The beaches of Copacabana witnessed some unusual activities leading up to the Olympics, as people were seen fencing on the beach. The demonstration event, supported by the International Fencing Federation (FIE) and the Brazilian Fencing Confederation was called “Rio Loves Fencing”. The 2 days long event was part of the FIE’s Fencing School Program, a 2 months-long campaign aimed to introduce fencing to children of multiple age groups and leave a tangible legacy for the Rio Games.
Thousands of schoolchildren across Rio learnt how to cut, thrust and parry as 12 national level coaches travelled across the city, from affluent barrios to Brazil’s biggest favela, Rocinha. Children from nearly 40 schools were introduced to the nuances of fencing and got to try out the sport themselves, complete with the masks and other equipment.
In addition to fencing lessons, tickets were distributed for the competition at the Olympics to children from 27 educational institutions. It was a brilliant gesture to give these children an opportunity they wouldn’t originally be able to afford.
With the swords they didn't fight but they experienced the effort and the respect…Maybe one day we can live in a peaceful world with those kids.
Asimina Tsellou, FIE Media Manager
The program culminated in the “Rio Loves Fencing” demonstration event where children picked up imitation swords and stabbed at their friends with balloons. Some children also got to face off one by one in teams of five, at an adjacent fencing clinic. There was also some star attraction on offer as the country’s 3rd ranked foilist, Ana Beatriz Bulcão, demonstrated her skills in full fencing whites.
The event also marked the beginning of a week of fencing in Rio where the test event took place, comprising of the Rio stage of the Fencing Grand Prix in epee and World Championships.
The coach put a helmet on my head, a vest and then we started fighting and the girl won.
Young Brazilian boy participating in the Rio Loves Fencing programme
The outreach initiatives saw hundreds turn up for the FIE Sport Initiation Program (part of “Rio Loves Fencing” campaign) on the first day of competition at the Olympics. These undoubtedly included children who had received tickets for the Olympic event distributed during the School Program. The FIE initiatives helped achieve more than 90% spectator occupancy for 6 of their 18 sessions and overall estimated ticket sales of 84%.
The School Program introduced fencing to more than 3,000 schoolchildren who would, under normal circumstances, not have the chance to experience the sport. The FIE also helped the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWASF) by giving them their equipment for the Paralympic events in Rio.