2015-10-23 / State/National Sports

Indigenous Olympics under way

PALMAS, Brazil (AP) — What’s billed as the first “indigenous Olympics” kicked off Thursday with a raucous cultural mash-up that saw grimacing Maori warriors, gong-bearing Filipinos and feathercrowned tribespeople from Brazil preside over a traditional firelighting ceremony.

The World Indigenous Games officially opens Friday, when Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to attend a lavish opening ceremony in the games’ host city, Palmas, a remote outpost in the sunbaked heart of Brazil.

But Thursday’s fire ritual, which saw hundreds of indigenous people from around the world converge on Palmas’ central square decked out in their traditional finest, set the tone for the coming event, which runs through Oct. 31.

Tribal representatives spontaneously broke into traditional song and dance as the media and other indigenous peoples from as far afield as Ethiopia and Mongolia formed tight, flashbulb-popping, iPhone-snapping circles around them.

A phalanx of Maoris from New Zealand, looking fierce with wide-eyed stares and menacing throat-slicing gestures, appeared to stand guard over the knot of Manoti men from Brazil’s central Mato Grosso state as they labored over the fire, finally emerging triumphant with a flaming torch.

Elvis Balabal Julius of the Philippines’ Igorot people hailed the event as “amazing.”

“It’s my first time outside of the Philippines and I took five planes to get here,” said Julius, 23, sporting only a loincloth.

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