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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Latin American and Caribbean Sport: Rio 2016 & Others

Rio 2016 and other Mega Sporting Events


See the video recording of the Chai Wai panel here.

Note: you can also go to the event video my clicking on the photos at the end of the page



Chai Wai: Brazil & Rio 2016 Olympics: Playing the BRIC Game

Tue., March 8th, 2016, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

International and Area Studies Library, Room 321 Main Library

"Chai Wai" is Hindi for "tea or something like that" and is the name of our  event series at the International and Area Studies Library at the University of Illinois. See the event page on Facebook here. Chai Wai events give the campus community an opportunity for enlightened conversation on important global issues. To see previous Chai Wai lib guides, click hereIn this edition, our panel discussion will be moderated by Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian Dr. Antonio Sotomayor, who is also a historian of nationalism and politics of sport. We will also have four faculty members with various specializations including health and kinesiology, Brazilian tourism and culture, and Brazilian history and politics to discuss the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics and Para-Olympics.  A central focus of the discussion will be in what ways does these major sporting events affect or are involved in the economy, society, culture, and politics. The main theme will be Brazil's character as part of the BRIC countries-- a category assigned to the up and coming economic powers Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

Our panelists include:

Dr. Werner Baer, Department of Economics 

Werner Baer is a Jorge Lemann Distinguished Professor of Economics. Author of numerous books and articles throughout a career that spans five decades, his research focuses on the industrialization of Latin America, its consequences, and the process of privatization in Latin America. Consultant to the World Bank, Ford Foundation, Brazilian Planning Ministry, the U.S. Information Agency, and the U.S. State Department,  Dr. Baer has taught subjects including international economics, the economics of Latin America, economic development, and macroeconomics. He has been a faculty member at the University of Illinois since 1974, and has also held positions as Visiting Lecturer at Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1989); Visiting Lecturer at New University of Lisbon, Portugal (1989); Professor at Vanderbilt (1965-74); Assistant Professor at Yale University (1958-65) and Instructor at Harvard University (1958-61).

Dr. Laurence Chalip, Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism

Laurence Chalip received his Ph.D. in policy analysis from the University of Chicago. He is published widely on sport policy and the Olympic Movement, winning awards from the North American Society for Sport Management, and the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand. He has held faculty positions in the United States, New Zealand, & Australia, and invited lectureships to universities in Canada, China, Korea, Spain, and the UK. He has had extensive work with the Olympic Movement including being the International Chair of Olympics (IOC & Centre for Olympic Studies) (1999-2001), and part of evaluation research teams at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Seoul, and Sydney. He has served various times as coordinator of the International Olympic Academy (Olympia, Greece). Currently, he’s on the Board of Directors of Olympism for Humanity (an international nonprofit working to realize ideals of the Olympic Movement) and a Principal with the Leverhume Project – an international project examining the political uses and misuses of mega-sporting events including a consultant to the Brazilian government on the uses of the Rio Olympics for sport development.

Dr. Synthia Sydnor, Department of Kinesiology

Synthia Sydnor earned her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Humanities at The Pennsylvania State University and began her career here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she is associate professor with appointments in Kinesiology & Community Health and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory.  She is co-author of "To the Extreme: Alternative Sports, Inside and Out" (2003), and has been a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar.  Her work, focused on cultural-historical analysis of sport and ritual, has appeared in journals such as Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, and Interface: A Forum for Theology in the World.  She is currently working on a book about the “nature of sport.”

Dr. John Tofik Karam, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

John Tofik Karam advances the transnational turn in area and ethnic studies by reframing South America and the Middle East through their mutually entangled imaginaries. His first book, Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil (Temple University Press, 2007), won awards from the Arab American National Museum and the Brazilian Studies Association. It was translated by the Editora Martins Fontes into Portuguese (2009) and by the Centre for Arab Unity Studies into Arabic (2012). With María del Mar Logroño Narbona and Paulo G. Pinto, Karam co-edited the volume Crescent Over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino U.S.A. (University of Texas Press, 2015). His current book project is entitled Manifold Destiny: Arabs at a South American Border Remaking the Hemisphere. His article "The Lebanese Diaspora at the Tri-Border and the Redrawing of South American Geopolitics, 1950-1992," was awarded the best article prize by the Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association in 2014.

Dr. Antonio Sotomayor, International and Area Studies Library

Antonio Sotomayor is Assistant Professor, Historian, and Librarian of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with faculty appointments in Departments of Spanish and Portuguese, and Recreation, Sport, and Tourism, and is a faculty affiliate at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. His book, The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), studies the political process of Puerto Rico’s entry into the Olympic movement. His work also appears in journals such as Caribbean Studies, CENTRO Journal, and Journal of Sport History. He is currently working on a study of religion, sport, and imperialism through the YMCA in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and an anthology on Latin America’s Olympic Movement. 

The Christ the Redeemer Statue overlooks Rio de Janeiro. Photo Credit: Fabio Motta, newspaper Estado

The XXXI of the Summer Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will take place this summer from August 5 to August 21, 2016. More thant 10,00 athletes from  over 200 countries will travel to Rio de Janeiro to compete in this major and international sporting event. Countries like Kosovo and South Sudan will be competing for the first time.The 2016 Rio Olympics will feature nearly 30 Olympic sports and competitions will take pace in more than 30 venues in Rio, São Paulo, Brasília, Salvador, Manaus, and Belo Horizonte.

