By United States Olympic Committee | July 14, 2016, 9:30 a.m. (ET)
Members of the U.S. diving team pose for a photo at Sugarloaf Mountain during a trip to Rio for a test event.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With the conclusion of U.S. Olympic Trials events around the country, and only 22 days to the Opening Ceremony of the first Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held on South American soil, Team USA athletes and the U.S. Olympic Committee are sharing their excitement for Rio 2016 by declaring #WeLoveRio.

Team USA’s enthusiasm and eagerness for the Rio Games could be seen at test events held in Rio over the last year, throughout social media, in a highlight video released on Olympic Day, and today, along the Rio Olympic Torch Relay route. Four-time swimming medalist Summer Sanders will be running the torch Thursday, July 14, in Curitiba, Brazil, on behalf of Team USA.

“I could not be more grateful and thrilled for the chance to participate in the Rio Olympic Torch Relay and to carry the spirit of Team USA with me through Brazil,” Sanders said. “Brazil is a beautiful, vibrant country full of such warm-hearted and passionate people, and I cannot imagine better hosts or a better backdrop for the world’s greatest sporting event. It’s an honor to participate in something so meaningful that is uniting so many, and I’d like to thank Rio 2016 for this extraordinary opportunity.”

Transformative Projects

The U.S. Olympic family has also made an effort to say thanks to the people of Brazil for hosting the Games in more lasting ways. The USOC has completed major renovations and upgrades to four institutions in Rio, including Colegio São Paulo, a school that serves 600 local children ages 3-17. The facility will serve as USA House during the Games, and its Brazilian students will return to their renovated school after winter break. The USOC installed modern amenities in classrooms, such as air conditioning and improved Wi-Fi connectivity, and facility improvements include retiled floors, patched holes in walls and ceilings, and an upgraded kitchen.

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A children’s sports camp, a Navy school, and a local sport club also received major upgrades. During the Olympic Games, the facilities will be used as Team USA High Performance Training Centers, which will give U.S. athletes daily access to practice facilities, strength and conditioning, sports medicine, a recovery center, and food and nutrition services. And after the Games, they will act as state-of-the-art, upgraded facilities for the people of Rio.

At Lonier, the sports camp, the barracks were completely transformed into fully furnished bedrooms and living spaces with walls, windows and doors, and enhancements were made to the kitchen as well as facility plumbing and electrical. At the Navy School, the USOC installed a brand new surface on the track, matching the material used to create the surface of the track at the Olympic Stadium, and contributed to renovations of the gym, the swimming pool and one of the kitchens. At Flamengo, the USOC renovated two gyms, the judo dojo, the gymnastics hall, the weight room and a number of offices. With help from partners of the USOC, all three facilities received new strength and conditioning equipment, and sports medicine recovery equipment.

Signs Of Goodwill

The U.S. Olympic Committee has also been sharing the #WeLoveRio sentiment. In the spirit of Olympic Day, held globally on June 23 each year, the USOC launched a new highlight video featuring Team USA athletes and celebrities speaking about their excitement and anticipation for the Rio Games. Among those featured are First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama; Olympic champions David Boudia (diving), Carl Lewis (track and field) and Nastia Liukin (gymnastics); TODAY show anchor Natalie Morales and more. The video can be viewed here.

During test event and in-market training trips, athletes have explored local landmarks and experienced the culture. Four-time U.S. Olympic track and field athlete Chaunte Lowe (high jump) enjoyed local fare at a Brazilian restaurant during her time in Rio for the official track and field Olympic test event. U.S. Olympic canoe/kayak athletes Casey Eichfeld, Michal Smolen and Ashley Nee also took advantage of exploring the local culture while training in Rio, embarking on a boat tour excursion to the Cagarras Islands and taking in the sights of some of Rio’s most famous landmarks.

Team USA has a number of connections to the host country. Five-time U.S. Olympic water polo player Tony Azevedo was born in Rio and plays professionally in São Paulo for SESI Water Polo, living in the city with his wife and son. Azevedo’s father was also a top player on the Brazilian National Water Polo Team for years.

Joaquim Cruz, assistant coach of the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team, is a Brazilian Olympic legend. At the Los Angeles 1984 Games, Cruz won the 800 meters, crossing the line in 1:43.00, breaking the Olympic Record and making him the first Brazilian track and field golf medalists in 28 years. Cruz has been involved with U.S. Paralympics since 2005 and coached Team USA athletes at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games. But he says returning to his home country for the Rio 2016 Games is like a dream come true.

“For anyone to see the Olympic and Paralympic Games being held in their own country is a big honor,” he said. “I lived the dream as an athlete for Brazil. Now I have the opportunity to continue that dream in my job as a coach for Team USA, two nations that have embraced me. I cannot begin to process what emotions I’ll be feeling as we march into the Opening Ceremony in Maracanã on September 7, but surely, pride will be one of the strongest.”

The same excitement and anticipation is being felt throughout Team USA.

“There’s nothing like the Olympics – it’s a celebration once every two years, and what better place to celebrate than in Rio de Janeiro, a hub of excitement and energy,” said defending Olympic wrestling champion Jordan Burroughs.

Added three-time Olympic beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh Jennings: “Competition has taken me to so many beautiful places across the globe, but there is something truly special about Rio. I can’t wait to return this summer.”