What's troubling athletes in Rio? No "Pokemon Go"
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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 de Janeiro Olympics, it's Brazil's lack of access to the hit mobile game. The game has united players the world over.
The game is from Google spinoff Niantic, Inc. It made its debut to wild praise in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand this month. It has spread like wildfire. The game has been launched in more than 30 countries or territories. But it's not in Brazil.
For athletes and other visitors caught up in the wave, not having access is just one more knock against these Olympics. Despite criticism, Brazilian officials are racing to get ready. The opening ceremony takes place Aug. 5.
"I wish I could run around in the (athletes') village catching Pokemon," New Zealand soccer player Anna Green said. "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.
Niantic didn't reply to a request for comment on when the game might be released in Brazil. Social media rumors point to an looming release for the game. But, similar rumors in Japan resulted in heightened expectations and the sense of delay. It finally appeared there recently.
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. They are in Rio's Deodoro neighborhood. The map was devoid of PokeStops. Those are fictional supply caches. Each is linked to real-world landmarks. No Pokemon monsters to catch, either. There was nary a Starmie nor a Clefairy to be found.
"Sorry guys no #pokemon in the Olympic Village," tweeted French canoer Matthieu Peche. He added 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. It would be like getting on a soccer field but not having a ball to kick or goals to defend.
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. He said that, "sometimes it's good to take your mind off the important things and let yourself chill."
In Pokemon countries like the U.S., PokeStops are being used to attract living, breathing customers. In San Francisco, for example, dozens of restaurants and coffee shops have set up lures that attract rare Pokemon, along with potential new patrons looking to catch them.
That's presumably one reason why Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has urged Niantic investor Nintendo to release the game in Brazil.
"Everybody is coming here. You should also come!" Paes wrote in Portuguese on his Facebook page. He added the hashtag #PokemonGoNoBrasil - "Pokemon Go" in Brazil.
His post generated responses. One was, "The aquatic Pokemon died with superbugs."
A video has been circulating virally. It has more than 3.5 million views. It shows one fan identifying himself as Joel Vieira. He questions 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."
So when the Olympics kick off, will Pikachu be there to witness it? The world is watching with bated Poke-breath.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why hasn't Niantic released Pokemon Go in Brazil?
Write your answers in the comments section below