The day had finally come. I doubled checked to make sure I had my passport and my event tickets with me. Oh wait, I almost forget my neck pillow. I’m definitely going to need that on this long flight. I get to the airport in plenty of time to relax and board the airplane. I settle into my window seat and get ready for a long nap. The captain comes on board and tells us to sit back and relax and when we wake up we will be in Rio de Janeiro. This would be my third trip to Rio. The first time was for vacation. The second time was World Cup 2014. This time would be for the Olympics.
When I safely arrived at the airport in Rio, you could tell in the atmosphere that there was something different. There were more people greeting you and welcoming you to Rio than any other time. Not to mention, the billboards and posters everywhere welcoming people in every language possible to the city and the Olympics. It took about 45 minutes to get through customs. This was probably because I arrived on the morning of the opening ceremony. The men’s USA gymnastics team, some women’s Swedish team, and the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee were all going through customs with myself. Each USA athlete had a Polo carry on garment bag. I’m sure they wanted to make sure they had their opening ceremony outfit even if there bags are delayed or lost. After making it through customs, I managed to negotiate a deal for a taxi ride in my Spanish and broken Portuguese to where I was staying.
I stayed on Nossa Avenue in the heart of Copacabana. It was two blocks from the beach. Nossa is the equivalent of staying on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. It was a busy street with a lot of restaurants and shops along it. Since I landed early in the morning, my room wasn’t ready. I figured I would walk over to the beach and begin to enjoy the day until it was. As I approach the beach, I noticed that the main avenue along the beach, Atlantica, is blocked on both sides. I’m guessing that some dignitaries or a parade is coming down the street. After waiting 15 minutes, I move to the other side to get a better view of what might be coming. Finally, in the distance I see what looks like the Olympic torch. No way! Now I’m trying to move closer to be able to get a good picture when it comes by. For some reason, when it gets closer they let approximately 30 people come around the barricade to take pictures with the torch and the man running with it. How I managed to be a part of that group I don’t know, but I’m glad I was. After the photo op, the man ran another 50 yards before passing it on to the next person. This had definitely turned into a trip for the ages. It was now time to eat and relax on Copacabana beach. After my room was ready I enjoyed walking around the city until time for the opening ceremonies. It was great to watch them along the beach, stopping at each eatery seeing people from all of the world cheering when their nation was called. It was shown without commercial breaks or interruptions, which was amazing.
I wanted to attend a Futbol (soccer) game at the Olympic stadium while I was there. It was hard to get a ticket so I settled for a ticket to a medal event in archery. I’m so glad I did. For $50, I was able to watch the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals of women’s archery. It lasted over three hours. When I first arrived I was able to get behind the scenes to take photos and videos of the teams warming up. You could tell from the beginning it was going to be either Chinese Taipei, Russia, Japan, or South Korea going home with gold. And when the dust settled, it was South Korea. After the closing ceremonies the South Koreans did their media obligations and then came over to the stands to take pictures with friends and family. Thankfully I was standing next to the family of Mi-sun Choi. She allowed me take a picture with her and the gold medal she just won. The gold medal actually had a little weight to it. I wanted to bite it and take a picture, but I figured that might be a little too much.
The next day I was traveling to Deodoro Olympic Park to watch a couple of games of women’s basketball. When you buy tickets to the women’s basketball, seating is general admission for a zone or group of sections. For a little over $20 you get to watch not one but two basketball games. Keep that thought in mind later. In the first game, Spain didn’t stand a chance against USA. It was a 103-63 blowout. You can tell that on other international teams, they have one maybe two at the most WNBA players. That’s why the USA team is so dominate in play. The rest of the world hasn’t caught up in competition yet. The second game was a thriller. Serbia was leading Canada by 19 points late in third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Canada slowly chipped away at the lead. And finally tied the game with a minute left. Canada took the lead and sealed it with a three-point shot with 8 seconds left, winning 71-67.
Barra Olympic Park is the home of the majority of the Olympic Games. There are nine venues that host gymnastics, tennis, swimming, water polo, diving, synchronized swimming, handball, track cycling, fencing, taekwondo, wrestling, judo, and basketball. I went to the men’s China verse France game. It was assigned seats at the men’s game unlike the women. It was $70 for just the one game. Remember that two women’s game was nowhere near that. Maybe it’s because there are more NBA players on the rosters. Regardless, that type of discrepancy is crazy. The France team, led by Tony Parker, easily won 88-60 over China.
The next couple of days I watched the Olympics at different restaurants and sports bars in Rio. It is still amazing, that you can walk 100 feet and hear at least four different languages. A lot of individuals would drape their countries flag around them to distinguish themselves. I saw some flags I had never seen before. While watching the Olympics on TV, they would always have one channel dedicated to whatever sport Brazil was playing. The other three stations would show whatever sport was currently going on, regardless to country. It was great to watch the events with very minimal commercials and interruptions. You probably wonder why there are a lot of empty seats at the events. Most of the tickets are bought up by corporate sponsors. Those sponsors give their tickets out to their clients and employees. Most of the time clients don’t show or the sponsors have to buy a large allotment, which is more than needed. You could buy tickets to different events at different priced points based on popularity of event and whether it was medal ceremony included. After a week in Rio it was time to come home. I can say “I came I saw I conquered” the Rio 2016 Olympic games.