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Brazil’s first Olympic bid, first Olympian matters of debate

Christ the Redeemer

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - CIRCA 1930: The Statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain, near the port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, circa 1930. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystine via Getty Images)

Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Rio de Janeiro will host the first Olympics in South America in August, but it first applied to be an Olympic host city candidate at least 89 years ago.

Brazil was one of eight nations that applied to host the 1936 Games ahead of a 1927 International Olympic Committee session, four years ahead of the host city vote, according to minutes from that session provided by the IOC’s Olympic Studies Centre.

The minutes, written in French, show eight applications:

Alexandria (Egypt) Barcelona (Spain) Berlin (Germany) Budapest (Hungary) Helsinki (Finland) Lausanne (Switzerland) Milan or Rome (Italy) Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

By 1931, IOC files show that 12 cities had officially applied to host the 1936 Olympics, but Rio de Janeiro was no longer part of the field:

Alexandria Barcelona Berlin Budapest Buenos Aires (Argentina) Cologne (Germany) Dublin (Ireland) Frankfurt (Germany) Helsinki Lausanne Nuremberg (Germany) Rome

“There is no further mention of [the Rio 1936 bid] or of a withdrawal in the minutes of subsequent years (until 1931 when the host city was elected),” the IOC Olympic Studies Centre said in an email.

In 1931, Berlin was voted to host the 1936 Olympics, with 43 votes. Barcelona is the only other city listed to have received votes (16).

Eight cities received zero votes, with Lausanne withdrawing during bidding. Budapest and Rome also withdrew, but the cities were still listed on the final election results.

Brazil’s Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Olympic Organizing Committee, like the IOC, had no further information on Rio’s 1936 bid. The Brazil Olympic Committee, created in 1914 and recognized by the IOC in 1935, said it wasn’t involved in the bid.

Dr. Lamartine P. DaCosta, a Brazilian Olympic sports expert and professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, believed the short-lived Rio 1936 bid may have been spurred by geopolitical reasons.

After World War I, the IOC campaigned to spread the Olympic Movement beyond Europe and North America. Brazil, which had its first IOC member in 1913, sent its first delegation to the Olympics at Antwerp 1920.

However, Olympic historians list 1900 Olympic sprinter Adolphe Klingelhoeffer, born and raised in Paris by Brazilian parents, as a Brazilian national during those Games and a citizen until at least the 1940s.

Klingelhoeffer may be the first Brazilian to compete in the Olympics, but he is not recognized as such by the Brazil Olympic Committee, which cited a book that listed Klingelhoeffer as French at the 1900 Olympics. There were no formal national teams at the Paris 1900 Games.

“Officially, we can’t confirm him as a Brazilian athlete,” the Brazil Olympic Committee said in an email. “First, because there was no National Olympic Committee of Brazil at this time. Also, we have checked the official report of 1900 Olympic Games and there is no reference on Adolf Klingelhoeffer participation in Brazilian delegation.”

In 1922, Rio de Janeiro did host an international multi-sport event, the Latin American Games, in the nation’s centennial year.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay sent athletes to the Games, which might as well have been called the South American Games, according to Dr. Cesar R. Torres, a SUNY-Brockport professor with an expertise in early Latin American Olympic sport involvement.

Torres wrote in his 2012 book, “Jogos Olímpicos Latino-Americanos Rio de Janeiro 1922,” that the Latin American Games had the blessing of the IOC.

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Rio 1936

Courtesy IOC