at foreign rivals in what is traditionally a more somber sport.

At an event like the Olympics, where ticketholders hail mostly from an upper-middle and wealthy class that is used to being pampered, the chest-thumping can be especially jarring, even to many local fans.

''That was not elegant,'' said Thiago Pereira, a Brazilian who cringed as some compatriots booed when arch-rival Argentina's athletes paraded during the opening ceremony on Friday.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Preliminary - Heats - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 06/08/2016. A fan waves a Brazil flag to cheer on the team. REUTERS/Marcos