Representatives of five religions met on Wednesday (22 June) at the headquarters of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee to work on details about the inter-religious centre that will be opened at the Olympic Village. “It’s really good to see Rio de Janeiro as a welcoming place where religions understand each other,” said Cardinal Dom Orani Tempesta, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, who was alongside Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman.
Father Leandro Lenin, coordinator of the Rio 2016 inter-religious centre, presented a floor-plan of the facility, which will have a room for each of the religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam (for which there will be an extra room for women). There will be a space for counselling and the second floor will be a living area. A ‘chaplain’s guidebook’ explaining the basics of the centre was given to the attendees.
“The athlete not only needs to have someone who he can celebrate with at the moment he wins, but he also needs a friend’s shoulder when he realises something didn’t go as expected. They also need a place where they can practise their faith,” said Fr. Leandro Lenin. “The centre is not only a place where you find support. It’s also a meeting spot where people can find help and assistance.”
The archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro invited representatives of other religions to support the project My Place in Rio – a collaboration platform that encourages Rio’s residents to host volunteers at their home. The initiative was inspired by the Catholic Church’s experience of welcoming volunteers at the 2013 World Youth Day.
“As the Olympic Games are a secular sports event, it is interesting that different religions also open their doors to the volunteers,” said Dom Orani Tempesta. Among the attendees were Rabbi Elia Haber, Buddhist monk Jyun Sho Yoshikawa, Muslim theologian Jihad Hammadeh and Raga Bhumi Devi Dasi, pioneer of the Hare Krishna movement in Brazil.
“We hope to offer this balance between the physical and the spiritual. It is really important for the athletes to work on that,” commented Haber, who will be one of the leaders who will welcome people at the Olympic Village.
At peak time during the Olympic Games, the village will host more than 17,000 athletes and officials. It will welcome the first athletes on 24 July. The meeting defines how the inter-religious centre will welcome athletes of all faiths at the Olympic Village during the Games.
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