NEW YORK (Reuters) - A year after hosting the soccer World Cup and a year before staging the Summer Olympics, Brazil is set to stage a new international event -- the Indigenous Peoples World Games.
The inaugural games will be held from Sept. 18-27 in Palmas in the northern state of Tocantins.
“It’s a very important moment for Brazil,” Brazil’s Sports Minister, George Hilton, told Reuters through an interpreter in an interview on Wednesday.
“It’s a time of exchanging knowledge and it’s a good time to promote the indigenous peoples through the games.”
Hilton said some 48 ethnicities would be represented among 4,000 athletes from 22 countries.
Brazil, home to nearly 900,000 indigenous peoples from 305 different nations that speak 274 languages, has held a dozen Indigenous Games for its own natives since 1996 and decided to expand the games into a truly international event.
The Brazilians were to make a presentation about the games at the United Nations on Friday to delegations that participate in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
A Canadian indigenous leader named Little Child will be speaking at the U.N., Hilton said.
Some of the sports contested are unique and include a type of lacrosse (rokra) using sticks and coconuts, as well as a variety of soccer (xikunahity) using only the head to move the ball.
“Now we have the U.N. declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples. This event will be a cultural interchange among the tribes and it’s very important for all involved,” Hilton said.
“It’s not only about the games but they are also going to be showing their culture through food, through their art and they are bringing their own interpreters so that one tribe can communicate with the other.”
Worldwide, it is estimated that there are 370 million indigenous peoples making up more than five percent of the world’s population, according to the U.N.
Hilton said Peru, Mexico, Philippines and the United States were bidding to host the next Indigenous Peoples World Games expected to be held in 2019.
The motto for September’s games in Brazil is: “We are all Indigenous”.
Editing by Frank Pingue