Cayman’s Olympic athletes, led by flag-bearer Ronald Forbes, joined thousands of athletes from around the world Friday in the parade of nations at the 2016 Summer Games opening ceremony in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Wearing custom-designed “turtle ranger” outfits, the five athletes – sprinter Kemar Hyman, hurdler Forbes, sailor Florence Allan and swimmers Geoff and Lara Butler – and six accompanying officials marched behind the Cayman flag. The opening ceremony was watched by an audience of more than 3 billion.
The 206 countries taking part in the games were led by Greece, followed in alphabetical order in Portuguese. The Cayman Islands was the 41st country, following Kazakhstan.
The uniforms worn by the Cayman delegation in the opening ceremony were “1930s style with a modern twist,” according to the outfits’ designers.
The men wore khaki pants, light blue shirts, thatch hats and boat shoes, while the women wore navy blue dresses with white floral detailing, thatch hats and espadrilles.
Chef de Missions Jennifer Powell said, “Most Caribbean athletes commented on our Olympic uniforms at the village. They were a hit.”
E! News tweeted a photo of the Cayman delegation saying, “The Cayman Islands athletes know how to do casual Friday right,” and the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in Australia listed Cayman among the best dressed athletes, stating “With their unassuming straw hats and little cotton dresses they look like they’re on holiday.”
Local artist Wray Banker conceptualized the look, which was designed by Island Company.
The Cayman Islands Olympic Committee approached Island Company to help deliver the concept. “The goal for the team was to relate back to the original heritage and roots of the Cayman Islands,” Spencer Antle, Island Company creative director and founder, said in a press release.
“Doing a national costume isn’t easy,” Mr. Banker said in the release. “When you look back to the old days, no one wore a formal blue jacket; it was the ‘Turtle Ranger’ outfits, khaki pants, a light blue shirt and a thatch hat.”
Siblings Geoff and Lara Butler, both swimmers, were the first of the Cayman athletes to compete.
Geoff Butler swam in the 400 meter freestyle competition on Saturday. He finished 48th overall, although he came first in his heat, against Andorra’s Pol Arias Dourdet and Pakistan’s Haris Bandey, with a time of 4 minutes, 7.87 seconds. His time was not fast enough to qualify him for the next round. The final was won by Mack Horton of Australia, who finished in a time of 3:41:55.
Speaking to the Cayman Islands press representative, Jade Webster, immediately after the swim, Mr. Butler called being able to take part in the Olympics “a dream come true.” He said he was disappointed his time in the heat was slower than his personal best, but added, “It was an awesome experience.”
“I could hear my heartbeat in my ears even before I got on the box. It was an incredible moment,” he said.
Commenting on his performance, he said, “I didn’t go out fast enough and I had too much left in the tank the whole way because … on the first 50-75-100 meters, you kind of set the tone for the rest of the race, and so if you go out too fast, you die, and if you don’t go out fast enough, you can’t pick up the speed …. The nerves might have just spooked me the first 50 maybe.”
From the side of the pool, his sister Lara, who swam on Sunday, and coach Bailey Weathers cheered him on.
“I could hear Lara and Bailey in the end, and that was great,” Mr. Butler said. “It felt good, I have always had Lara at my big races so she has been for all my best ones and biggest ones and it’s always great and reassuring.”
Next up for Mr. Butler, now that his 2016 Olympic journey is at an end? “Enjoy summer,” he said.
Shortly after 11 a.m. Cayman time, it was Lara Butler’s turn in the pool, when she competed in the 100 meter backstroke.
She came fifth place in her heat, with a time of 1:04:98, and was 29th overall. Her time, although a personal and national best, was not fast enough to qualify for the semifinals.
“I’m happy, it was a good swim for me,” Ms. Butler said after the race. “It was a [personal best] so I couldn’t really ask for much more, it was also a national record.”
Describing the race itself, she said, “I just kept thinking, ‘Oh my God, it’s just the last 25 meters, just finish it.’ Literally, the last 25 meters, you could just see it and was, like, just finish it hard.
“I couldn’t really see anyone next to me and normally I can, so I was saying ‘Where is everyone?’ but I was happy about it.”
The Butlers were selected for Rio 2016 through the International Olympic Committee’s Universality Programme, aimed to help smaller countries send athletes to the games even if they did not meet qualifying standards.
Ms. Butler said she may end her swimming career on the high note of competing at the Olympics, saying she may concentrate on her KMPG job, which she started in October, and do master’s classes. “I will just see how things kind of pan out and see where I am at,” she said.
She added, “The Olympics, that is the pinnacle of swimming, this is the best thing, so if I do end, I couldn’t end on a better note than this. Watching all the best swimmers in the entire world swimming here, like world records being broken yesterday in the heats, it’s pretty incredible.”