Brazil overcomes unprecedented cut at Bolsa Atleta and should beat

The Brazilian team in the Tokyo Olympics must achieve the historic record of medals for the country facing an Olympic cycle impacted by the pandemic and by the dismantling of public sports policies in the country.

With 15 podiums conquered (and 2 more already guaranteed, without definition of the color of the medal) with just a few days to go before the end of the Games, Brazilian athletes must surpass the mark conquered in Rio de Janeiro, in 2016, when there were 19 medals.

Survey made by Brazil in fact in public documents, it points out that Bolsa Atleta, the largest fund transfer initiative directly to athletes, had a budget of R$ 530.4 million in the five years of preparation for the Japan Olympics, which represents a reduction of 17%. For the Rio Games (2013-2016), there were 641.1 million.

In 2016, when the Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, 77% of athletes received the benefit, considered essential for athletes to support themselves, especially in the early stages of their careers.

Of the 302 athletes that make up the Brazilian delegation in Tokyo, 240 (79%) are part of the benefit, according to the Special Secretariat for Sports of the Ministry of Citizenship.

Of the 35 Olympic sports, in 19 of them 100% of the athletes are scholarship holders, such as badminton, slalom canoeing, speed canoeing, BMX cycling, Mountain Bike cycling, fencing, artistic gymnastics, dressage equestrianism, weight lifting, water marathon, pentathlon, rowing , diving, surfing, tae kwon do, table tennis, archery, sport shooting and beach volleyball.

In relation to the number of athletes, the program reached in 2021 the highest mark in the history of the program, with 7,197 contemplated in the 2020/2021 public notice. Within this group of recipients, there are 4,121 men (57.3%) and 3,076 women (42.7%).

In another clipping, 5,560 are practitioners of Olympic modalities (77.3%) and 1,637 of Paralympic modalities (22.7%). Most (70.8%) are individual sports, with 5,095 athletes, while 2,102 participate in team sports (29.2%). In the division by categories, Nacional has the largest number of beneficiaries: 4,859 (67.5%). Then appear the categories International (1,200), Student (456), Olympic/Paralympic (366) and Base (316).

The program is divided into six scholarship categories:

  • Base athlete: R$ 350 monthly for athletes aged 14 to 19 who are members of federations or confederations;
  • Student: R$ 370 monthly for athletes aged 14 to 20 participating in student games;
  • National: R$925 monthly for athletes who compete in national tournaments;
  • International: R$1,850 monthly for athletes who compete in international tournaments;
  • Olympic/Paralympic Athlete: R$3,100 for athletes who are part of the Brazilian delegation in the last Olympic/Paralympic Games;
  • Podium: R$5 to R$15,000 for athletes with chances to win medals at the Olympic/Paralympic Games. This modality was created in 2013 and has a separate notice, but the budget is within the Bolsa Atleta Program.

Command and end of folder changes

On July 28, the Brazil in fact showed that, in two and a half years of administration, President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) weakened public sports policies in Brazil. The assessment is made by specialists and managers heard by the report.

The successive changes of command at the head of the Special Secretariat for Sports are seen as a reflection of the militarization and rigging promoted by the federal government.

The lack of a Ministry of Sports in the federal government, as the current administration extinguished the administrative structure, is one of the main points of criticism. The folder existed between 1995 and January 2019, when it was incorporated into the Ministry of Citizenship by determination of Bolsonaro.

“It is possible to make an analogy of Bolsonaro’s sports policies with what happened at the Ministry of Health during the pandemic,” says Pedro Cavalcanti, a researcher on sports public policies at the University of São Paulo (USP).

“It is true that the government boycotted the fight against coronavirus and militarized the folder, but it is also right to say that the SUS [Sistema Único de Saúde] it is a policy that has remained firm, serving the population,” says Cavalcanti.

In the case of exports, the researcher points out that Bolsa Atleta “shows an expressive result in the Brazilian Olympic team, despite the insufficient budget and no adjustment at all, the absurd extinction of the ministry and the austerity applied by the government in the program”.

