Rio to host the Tour de France but Brazilians are divided on the yellow colors

Written by By Staff Writer

If this year’s Tour de France has shown us anything, it’s that yellow cycling jerseys can drive political divides.

While Team Sky’s Chris Froome is typically hailed as a sporting saint — the four-time champion is the first to have won the overall championship of the race three times — one Brazilian cycling fan told CNN that yellow cycling jerseys are not colors that are appropriate for a nation tainted by political corruption and economic hardship.

“I was scared to wear the yellow jersey because of these (high) expectations. Instead of being loved, (it’s) being criticized,” Florilio Weese, 43, said, while wearing one on a recent trip to the 2014 Tour de France in Nimes, France.

Weese is one of more than 16 million Brazilians who have had their personal information exposed as part of a major corruption investigation. The team’s financial sponsor, Samsung, was one of 13 large firms accused of paying bribes in Brazil to secure contracts related to Brazil’s 2016 Rio Olympics.

Transparency International (TI) reported last year that 30% of Brazilians have lost confidence in the honesty of their government, as the country heads into a presidential election in October.

The quality of Rousseff’s administration has long been under the spotlight: Nelso, a charity supporting the culture of cycling in Rio de Janeiro, claimed to have been “punished” for advocating the ethics of the sport.

‘No way I would wear a yellow jersey’

In September 2016, the International Cycling Union (UCI) ruled that long-time riders — including cycling great, Fernando Gaviria — would have to wear yellow instead of brown or red in the 2016 Tour de France.

“A yellow jersey could have a negative connotation (in Brazil), because it’s the same color as the military uniform,” Weese told CNN.

“We’re innocent people, so a yellow jersey should have been reserved for him, even though he’s in a position where they’re not worried about crimes. We don’t have any troubles, so why are you robbing us?”

Weese, who lives with his wife and baby daughter, suggested that yellow jerseys had a negative effect on Rio’s great cultural institution, the Flamengo Football Club, which is sponsoring the race this year.

“For six or seven months every year the country is at football fever,” Weese said. “The Olympics was the soccer fanatic’s year, but now it’s the Tour de France. That’s the biggest sports event in Brazil.”

Earlier this year, Brazilian legend Ronaldo — who made his first professional appearance with Flamengo in 1991 — signed a new four-year contract with the club, despite the recent construction of a new arena just outside the club’s Estadio Flamengo in Sao Paulo.

‘It was discussed many times’

Weese’s views are echoed by Lisandro Almeida, a Rio-based cycling supporter.

Almeida, 51, said he would never wear a yellow jersey because, he said, the color was too strong for his values.

“Unfortunately, yellow is the color of (Froome’s) team,” he said. “No way I would wear a yellow jersey.”

But Almeida does praise Rio de Janeiro’s famous brand of street riding, which has been a hot ticket since it made its Olympic debut in 2016.

“The yellow jersey with carioca colors just doesn’t coincide with our rules,” Almeida said. “Everyone is very happy with being connected to the mountains, Rio, this culture, but it doesn’t correlate to our culture.

“The struggle for the yellow jersey, the fans coming to watch the Tour de France (in Rio), it’s great and we’re going to have this beautiful Tour de France as well, but if it’s not in our colors, we don’t think it should be here in Rio.”

Rio 2016 organizers, organizers

The consequences of Brazil’s political corruption has been serious, and significant. According to a FIFA analysis , Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympics after the head of an International Olympic Committee corruption probe was found to have ties to South America’s ruling party, the PSDB, and the country’s main broadcast rights holder.

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