Olympians in Rio face major hurdle: no Pokemon Go

Olympians in Rio face major hurdle: no Pokemon Go

What’s troubling athletes arriving in Rio? No ‘Pokemon Go’

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We won't be seeing this at the Rio Olympics.
Photo: Sam Tsang/SCMP

So the plumbing and electricity in the athletes’ village took several days to fix. Who cares? But no Pokemon Go? That’s an outrage!

If there were ever a more “First World problem” for the Zika-plagued, water-polluted Rio Olympics, it’s Brazil’s lack of access to the hit mobile game, which has united players the world over.

Since debuting to wild adulation in the US, Australia and New Zealand this month, the game has spread like wildfire, launching in more than 30 countries or territories – but not Brazil.

For athletes and other visitors caught up in the wave, not having access is just one more knock against an Olympics that officials are racing to get ready. The opening ceremony takes place on Friday.


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“I wish I could run around in the [athletes’] village catching Pokemon,” New Zealand football player Anna Green said Friday. “I just can’t get it on the phone. It’s fine, but it would have been something fun to do.”

What will she do instead? “Train,” she replied.

The game’s designer, Niantic, didn’t comment on when the game might be released in Brazil. And though social media rumours point to a Sunday release for the game, similar rumours in Japan resulted in heightened expectations and the sense of delay before its debut there last week.

This week, British canoer Joe Clarke tweeted – with a broken-hearted sad face – a screenshot of his player on a deserted map near the rugby, equestrian and modern pentathlon venues in Rio’s Deodoro neighbourhood. The map was devoid of PokeStops and Pokemon, with nary a Starmie nor a Clefairy to be found.

“Sorry guys no #pokemon in the Olympic Village,” tweeted French canoer Matthieu Peche, followed by three crying-face emoji. Getting equal billing in his Twitter stream was a snapshot of a letter of encouragement from French President Francois Hollande.

Players with the app already downloaded elsewhere appear to be able to see a digital map of their surroundings when they visit Rio. But without PokeStops or Pokemon, the game isn’t much fun.

Many competitors in the athletes’ village took it in stride, though. Canadian field hockey player Matthew Sarmento said it would give him more time to meet other athletes. But he would have welcomed Pokemon during downtime in competition, adding that “sometimes it’s good to take your mind off the important things and let yourself chill.”


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Local politicians agree. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes – plagued by a host of bad news from player robberies to faulty plumbing – urged Nintendo to release the game in Brazil.

“Everybody is coming here. You should also come!” Paes wrote in Portuguese on his Facebook page , adding the hashtag #PokemonGoNoBrasil (Pokemon Go in Brazil ).

His post generated responses such as: “The aquatic Pokemon died with superbugs.”

One video circulating virally, with more than 3.5 million views, shows one fan identifying himself as Joel Vieira questioning how Brazil can host the Olympics but not Pokemon.

“I can’t play! I am not allowed to know how it really feels to see the little animals on my cell phone,” he said on the video . “Because we don’t have it in Brazil, yet. But we are having the Olympics.”

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
In Brazil, it’s still Pokemon No

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