Brazil and Japan – United By Sports – Olympics – Brazil


By Alberto Murray Neto

One year is celebrated for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Few people know that a good part of the relations between Brazil and Japan, after the second world war, were resumed through sport. Japan was a country defeated in the war, dominated and with which Brazil did not have diplomatic relations. A few years after the end of the war, my grandfather, Major Sylvio de Magalhães Padilha (Olympic finalist athlete and later president of COB), at that time as Director of the Department of Physical Education and Sport of the State of São Paulo (DEFE) made an official invitation to that the so-called “flying fish”, the swimming team from Japan, considered the strongest in the world, would come to the State of São Paulo. It was the first Japanese delegation to leave the country for the world after the war on an official mission. Getúlio Vargas, president of the Republic, dictator, did not approve the idea and asked Padilha to cancel the invitation. Padilha told Getúlio that he would keep the invitation and that it was formulated by the State of São Paulo and not the Federal Government.

When the delegation of Japanese swimmers arrived in São Paulo, Getúlio Vargas returned to the charge. I told Padilha that I did not want the Japanese flag to be raised or the hymn of Japan to be sung. Again Padilha said no to Getúlio. He argued that it was a sporting mission and that athletes would be received with all honors. In all the cities where the “flying fish” passed, the flag of Japan was raised and the anthem was duly played.

It was a presentation, in which the “flying fish” would swim in the capital of the State of São Paulo and in several cities in the interior to spread the swimming. It was from this initiative that several Brazilian swimmers emerged, including Tetsuo Okamoto, our first Olympic medalist.

Even during the war, Getúlio had ordered the closure of several sports clubs in the Axis, German, Italian and Japanese clubs. In São Paulo, as Director of DEFE, Padilha prevented this from happening. The clubs changed their name, but never closed and continued playing sports and cultivating their roots.

A few years after the “flying fish” came to São Paulo, Padilha was invited by the government of Japan to make an official visit to the country. Padilha went to Japan as the first state official received on an official post-war trip. He received the Order of the Rising Sun and the Samurai Sword from the Emperor.

The Japanese people have never forgotten these gestures, which took place in an extremely difficult period in the history of Japan. Throughout his life, Padilha received the greatest honors from the Japanese people and was a great supporter of the sport in the Japanese colony.

The last time Padilha visited Japan, as a member of the International Olympic Committee, when he arrived by train at Nagano station, he saw several children with the flags of Japan and Brazil in their hands. It was optional in public schools in the city. And the drive from the train station to the Government Palace was full of many children waving the flags of the two countries.

Let Tokyo come, who will certainly hold unforgettable Olympic Games.

Categorias olimpismo

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