OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Judoka Sarah Menezes, gold medalist in London 2012, will again represent her country. Photo: Getty Images

Brazil is hoping for its best performance ever, to finish among the top ten countries in the medal count during the Río de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics, according to Carlos Nuzman, head of the competition organizing committee.

National sports authorities insist that despite the era of economic crisis, the training of athletes was focused on taking a giant step forward in the country's success. On July 31, 460 young Brazilians will enter the Olympic Village, a much larger number than the 270 who participated in London 2012.

Two of the country's champions in those Summer Games will be returning: judoka Sarah Menezes (48 kg) and the women's volleyball team (gold medal winners in the Gran Prix 2016). Others arriving full of hope include the men's volleyball team (silver in the World League 2016); pole valuter Fabiana Murer (4.87 meters, this year's record); swimmer Tiago Pereira, silver in 400 meter medley in London; as well as the country's soccer team, which lost to Mexico in the final four years ago. These are only a few of those with good possibilities.

THUS FAR THIS CENTURY

Looking back at the four Summer Games held since the beginning of the 21st century reveals that finishing among the top ten countries in the medal count is no easy task, even though the passionate support of Brazilian fans will help.

In Sydney 2000, Cuba finished ninth with 11 gold medals, 11 silver and 7 bronze, for a total of 29, and the tenth spot was taken by the UK with 28 medals (11-10-7). Countries which were able to place tenth, over the most recent period, did so with a medal total of between 27 and 41, with more than five golds. The UK won the final spot in the top ten with 11 gold medals in Sydney; Greece did so in Athens with nine; and France in 2008 with seven, the same number with which Australia placed tenth in London 2012.

Between 2000 and 2012, Brazil had its best performance in Athens 2004, winning 10 medals (5-2-3), and placing 16th. In Sydney, the country fell to the 52nd spot with a total of 12 medals (0-6-6); while four years later the delegation scaled back up to 23rd with 15 medals (3-4-8), finishing 22nd in London, thanks to a total of 17 (3-5-9).

These rankings were won by Brazil during Games with very similar levels of participation: 10,651 athletes in Sydney; 10,625 in Athens; and 10,568 in London - competing in 300-302 events. Beijing was the exception with 10,942 participants.

BRAZIL PLAYS HOST, DREAMS BIG

Río will welcome 10,500 young athletes to compete in 306 events in 41 sports. As is to be expected, the host country will participate in more events than in previous editions, since its status exempts its competitors from the qualification process - a difficult and costly one.

Host countries have historically been able to move up significantly in the medal count as the home team - with the exception of Greece, which placed 17th in 2000, after finishing 16th in Atlanta 1996. In Athens, China (32-17-14-63), for example, finished behind the U.S. (36-39-26-101), but came back strong in Beijing (51-21-28-100) to the United States' (36-38-36-110), and since 2004 has surpassed Russia.

Australia in Sydney (16-25-17-58) finished fourth, repeating this accomplishment in Athens (17-16-16-49); falling to sixth in Beijing (14-15-17-49) and 10th in London (7-16-12-35). These are some examples, but the United States has only ceded its dominance once, during these four 21st century Games, in China.

Brazil is pursuing the dream, to finish among the top ten in RÍo. Organizers are confident that this year's Summer Games will make history, and leave a legacy. Let us hope that the many installations built benefit the people when the games come to a close.