Palmas (Brazil), Oct 24 (IANS) The inaugural World Indigenous Games kicked off here after a festive opening ceremony in which indigenous athletes from all over the world mingled with each other. Brazil president Dilma Rousseff attended the ceremony on Friday without giving a speech but she and other officials were booed by a small group of Brazilian indigenous people denouncing the government’s lack of support and investment towards them, reports Xinhua.

Despite that, the ceremony was held in an upbeat mood with hundreds of indigenous people decked out in their traditional best and singing their songs. United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon wasn’t on the spot but addressed the crowd through his representative before the athletes’ parade. “I’m pleased to convey my greetings to all those gathered for the opening ceremony of the first World Indigenous Games. This event is an outstanding example of how sports can unite people and promote peace,”

Ban’s representative said. “I take this opportunity to call on all governments and civil society to urgently advance the work of integrating the rights of indigenous peoples.” Billed as the first “indigenous Olympics”, the Games will see some 1,800 indigenous athletes from 24 countries and regions take part in competitive and demonstration sports events in the next nine days. Indigenous athletes will compete in a variety of sporting events, ranging from a few Western-style competitions (football, athletics and swimming) to many indigenous traditional games. Some will be played competitively such as canoeing, archery and Corrida de Tora, but there will be a huge number of non-competitive demonstration events in which indigenous peoples have chosen to showcase their living heritage of games. A good example is xikunahity, a football-style game in which the ball is controlled only with the head. The Games also run parallel to a comprehensive programme of discourse and celebration of culture which includes the latest Indigenous People’s Social Forum, activities for indigenous women, lecture series and fairs. Peoples from all Americas, delegations from Australia, Russia, the Philippines have arrived here. From Brazil alone, 24 indigenous ethnicities will be taking part.

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