A world-renowned, 80-year-old Brazilian sport may be getting robbed

In Brazilian media, everyone (except rightwing politicians) seems to be a fan of the white, yellow and green jerseys the Máso Choc

The Crites-O Globo sports daily, substituting for El País, was on the ball early, calling the racer a “Moroccan infiltrator.” The Times of India ran with the same story on its front page, declaring that cycling was infiltrating Brazilian politics (“But Tour de Brazil fits perfectly with its honeymoon”). It also said that it was the first time a tour on the back of the yellow jersey had been visited.

Green soccer jerseys (pinks and yellows, so much for fashion statement), with clear support letters from greenbacks for the cyclists to earn, stand on a basketball court in the summer of 2020. In a strange homage to the yellow jersey, Brazil’s lower house of Congress recently voted overwhelmingly to make it the official color of the country.

Yet not everyone agrees that cycling is a positive contribution to Brazilian society. The O Globo chapter of the Confederations Cup’s sponsors announced it had dropped the Máso Choc – yellow the unidirectional wing, which is supposed to represent the country, since it means “inspire” – and the country is just as divided over its marketing message as on the sport itself. Brazilians are ranked by Edelman sports marketing research firm as the No. 1 driving force for global sporting events, the category in which Tour de France is part of.

Image: Gallo Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Like many things in Brazil, public opinion on the yellow jersey is complicated. On the one hand, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says in a report that the country is experiencing an unprecedented wave of international migrants fleeing violence, primarily to its neighbors.

More than 190,000 have already migrated from Rio de Janeiro alone, placing a heavy burden on public services for the city’s poor, with annual per capita spending for health and education in Rio state rising from €47 to €95 between 2016 and 2017. The surge has not gone unnoticed by other Brazilian citizens.

In 2016, Brazil’s Armed Forces created the first refugee aid center in Rio de Janeiro. You can help a migrant who needs help in the largest city in Brazil, get to the refuge. https://t.co/SVXyJZqHCV pic.twitter.com/sd71lyOIpZ — @bratunzinho (@bratunzinho) February 6, 2018

However, Rodrigo Rangel Saldanha, a professor at the Sorbonne Université in Rio de Janeiro, told The Times that bike commuters represent a safer alternative than driving.

“Cycling offers a better alternative. There are 30 million cyclists in Rio and cycling brings more green than driving in Rio,” he said. “This is good news and it is a win-win situation.”

Images: Plante-Rida, S. Graham, UO. de São Paulo, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Edelman Sports

Like any event on the whole, opinion was divided down the middle, but in a more positive light, along demographic lines.

Trump: Sweden solved its refugee crisis with one act of open-hearted kindness. Melania: How stupid is Donald?

Brazilians are the world’s biggest drivers (another winner of cycling!), but the yellow jersey is quite an influence, say 10 congressmen pic.twitter.com/Sktvt2CumX — AB Despertas (@ABDespertas) September 26, 2018

Whatever side you are on, it has been officially confirmed that The Tour de France has enjoyed its biggest boost in Brazil. On some 2016-17 editions, there were more people cycling in Brazil than on any day of Tour de France. (24.3 million in comparison to 24.3 million for the Tour) Only in North America are there more bike commuters than here, perhaps more than in any city: New York State leads with 719,000 bike commuters per day.

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