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The new Special Secretariat for Sports has already had three members. The first two were fired for their resistance to nominating people nominated by people close to the president. The first to command the ministry was General Marco Aurélio Costa Vieira. He was dismissed after 107 days in office, in April 2019.

At the time, according to information published by State Agency, the reason for his departure was the government’s intention to put João Manoel Santos Souza, from Maranhão, son of former senator João Alberto, who presides over the Maranhão MDB, the same party as the then minister of Citizenship Osmar Terra, at the head of the portfolio. The appointment, however, did not materialize.

On April 29, 2019, Bolsonaro appointed General Décio Brasil as Special Secretary for Sports. In February of the following year, the military was also dismissed.

In an interview with Folha de São Paulo, Décio Brasil attributed his resignation to the fact that he had resisted the appointment of Marcelo Magalhães as head of the Governance Office of the Olympic Legacy. Magalhães is Flávio Bolsonaro’s best man at the wedding.

“I think the main reason was the fact that I was reluctant to nominate Marcelo Magalhães for the office in Rio—Governance Office of Legado Olímpico, the body that manages the Parque Olímpico da Barra. Perhaps this has displeased the president, because my resignation was already accompanied by his nomination to my position”, said the general.

Magalhães himself was appointed as the federal government’s new Special Secretary for Sports in February 2020. The nomination and dismissal were signed by Bolsonaro and by Onyx Lorenzoni, who was heading the Ministry of Citizenship after Osmar Terra’s departure.

Deputies press for ministry

Since the ministry’s extinction, Bolsonaro has signaled a few times for its reactivation. The most recent was in January 2021, at an event with athletes at the Palácio do Planalto, in Brasília. At the time, he mentioned the possibility of electing Arthur Lira (PP-AL) and Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG) to command the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, respectively – which took place the following month.

“If there is a climate in parliament, it seems that the two people we have sympathy with should be elected, we will no longer have an agenda. We can take a lot forward and who knows, maybe even resurface ministries,” said the president. The promise, as is known, did not materialize and has not even been debated since then.

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In June of this year, members of the recently installed special commission of the Chamber of Deputies on sport resumed the debate on the subject in parliament. The committee’s president, Deputy Celina Leão (PP-DF), is in favor of recreating the folder.

“Sports public policy cannot be a second-level policy. It was a setback not to have a ministry. It must be a first-rate policy, as important as infrastructure, health, and other issues that are dealt with by the Executive as a mechanism for the country’s development”, said the congressman.

Deputy Renildo Calheiros (PCdoB-PE) highlighted that the existence of a Ministry of Sports leads to the creation of secretariats in states and municipalities, with specific attention to the sector.

“There is a speech according to which, by reducing the number of ministries, you save. That’s not true, since every ministry has to have someone responsible for that area. But it doesn’t have autonomy, it doesn’t have its own budget, it doesn’t have status,” said Calheiros.

I veto aid

Bolsonaro’s management in sports during the pandemic was also harshly criticized for vetoes made to Bill 2824/2020, which was approved by the National Congress to help professionals in the sports sector during the pandemic.

The text of the proposal foresaw, among other things, the release of emergency aid with three installments in the amount of R$ 600 for athletes and other workers in the area who are experiencing difficulties.

Read also: In addition to the Olympics, athletes fight for the presence of more women in sport

From the wording of PL 2824/2020 made in Congress, the head of the Executive also removed points such as the increase from 1% to 2% of the deduction limit required for donations and sponsorships related to the Sports Incentive Law.

The president also vetoed an article that reactivated the Program for the Modernization of Management and Fiscal Responsibility in Football (Profut), created in 2015 to allow the renegotiation of debts of sports clubs with the Union. The government said the proposal was “unfeasible” and it would not bring the “expected financial relief” by the entities.

Edition: Leandro Melito

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