Issue - July 2010

July 2010


In this edition, Jamie Bassett uncovers the history behind Mother’s Day celebration in Cochabamba, William Dowling discovers the reason behind one of Bolivia’s biggest festivals, Lauren Rutter profi les Olympic Stadium and reviews La Chirola, Floriane Guyot tries to explain the urban gang phenomenon and Walter Sánchez describes the structure of Bolivian families. read more...

July 2010

Olympic Ambition

Volleyball is quickly becoming one of Bolivia´s most popular sports. Lauren Rutter takes a look at Cochabamba´s Club Olympic volleyball project.

Lauren Rutter
Projects Abroad
Cardiff - Wales

Entering Club Olympic you are greeted by the sight of hundreds of children of all ages engaged in the game of volleyball, giving off a general aura of health and fun. They practice and play here for three to eight hours a week, using the fantastic facilities available to them. Olympic has six indoor courts and six outdoor beach volleyball courts, complete with imported sand. It provides vital physical education on a weekly basis, which is sadly lacking from Bolivian children’s daily life.

The club started fifty years ago as a small project. During the last five decades it has had to move several times as demand has grown from the youth of Cochabamba for volleyball. Five or six years ago Olympic started to take on youngsters from the age of eight, but as the game has spread and its popularity has grown, they began to take younger and younger members. Children can now start out at the club from the age of four, in its sport initiative program.

It is easy to see why the game has taken off so rapidly in the city. According to club manager Bernardo Pavisic, “Cochabamba doesn’t have many options for kids.” It is a great alternative to the more negative paths that children could be led down.

The game is also hugely accessible. It is a non-contact sport so anybody can play and you need very little extra equipment. You can make a net out of anything and you can play the game just about anywhere. It is highly inclusive game and is far easier to take up than rival sports which require much more financial investment.

Club Olympic have over one thousand children who practice at the facilities every week. They have also started to bring the game to those in neighbouring areas. Pavisic discusses this current programme, “We have started to work with 30 neighbourhood schools…they can’t come to us so we are working to go to them, so that people surrounding Cochabamba can be involved.” The club is dedicated to helping children and giving them an opportunity to be involved in the game.

Olympic has aimed not only to enhance children’s volleyball skills and physical well-being, but also to instill morals in the children that participate. They aim to teach children values such as respect, manners, cleanliness and fair play. The club is currently working on a programme called Cultura Olympic, designed to change the mindset and thinking of the youths that enter its doors, to teach them positive behaviour.

Programmes such as Cultura Olympic rely heavily on outside investment. Pavisic highlights the difficulty of attracting sponsors within Bolivia due to the “many promises that have not been followed through to corporations.” Olympic has worked very hard to build up a good relationship with a number of private sponsors, which means they can carry out these types of programmes.

Outside investment also enables the club to run tournaments. Olympic are currently working with the World Volley and Beach Volleyball Federation (WVBF) and recently held the WVBF Beach Volleyball World Championships Protour for the third year running in Cochabamba, ironic for a country with no beaches. Working in co-operation with the WBVF enables them to send athletes to compete on other international stages, like Italy and Switzerland.

Opportunities to compete on an international stage are few and far between for Bolivian athletes. Unfortunately, their progress is stunted somewhat by the lack of support and lack of opportunities passed onto them by the Bolivian federation. Club Olympic does its best to support them, but ultimately many of Bolivia’s best talent has to leave the country in order to further their careers. Many of Olympic´s best female players are now in American universities. There is a good standard of volleyball and a lot of talented players in Bolivia, but sadly they are not getting the opportunities they deserve.

Olympic have dedicated the last fifty years to spreading the game throughout Bolivia and Latin America as a whole. They have trained thousands of children, giving them an option when there was little else for them and teaching them positive values. But Olympic is one club in a huge nation. There is simply no comparison to other South American country’s volleyball programmes.

There is a good standard of volleyball and a lot of talented players in Bolivia, but sadly they are not getting the opportunities they deserve.

Bolivian athletes will never be able to improve unless they get to pit themselves against the best in the world. Pavisic suggests that the only option for the future is “for the federation to change, otherwise Bolivian volleyball will never succeed. Everything instead of stopping at the federation needs to be distributed including courses, trips and invitations.” There needs to be transparency between the federation and the athletes, funding must be pumped into the grass roots and the really talented athletes must receive the full support of the federation and the offers from international organizations.

Olympic is doing a brilliant job, but there is only so much a small club can achieve. For the sake of Bolivian volleyballs future, whole-scale changes must be made to the system, changes which will enable the talented players of Bolivia to fulfill their potential within their home country.

La Chirola Directed by Diego Mondaca

The short documentary has had great international success, winning numerous awards around the globe. Made by a group of young Latin Americans, the work is an accomplished and fascinating watch, giving us a glimpse into a universal issue that has affected so many.

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