A prison in the Mexican city of Merida is holding its own version of the Olympic Games, giving 800 inmates the chance to compete in 13 different sports, including the ceremonial pre-Columbian ballgame.
The goal of the sporting event is to facilitate the prisoners’ eventual reinsertion into society, authorities at the Yucatan Rehabilitation Center said.
While the opening ceremony of the London Olympics was being held Friday night, a modest version of that extravaganza was celebrated inside the penitentiary and was notable for “high spirits, cheering fans, positive energy and music,” the government of the southeastern state of Yucatan said in a statement.
Gov. Ivonne Ortega signaled the start of the ceremony and the athletes then paraded around the premises.
“I really admire people who are willing to learn and atone for their mistakes, and who are always looking to stay occupied, active and productive under any circumstance and in any setting,” Ortega said.
A replica of Chichen Itza’s El Castillo pyramid was mounted on the prison’s soccer field where the ceremony was held, and a young inmate dressed as a Mayan warrior, Carlos, was tasked with lighting the “Olympic cauldron” as 2,300 inmates looked on.
The sporting event, dubbed “New Era, 2012,” marks the Year of Mayan Culture in Yucatan state and will last until Aug. 12, when the London Games also conclude.
The inmates will compete in a series of sports including soccer, track and field, weightlifting, basketball and volleyball.