More than an estimated 4,000 members of the international armed forces of more than 100 countries participated in the Opening Ceremony of the fifth Military World Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday. Brazilian soccer legend Pele lit the cauldron at Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium, signaling the beginning of this quadrennial show of unity and solidarity through sport. A record 20 events will be held July 16-24, including basketball, beach volleyball, orienteering and skydiving.
"We will have Olympic athletes who are worth watching, competing in professional arenas," Marcia Lins, secretary of state for tourism, sport and recreation of Brazil, told People's Daily Online of China. "The Military World Games is beyond the military sphere."
Through the first two days of competition, the People's Republic of China lead in the medal standings with 21, followed by host Brazil with 19 and Italy with 14. Brazil's men have dominated the gold-medal standings with seven of the 13 contested so far, while China's women have won seven of 11. Seventeen countries have won medals so far, a list that does not yet include the United States. However, the USA finished first in the qualifying for Women's Formation Skydiving, with the semifinals scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Russia, which tops the medal count in the four previous Military World Games (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007), bowed out of the competition this year, citing financial reasons.
The event represents another opportunity for Brazil to test its readiness for hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Military World Games, the second largest international athletic event after the Olympics, is the brainchild of the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM), which has close ties to the International Olympic Committee.
Look for a feature on this month's Military World Games in the August issue of Athletic Business.