RIO DE JANEIRO — The Evers family from Washington, D.C., has been planning its trip to the Olympics here for a year and a half.
Twelve-year-old son Graham got a huge surprise when he arrived, but it wasn’t a ticket to see his favorite swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Pokemon Go had dropped in Brazil just in time for the Olympic Games.
“I know it wasn’t in Canada for a little while,” Evers said. “So when we went to Canada to connect our flight I was happy that it was there too. But when it was here I was excited.”
Niantic Inc. announced the arrival of the game on their official international Facebook page a couple days before the Opening Ceremony: “We are excited to officially be putting Pokémon GO in the hands of our Latin American fans, visitors, and the athletes in Rio!”
— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) August 4, 2016
The release last week came just in time for the Olympians who eagerly tried to play the wildly popular game when they arrived in Rio before the games began.
Cal swimmer Jacob Pebley tried playing the game on Aug. 2 to no avail.
No Pokemon in Brazil 🙁 pic.twitter.com/mSr8gQSGZP
— Jacob Pebley (@Jacob_Pebley) August 2, 2016
Pokemon Go hit 100 million downloads earlier this month and hopes to increase that number with the international audience the Olympic Games offers.
Olympic volunteer Marty Youngblood had already experienced the craze back home in Atlanta.
The 55-year-old minister has two PokéStops on the property of the church he works with and sees multiple visitors a day. His said his 22-year-old son is an avid player of the game.
Youngblood understands the madness the app can bring but hopes it will not draw attention away from the games.
“You’re watching these athletes perform, some of them have trained for four, eight, 10 years,” Youngblood said. “I don’t think you need to be distracting the crowd monkeying around with stuff. I think there needs to be a little respect shown.”
Besides the security risks involved with walking around a large, dense city looking at your phone, players can also look to an Olympian for the perils of playing without paying attention to data roaming fees.
Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura told Kyodo News that he racked up a bill of nearly $5,000 after playing the game when he arrived in Brazil.
Meanwhile, the incoming seventh grader Evers bragged to his friends back in the U.S. about being in Brazil for the game’s launch in the country.
“I’ve been telling them there’s a lot of different Pokemons than the U.S.,” Evers said. “It’s cool with the rainforest background and the mountains. You catch one and then you flip and take a picture of it on the mountains. It’s really cool.”