- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fans of the Olympics in the Washington area won’t just be cheering for Team USA. Athletes from more than 200 countries are expected to compete at the London Games, and flags from just about all of those nations fly somewhere in D.C. We checked in with ambassadors around the District to find out who they and their countrymen will be supporting the next two and a half weeks.

Great Britain: Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott

“As an island nation, we take great pride in our sailing prowess. Ben Ainslie is already our most successful Olympic sailor, having taken Gold at three straight games and Silver in Atlanta in 1996… Cycling too: we won 14 cycling medals in Beijing, including 8 Gold. Sir Chris Hoy was the star four years ago: the first Briton since 1908 to win three Gold medals in a single Olympic Games.”

Liechtenstein: Ambassador Claudia Fritsche

“The two female athletes, Julia Hassler (swimming) and Stephanie Vogt (tennis) are very popular in Liechtenstein. They are not favorites to win medals, but we will be behind them 100 percent in spirit. … We are really happy that our team can be a part of such a great global tradition and look forward to seeing our athletes represent Liechtenstein.”

Chile: Ambassador Felipe Bulnes

“Our citizens are especially supporting gymnast Tomas Gonzalez, who is one of the favorites this year. He has been competing internationally and we believe will get very good results. Other athletes are swimmer Kristel Kobrich and arc shooter [archer] Denise van Lamoen. Both have been participating in various world championships. Ms. Van Lamoen will be our flagship.”

Kazakhstan: Ambassador Erlan Idrissov

“Kazakhstan has been traditionally strong in boxing, weightlifting, Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling and judo. To name a few, Kazakhstan will be represented by its weightlifter, Ilya Ilyin, who is an Asian champion and a three-time world champion. We [also] place high hopes on Team Kazakhstan’s captain and two-time world champion, Serik Sapiyev (boxing).”

Australia: Ambassador Kim Beazley

“Australia’s 100-meter freestyle world champion, James Magnussen, is my pick. I expect he will stand head and shoulders above all his rivals. I want to witness Magnussen’s signature combination of grace, skill and power in the final stages of the 100-meter freestyle, hopefully leading to gold.”

Cyprus: Ambassador Pavlos Anastasiades

“Well let’s hope that [tennis player Marcos Baghdatis] does well. He’s, I guess, our most well-known athlete. He does us proud. There’s a Cypriot athlete that does very well in skeet [shooting], Georgios Achilleos. If we see him winning a medal, that’d be great. Cyprus has never won an Olympic medal. I hope London will be the first Olympic that a Cypriot athlete will have the privilege to get on the podium, whoever that might be.”

Canada: Ambassador Gary Doer

“Clara Hughes is the only Olympic athlete to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, having won two medals in cycling in the 1996 Summer Games, and four speedskating medals in the Winter Olympics from 2002-2010 (including a gold in 2006). This year, she will return to cycling, and if she wins a medal will become the most decorated Canadian Olympian of all time.”

Israel: Ambassador Dr. Michael B. Oren

“I will be rooting for Israel in these London Games. This is the 60th anniversary of an Israeli Olympic presence, as well as our 15th appearance at the games. This year, we have close to 40 Olympians, with a strong female presence, participating in 18 events, including rhythmic gymnastics, tennis, shooting, swimming, sailing, and our best sport, judo. In fact, the first Israeli Olympic medal was won by female athlete Yael Arad in 1992, when she received the silver medal for judo. We look forward to seeing our competitors stand on the podium receiving medals in London. It brings us great pride and joy to see so many talented and driven athletes representing our tiny country.”

Mexico: Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan

“I am of course rooting for Team Mexico and for every single athlete in our national delegation, who I know will give their all in their respective competitions.There are several athletes that might get to the podium, but our best shots are probably Paola Espinosa in the diving competition, Maria Espinoza in taekwondo and there are a couple of other good possibilities in boxing, athletics, as well as our male soccer team.”