Merida, June 20 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Sunday thousands Venezuelans made homeless during last year’s record-setting rains launched the inaugural season of Venezuela’s Inter-Shelter Games, a national sporting competition between residents of flood-victim shelters. Convened by Venezuela’s Ministry of Sports, over 12,000 people representing 915 shelters in 14 states converged on the main gymnasium of Caracas’ Fuerte Tiuna (a military base within the capital district’s city limits) to kick off Sunday’s sporting event.
“These games are an important tool for social transformation, to construct a more just and egalitarian society, and these events are part of a larger effort underway by the Bolivarian government,” said Venezuela’s Minister of Sports and Recreation Hector Rodriguez.
As part of government efforts to dignify life within public shelters for flood-victims, residents have been encouraged to establish ‘Sports and Recreation Committees.’ Once committees and teams are formed, Venezuela’s Ministry of Sports and Recreation provides the necessary sporting equipment based on specific team needs (soccer balls, basketball hoops, etc.), with participation in the National Inter-Shelter Games intended to further motivate shelter residents.
Organized into three different age groups (under 12, 12 to 16, and over 16), the shelter-based sports teams on Sunday faced off in friendly competitions of chess, dominoes, track and field, basketball, kickball, volleyball, soccer, indoor soccer, handball and bolas criollas (a popular Venezuelan sport with roots in Italy’s bocce ball).
“We’ve been practicing for over a month,” said 13 year-old chess player Ana Rosales. “I think it’s nice to compete with others because I learn a lot.”
While the official inauguration was held in Caracas, the National Inter-Shelter Games are also currently underway in over a dozen states including Falcon, Merida, Trujillo, Sucre, Tachira, Zulia, Nueva Esparta, Vargas, and Miranda.
In Vargas, for example, some 1,300 athletes from 26 different shelters are participating in the national games. In Caracas, meanwhile, over 800 shelter-based sports teams came together on Sunday to compete in 22 different neighborhoods.
Speaking to reporters over the weekend, Vargas state governor Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro said, “These games are intended to extend ties of unity, brotherhood, and love among those people who lost their homes because of the rains.”
Over 120,000 Venezuelans are currently living in public shelters established by the Chavez government in the aftermath of last year’s torrential rains and floods.