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Pokemon Go which has been available in some parts of the world, including the United States, for about a month has just now arrived in the Olympic host city of Rio de Janeiro. Available this week in Brazil for the first time, not coincidentally on the eve of the Rio Olympics, the game involves players using their smartphones to track down the virtual creatures.
It was a cause of some lament among Olympians who arrived in Rio to find thatPokemon Go wasn’t there to greet them. US diver and 2012 silver medalist Abby Johnston tweeted that the worst thing about the Olympic village was how she couldn’t find a way to play the game there. Some members of Germany’s field hockey team said they caught a special Pokemon character in the athletes’ village, though it turned out that they were only posing for a photo with world No. 1 tennis player and fellow Olympian Novak Djokovic. And star men’s Olympic gymnast Kohei Uchimura of Japan told media from his country that he racked up a $5,000 phone bill using so much data trying to play the game leading up to the games.
The smattering of people inside the Olympic Park on Thursday could find some Pokestops (where you collect Pokeballs and other items) and Pokegyms (where players, after joining a team, can compete against others). When the Olympic action starts in earnest on Friday, it seems like a certainty that Pokemon Go will be part of the spectacle. But in parts of Rio, it’s already a very big deal.