Pope Francis blessed the Olympic flag with holy water and greeted Brazilian Olympic athletes in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
Francis, an Argentine elected pope following Pope Benedict XVI‘s resignation in March, is on a weeklong trip to Brazil, according to The Associated Press.
The Rio Olympic Games will be held from Aug. 5-21, 2016.
This isn’t the first pope-Olympic interaction.
On the eve of the London Olympics, then-Pope Benedict XVI issued a message saying he hoped the 2012 Games would help promote peace and friendship. Pope John XXIII greeted Olympians in Rome for the 1960 Games.
The news comes a day after the Chicago Sun-Times ran a notable opinion column (and the front-page image to the right) about the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro over Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago four years ago.
Rio de Janeiro won the voting to become the first South American host of the Olympics.
Chicago was eliminated after the first round of voting in Copenhagen on Oct. 2, 2009. Tokyo, a finalist for the 2020 Olympics, went out in the second round. Madrid, another finalist for 2020, lost to Rio in the final round of voting.
Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul will be chosen as host for the 2020 Olympics on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires.
Some Sochi Olympic champions will receive meteorite medals
Christie Rampone, the 40-year-old captain of the 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup team, has yet to return to full fitness after December knee surgery and pulled out of a U.S. camp ahead of two pre-Olympic friendlies in June.
Her bid for a fifth Olympics, and to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player of all time, is in danger.
The camp begins Friday. The friendlies against rival Japan (which failed to qualify for Rio) are June 2 and June 5.
“I don’t feel 100 percent healthy enough to train and compete at that level,” Rampone said in a press release Tuesday. “I’ve been able to manage myself and contribute to Sky Blue [her club team] this season, which I will continue to do, but I also have an understanding of the level of fitness and health needed to push for an Olympic roster spot, and I know I’m not there right now. It’s not the right choice for myself or the team to put myself in that environment.”
Rampone, a defender, hasn’t played for the U.S. since her December arthroscopic knee surgery. At the 2015 Women’s World Cup, she played a total of 14 minutes.
The U.S. national team is currently without nine players from the 23-player World Cup team, though some are expected back for the Olympics, but only one of the missing other than Rampone is a defender (the retired Lori Chalupny).
The U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team for London was named in May 2012, but the Rio roster of 18 players is expected to be announced by early July.
VIDEO: Hope Solo ‘begrudgingly’ going to Rio Olympics
NBC Olympics and Fandango partnered for Fandango’s “I Love Movies: Rio Olympic Edition,” featuring swimming gold medalists Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Matt Grevers, among other Olympians and Paralympians.
Leading up to the Rio Games, NBC Olympics and Fandango plan to release episodes with dozens of athletes from gymnastics, track and field, diving, basketball rugby and Paralympic events.
Watch Lochte’s short film above and Franklin and Grevers reveal their favorite movies below.
Lochte, Franklin and Grevers will look to qualify for the Rio Olympics at the Olympic Trials in Omaha from June 26-July 3, with broadcast coverage on NBC Sports.
MORE: Full NBC Olympic trials broadcast schedule