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Lights, camera, Rio! - Olympics officially under way today

Published:Friday | August 5, 2016 | 8:05 AMAndre Lowe
Toni Ann Williams
Timothy Wynter
Alia Atkinson
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:

Plots. Subplots. Villains. Heroes.

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games would fit very comfortably in a Hollywood script.

For some, it's supposedly a horror movie - take your pick from dope, to deadly mosquitoes, and everything in between, the Rio 2016 build-up has been an absolute nightmare.

Yet for others, it's a love story, one that marries the height of performance with the hallowed principles of the Olympic spirit. Bliss.

Still for most, it's a suspense action thriller (if that category even exists), with everyday stars Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Serena Williams and the others belonging to the upper echelon of global sporting greats championing the thrill of competition on the greatest of stages.

For Jamaica, it's the continuance of a tradition that would not seem out of place on an episode of Ripley's Believe it or Not; the tale of a tiny island nation that repeatedly defies the odds and will again be looking to topple the world here in Brazil.

Sixty-seven medals have been placed around the necks of Jamaican athletes at the Summer Olympics and that number is sure to change over the coming days but not before the nation's sporting standouts - 62 of them, including 44 first-timers - march into the Maracana behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the Jamaican flag during tonight's opening ceremony.

Rio 2016 will mark the country's 14th appearance at the Summer Olympics as an independent nation and just in time, on the eve of the nation's Independence celebrations.

Fraser-Pryce - who like her fellow speed merchant Usain Bolt will be looking to create sporting history here - as well as the other track-and-field stars will enjoy their moment in the lights tonight, but they will serve as extras over the next few days with another Jamaican standing on the cusp of history.

Twenty-year-old Toni-Ann Williams will become the first Jamaican gymnast to compete at the Olympic Games, when she gets going on Sunday.

 

heat in the pool

 

The fastest Jamaican ever in the 100m backstroke, Timothy Wynter, and 2012 finalist, world champion and world record holder in the women's 100m breaststroke, Alia Atkinson, will also be looking to bring some heat to the pool with swimming action getting under way on the same day.

Williams has had to deal with a knee issue over the past few days but has been soldiering on and is said to be eagerly awaiting her date with history.

"She is in a lot of pain but she went out there and has been giving it her all and practising as if she isn't even in pain. She is a tough competitor and she is very focused," offered Jamaica Gymnastic Association president, Nicole Grant-Brown.

The women's qualification for artistic gymnastics starts at 9:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m. Jamaica time) with Williams lining up in subdivision 1.

The heats for Atkinson's event, the women's 100m breaststroke, start at 1:56 p.m. (11:56 a.m. Jamaica time) on Sunday, with the men's 100m backstroke, featuring Wynter, starting at 2:16 p.m. (12:16 p.m. Jamaica time).

"We look forward to the competition and with our gymnast Toni-Ann Williams, who gets into action on Sunday. Everything seems to be in place for the opening ceremony; it's going to be a long evening but we can certainly look for something special," said Chef de Mission Vishu Tolan.

"The athletes seem to be settling very well. We are getting all together and it's all about putting everyone together so we can focus on the competition," added Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president, Mike Fennell, as he focused on the early challenges that greeted the Jamaicans - as was the case with many other countries, when they first arrived in the Olympic Village on Wednesday.

The issues of unfinished rooms and bad plumbing are expected to be corrected in a day or two, according to JOA officials.

It's been a long wait and a lot of hiccups along the way for the organisers of the 2016 Olympic Games, but it's finally here.

Finally, the focus will turn to the sporting fields, tracks and arenas and as Jamaica's best go up against the world, the next episode of Olympic Glory is already scripted in the Rio Gold Rush.

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com