Olympics

Fans at Rio Olympics revel: ‘Brazil is the sports capital of the world again’

A Chinese woman has the flags of Brazil and China painted on her face outside of Maracana Stadium, where the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics were held Aug. 5, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro.
A Chinese woman has the flags of Brazil and China painted on her face outside of Maracana Stadium, where the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics were held Aug. 5, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro. khall@mcclatchydc.com

Donning a five-ring plush Olympic hat with “Brasil” popping out in large green and yellow letters, Rio de Janeiro resident Fabio de Silva hoped his $1,200 investment in a ticket to the Opening Ceremonies would be worth it.

De Silva, 22, was one of more than 50,000 expected fans in attendance at Friday’s Opening Ceremonies at Rio’s Maracana Stadium, the vast majority wearing the colors of the host nation. An avid soccer fan, De Silva, who attended the ceremonies with friends Robson Guedes, 21, and Larissa Alves, 25, said Brazil’s sports fans had been anxiously awaiting the Games since the FIFA World Cup passed through the country in 2014.

“Brazil is the sports capital of the world again,” de Silva said. “It’s something we’re proud of, and we want the Games to be done right.”

Daniele Lima, 20, was another such Rio fan. Wearing a Neymar soccer jersey, Lima said she had saved money for more than two months working as a server in Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood for the chance to attend Friday’s ceremonies. She also bought tickets for gymnastics and track and field events.

“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — for both Brazil and sports fans here,” Lima said.

One of more than 1,000 city employees managing crowds and directing traffic on the way into Maracana, Karina Leao called herself a veteran worker during Rio’s recent string of international sporting events.

Leao, who also worked for the city during the World Cup and 2011 Military World Games, said anticipation for the Opening Ceremonies was as big as any non-sporting event she has ever seen.

She compared the crowd’s excitement with a World Cup group-stage game. But she said any soccer game in Maracana featuring the Brazilian national team — or popular local club Flamengo — would be “much louder.”

“For athletes just walking through a stadium, this is as good as it gets,” Leao said in Portuguese after briefly putting down a megaphone she used to direct traffic. “But soccer with our favorite teams is something more.”

Not all attendees at Friday’s ceremonies were from the home country.

Wearing a No. 15 Carmelo Anthony U.S. basketball jersey, Bakersfield, California, resident John Moore also held an American flag as he prepared to attend his third Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

Moore, 38, who said he also attended the Olympics in Beijing and London, said despite missing athletes such as LeBron James, Jordan Spieth and Stephen Curry, the Americans would be “as strong as ever.”

Another U.S. fan, Dave Barnes of Centerville, Utah, didn’t have a ticket before Friday’s ceremonies, but really wanted in, he said. So he spent $430 to buy one from an elated Argentine seller.

“It’s the psychology of it,” Barnes said. “People ask, ‘Did you go to the opening ceremony?’ No one is going to ask, ‘Did you go see the judo guy?’ ”

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