Hosting this kind of multi-sport event in a country like Brazil has provoked many controversies and posed several challenges related to the huge financial efforts required to build and renew infrastructure, provide services, control waste management, and more while the country still faces significant domestic challenges in terms of poverty, inequity, and pollution. Still, some voices have remained optimistic and expect to witness a successful event in the athletic competitions, in the functionality of the venue, and in the benefits that Brazil can gain from being the host country to the Olympics for the first time.

In general, historically the Olympic movement has not only been about sports. It is important to remember its connections with international diplomacy, especially since the 20th century. We invite you to investigate the library's resources about the Olympic Movement here and more about the Olympic Games in general here.



Brazilian Gymnast Daniele Hypolito , at Juegos Deportivos Panamericanos, Guadalajara 2011

Photo Credit: GettyImages, at the Pan-American Games 2011 website.

  • Americas Cup (Copa America): FIFA football soccer competition for Latin American celebrated every 4 years. Few countries from the Caribbean are also part of the tournament.
  • Basketball Tournament of the Americas: This is a Basketball organized by FIBA AMERICAS (Pan-American Basketball Confederation). It was founded in 1975 in Mexico City.
  • Bolivarian Games: Are celebrated every 4 years since 1938.Includes competitions of 36 modalities of sports. It is organized by the Organización Deportiva Bolivariana.
  • FIFA World Cup: Is the most important football soccer competition world wide. Is celebrated every 4 years since 1930. The first version of the World Cup took place in Uruguay in 1930
  • Juegos Centroamericanos y del Caribe: These are a multi-sport regional championships event celebrated every 4 years. The Games are for countries in Central America, the Caribbean, as well as for Mexico, Bermuda, and the South American countries of Suriname, Guyana, Colombia and Venezuela. The Games are overseen by the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (CACSO) (the organization also goes by the acronym "ODECABE", from its full Spanish name: Organización Deportiva Centroamericana y del Caribe) Last Games two games were held at Veracruz, 2014, Mayaguez, 2010.
  • Pan-American Games (Juegos Deportivos Pananericanos): The Pan-American Games were first organized 1940, when the first Pan-American Sports Congress selected Buenos Aires as the first host country for a 1942 games. Given the context of World War II, the 1942 games were canceled and re-programmed in 1951. To this date, there have been 19 Pan-American Games, which have grown in number of competing athletes and countries. There was one held in Toronto in 2015, but the most recent took place in Lima in 2019.
  • South American Games: Multidisciplinary games organized by the South American Sports Federation - ODESUR (Federación Deportiva Suramericana), that gathers athletes from all South American Countries, excluding Guyana. Is celebrated every 4 years since 1978
  • World Games of the Indigenous Communities: Although indigenous games have a larger history than the mega- sporting events organized by the International Olympic Committee, in 2015 took place the very first international indigenous games organized by national governments and international organizations. This games were hosted in Palmas, Brazil.




Take a look at our exhibit on Brazil and the Olympics. The exhibit was mounted on March 2016 in the North-South Corridor (first floor) of the Main Library.


In 2016, Brazil will host the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, having also hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2007 Pan-American Games. As in other parts of the world, hosting mega-sport events can be a great scenario to highlight a nation’s achievements, but it can also display some of its weaknesses. Noting that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has more nation-members than the United Nations and that the Olympic Games are an immensely popular modern phenomenon, it is pertinent, if not necessary, to use sport as a window to understand the intricacies of modern societies. Given Brazilian’s passion for futebol (soccer) and sports, using sports and the Olympic Movement in Brazil can be a great window to study Latin America’s largest country.



Our University Library has special and unique resources to study both Brazil and the Olympic Movement. We have been collecting material about and from Brazil since the late nineteenth century. By 1916, our collection had some 500 volumes about Brazil in multiple languages. During the 1950s, Illinois was the academic library in the United States responsible for collecting material from Brazil under the Farmington Plan, which greatly enhanced our Brazilian collection. Today, our collection has approximately 105,000 volumes, and resources can be located through campus and virtually.

An Illinois alumnus, Avery Brundage was a gigantic figure in international sports. He served as President of the IOC from 1952 and 1972, a critical period in the consolidation of the Olympic Movement as a global phenomenon. In this exhibit you will see a sample of the resources available for research and teaching on Brazil through sport that range from a few special and rare items, to academic resources about sport, and sources about Brazilian Olympism at the University Archives.


For more information about this exhibit, please contact Prof. Antonio Sotomayor (, Librarian of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, or/and Prof. Chris Prom (, Assistant University Archivist.


Discover some Chai Wai Photos. We had a Full house!


Mundo Deportivo Magazine, Number  100, Buenos Aires, March 15, 1951. Available upon request at the International and Area Studies Library.

Poster from Nelson Sambolín's "De Olimpia a Mayagüez" (2010), a 12 slikscreen portfolio made for the XXI Juegos Centroamericanos y del Caribe, in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Available upon request.

A photo from the a promotional poster from the Mexico Olympics in 1968, available in the University Archives series 15/34/52 "Spurlock Museum Olympic and Sports Posters, 1936, 1942, 1952-88"