The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Olympics bring fans, flags from around the world to Rio

From left, Pablo Mabres, 30, Ivan Besoky, 31 and Pablo Neira, 31, all from Neuquen, in Argentina's Patagonia. (Dom Phillips/The Washington Post)

RIO DE JANEIRO — For some of the fans sporting national colors, emblems and mascots in Rio this week, supporting their country at the Olympics is a matter of patriotic pride. For others, it’s the latest location to add to their growing collection of Games attended.

And for a choice few, it’s a case of family pride.

Ronald Biles II, 32, was here with his wife, Lyndsey, also 32, to see his sister Simone collect two gold medals (team and individual) in gymnastics for Team USA.

“We knew she would have a good showing, but you just never know, it’s gymnastics, so anything is possible. But to see her fulfill it and do as well as she’s done has been an amazing experience to see,” he told The Washington Post.

New Yorker Duleep Deosthale, 55, took a photo with Michael Phelps’s mother, Debbie, fiancee Nicole Johnson and their son, Boomer, after one race.

Rio is Deosthale's 10th Olympics, and bar some issues over transportation and volunteers who lack basic information, he is enjoying it as much as ever. He said he expects the food to be terrible — and it is. But what he really wants is noisy crowds, and Brazil has not let him down.

“That is why I go to the Olympics,” he said. “It is loud and boisterous and encouraging, and that is what makes the Games. It could be a small country or a first medal, the crowd gets behind them and it’s energizing.”

Like Desthale, Vivianne Robinson, 58, from Los Angeles, is an Olympic veteran. This is her sixth Games. Hardcore Olympic fans like these two prefer to travel alone so they can choose what they want to do.

“I go to a game every day, and Opening and Closing. I splurged on this one,” said Robinson, who was wearing flags from each country to have hosted the Games that she has attended.

She was rooting for Team USA, as was Deosthale.

But for brothers Fady and Sahar Botros, supporting their nation of birth — Egypt — and the country they live in — the United States — is a balancing act.

“It depends on the sport. Fortunately U.S.A. and Egypt have not played each other,” said Fady, 31, who lives in Las Vegas. “I’m sure America has enough gold medals going. Egypt can get one or two,” said Sahar, 28, who lives in Virginia.

Australians Des Bakes, 67, and his son Corey, 43, both from Tasmania, were carrying an inflatable kangaroo. But not because of the animal’s role in a the controversy that blew up at the Athletes’ Village a week before the Opening Ceremony.

The Australian delegation refused to move in because of plumbing and electricity issues. Rio’s rambunctious mayor, Eduardo Paes, jibed he would make them feel at home by putting a kangaroo there.

An emergency team of 600 technicians had worked flat out to resolve the problems at the Athletes’ Village. After moving in, the Australian team presented Paes with a toy boxing kangaroo and left the row behind them.

Des Bakes said the kangaroo and emu are Australian national symbols because “they can’t take a backward step.”

Parisian brothers Theo Berriat, 22, and Hugo Berriat, 24, traveling with parents and a third brother said they enjoyed the contagious enthusiasm of home-team fans.

“As soon as you see a Brazilian, you start cheering for them. They are a very enjoyable people,” said Hugo.

Viviane Lescher, 44, with friend Raimar Oliveira, 53, from Sao Paulo and Dani Tolstoy, 44, from Rio, said this passion is typically Brazilian.

“It’s the Brazilian way to have a party,” she said

Enthusiasm bloomed once Brazilians were able to get over pre-Olympic fears over security, the Zika virus and venue construction.

“It stopped when they [the Games] started and we understood it was happening,” said Tolstoy.

Danish supporters Clara Simonsen, 21, and Camila Kristiansen, 22, were aware of the lack of enthusiasm in Brazil before the Games began over these and other issues such as pollution, clearances of low-income communities called favelas, and accusations of corruption over a new metro line.

“Some people are really excited and others think that they took the money that should have gone to the poor people and gave it to the Olympics,” said Simonsen.

Even prouder than Brazilians are Canadians, who wear flags, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with the name of the their country. Mathew Mathieson, 50, traveling with family members from Toronto, said Canadians do this so they don’t get mistaken for Americans.

“Everybody, when they sees the flags, goes, ‘Canada! Canada!’ We’ve heard that some Americans even put [Canadian] flags on their backpacks to get a better reception,” he said with a smile.

A Dutch family was just as conspicuous in matching, vivid orange outfits. Orange is the color of the Dutch royal family.

“Because we are all orange, everyone wants to take pictures with us,” said Steven Keemers, 16, who was also carrying a large, fluffy, orange fish.

Boniface Kambikambi, 53, head of mission for the Zambian delegation, blazed his country’s colors on his hat, T-shirt and bag.

He was leading a delegation of seven athletes, he said. Unlike bigger nations, his country has never won a gold medal at the Olympics.

“This is the largest number of qualified athletes, so it’s good progress,” he said. “We hope we can quality a few more for 2020 and they can come home with a medal.”