The R&A, the Golf Foundation and the Rio Golf Federation have teamed up to launch the Rio StreetGolf Programme, a project which aims to breakdown sporting and social barriers ahead of the Olympics

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Brazil is gearing up for next year’s Olympics with the launch of the 12-month Rio StreetGolf Programme, a project designed to breakdown sporting and social barriers and highlight the key values of golf – honesty, respect and integrity.

The scheme was launched last week in the grand surroundings of Rio’s Maracanã stadium, where 15 children from Japeri, one of the poorest communities in the city, became the first people to play golf in football’s spiritual home.

Supported by The R&A, the Golf Foundation and the Rio Golf Federation, the programme aims to reach more than 15,000 kids and adults through a mixture of school and community projects and four high-profile StreetGolf tournaments in central Rio.

Cristian Barcelos, 20, who two years ago became the first Brazilian from outside a private members’ club to win the Brazilian Junior Golf Championships, is one of the five-man team being trained by the Golf Foundation to deliver the programme.

“It is brilliant to be able to teach golf to kids from my community in the home of my favourite football team, Flamengo,” Cristian said. “No one believed that we were going to play golf in the Maracanã.”

Rio StreetGolf uses adapted golf balls and clubs to make the sport possible in any urban environments.

Cristian and his friends, guided by the experts from the Golf Foundation, have spent the week teaching kids in schools and communities, including Mangueira, the favela overlooking the famous stadium.

The team will soon begin weekly training sessions across Rio in preparation for the first public StreetGolf Tournament on August 5 – exactly one year before golf returns to the Olympic Games after a 100-year absence.

“No one in England can understand what it is like to watch these kids play golf in the Maracanã!” said Golf Foundation development officer Katie Moggan. “This is a fantastic event and the start of showing young people in Rio de Janeiro that they can play golf if they want to and it’s a sport that does have something to offer everyone.”

Luiz Henrique Lopes Leão Teixeira, president of the Rio Golf Federation, added: “This is a really strong project for increasing awareness of golf in Rio de Janeiro and showing people from all backgrounds that this is a sport that is accessible to them.”

The Golf Foundation team kept a video diary of their experiences, the first two of which can be seen below: