Cayman’s Olympic athletes, led by flag-bearer Ronald Forbes, will don traditional thatch hats as they join the parade of nations through Brazil’s famous Maracana Stadium Friday night for the opening ceremony of the Rio Games.
The five athletes – sprinter Kemar Hyman, hurdler Forbes, sailor Florence Allan and swimmers Geoff and Lara Butler – and six officials will get their moment in the spotlight during the ceremony, which involves all 206 countries represented at the Olympics.
The lavish multimillion-dollar event, featuring Brazilian stars like supermodel Gisele and football legend Pele, will be viewed by a capacity crowd of around 78,000 inside the stadium and an estimated 3 billion people worldwide on television.
Cayman will be the 41st country to enter the stadium during the parade of athletes at an estimated time of 7:06 p.m. Cayman time, 9:06 p.m. in Brazil.
Forbes, 31, who also carried the flag at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, said, “It’s an honor to carry the nation’s flag, not only for what it represents, but for who it represents, and that’s something I take with great responsibility and great pride.”
The teams traditionally wear their national costume for the opening parade, and the Cayman team will be wearing custom-designed “turtle ranger” outfits – khaki pants, light-blue shirts and boat shoes for the men, and navy dresses with white floral detailing and espadrilles for the women, topped with the famous thatch hats.
The theme was developed by local artist Wray Banker to bring elements of Cayman’s history and culture to the occasion.
The Caymanian athletes have been arriving at the Olympic Village in Rio all week.
Sprinter Kemar Hyman was expected to be the last to join up with the team, flying into Brazil Friday morning ahead of the opening ceremony.
Speaking to the Cayman Compass from his U.S. training base this week, he said he was excited for the Games to begin and hopeful of bettering his semifinal performance at the Beijing Olympics.
“If I can go one further and make the final, that would be huge. I made the top 16 last time. To be in the top eight in the world would be a major accomplishment.”
The athlete, competing in perhaps the most competitive event in the Games, acknowledged he would have to run a personal best to make the final. But Hyman, who has broken the 10-second barrier in the past, said training had gone well and he is hopeful of lining up alongside Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt, the undisputed favorite for gold in the 100m, at what will be his last Olympics.
“If he breaks the world record, hopefully, I’m right there alongside him,” said Hyman.
The heats for the sprints do not start until Aug. 13, giving Hyman more than a week to acclimatize.
Swimmers Geoff and Lara Butler will be in action straight away, with the swimming heats beginning this weekend. The siblings have been preparing in Rio for the past week.
Speaking from the Olympic Village this week, Geoff Butler, who will be first to compete on Saturday, said it has already been an incredible experience.
“We’ve had our heads down as we are still in full-time training, but the atmosphere has been awesome,” he said, “and seeing stars like Novak Djokovic walking around the village really makes you realize that the best athletes in the world are here.
“The village is really nice as well, which was a great surprise. The newspapers had made it seem really bad, but the accommodation is decent, with everything we could need.”
Lara Butler said the athletes and coaches received an “incredible welcome” from a troupe of Brazilian dancers at an event Sunday. Cayman was one of the first countries to be welcomed and participate in the event that included the raising of the Cayman Islands flag and the playing of Brazil’s national anthem. All countries will take part in the tradition before the start of the Games.
Geoff Butler competes in the 400m freestyle on Saturday, Lara Butler competes in the 100m backstroke on Sunday.
Florence Allan takes on five days of sailing, starting on Aug. 8 and ending on Aug. 13. Kemar Hyman begins his prelims on Aug. 13, and if he qualifies to the semifinals for the 100m sprint, he will race on Aug. 14. Ronald Forbes, 110m hurdler, competes on Aug. 15, and if he qualifies to the semis, he will run on Aug. 16.