Instead, milkshake in one hand and popcorn in the other, they are glued to the television set watching live coverage of their favourite sports at the games.
That has all changed. The 2016 Olympics can be watched anywhere and at any time.
(File pix) The Malaysian contingent at the 2016 Olympics opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug 5. Reuters Photo
In fact, as more than 800,000 people have downloaded the games’s official mobile app — available in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin and Korean — the Rio 2016 organising committee expects up to 85 per cent of the estimated three billion global audience to watch on mobile devices.
The app will provide sports fans with real-time updates and results of every single competition throughout the two weeks, while enjoying exclusive features and behind-the-scenes content.
But, away from the technology, it is still the people who make the global event tick.
The 31st Olympiad features more than 11,000 athletes from over 200 countries who will compete in 306 events offering 2,102 gold, silver and bronze medals. Rio is the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics.
These sportsmen and women are supported by a workforce of more than 40,000 staff and contractors, in addition to more than 50,000 volunteers.
Let us not forget the 12,000 torch-bearers of the Olympic Torch Relay team who carried the Olympic flame from Greece to Rio for the two months leading up to the opening ceremony.
Yet, while the competition continues at 32 venues in Rio de Janeiro and five football co-host cities, the games have always extended beyond the sporting event itself.
Organised in th belief that sports can contribute to peace and harmonious development of humankind, the objective of the Olympics is to unite peoples of all cultures, ethnicities and religions.
There is a grave need for these values in today’s perilous world, where terrorism fills our newsfeed and street shootings have become the norm.
While Malaysians will undoubtedly be rooting for our own sportspersons like Azizulhasni Awang, Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Pandelela Rinong, I am particularly keen on the progress of the refugee team, a first for the Olympic Games.
The 10-member team featuring athletes such as Yiech Pur Biel (athletics) of South Sudan, Yolande Bukasa Mabika (judo) of Congo, as well as Rami Anis (swimming) and Yusra Mardini (swimming) both of Syria, received a boisterous welcome from spectators and fellow competitors when they marched in carrying the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony at the legendary Maracana Stadium.
At the onset of the Rio Games, IOC president Thomas Bach had expressed the hope that the team would be a symbol of hope for refugees around the world, and boost global awareness of the magnitude of the crisis.
“These refugees have no home, no team, no flag and no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes ofthe word,” he said.
Such simple but moving words from Bach. He said these refugee athletes would show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they had faced, anyone could contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.
The Olympic Village truly epitomises the peace and solidarity of the games. This is where athletes from all over the world come together to train, live and eat under one roof in complete amity and harmony.
Nowhere else would it have been possible for South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-ju to gleefully take a selfie with her North Korean competitor, Hong Un Jong.
The Olympic Truce also allows participants from Olympic member nations to travel to and from the Olympic Games in safety. Coming back to our Malaysian contingent, while solidarity and safety are not the chief concerns of our athletes, their performance and results are certainly of great important to the rest of us.
It has not been the dream start we have been waiting for with our 32- member national team, with the disappointing show of our athletes in archery in the early rounds and nervous performances in shooting and diving.
Getting increasingly anxious and impatient as we watch our mobile phone screens for the country’s first gold medal win, we witness our neighbour, Vietnam, breaking their duck through Hoang Xuan Vinh in the men’s 10m air pistol event and judo exponent Majlinda Kelmendi becoming Kosovo’s first Olympic medallist as she took gold in the women’s 52kg judo event.
Although Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin stated that there were no specific targets for the Malaysian team this time around, perhaps we should set specific goalsfor future games, starting with the 2020 edition in Tokyo, Japan.
Just like Vietnam and Kosovo, we are also hungry for our first gold medal. As the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali would say: “What keeps me going is goals”.