1. Rio Transport: I mentioned Uber in previous blog posts and I’m going to elaborate a bit more on them. Dealing with Uber was tricky because they are not authorized to get into/close to most Olympic areas and past security there. Only taxis with special Rio 2016 tags were allowed through – maybe part of the reason Ryan Lochte and his cronies were in a taxi, not an Uber, despite there being an Uber desk in the USA house lobby. Later in the Games, I worked more in the evening and since I was staying farther out, it was harder to get the local buses I needed to get back. Consequently, I opted to take the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) to a major hub and then walk across the street to call an Uber. I chose a spot that was well-lit and in front of an apartment building security box. At first, the guards were a little worried about me but then I showed them my phone, said “Uber,” and they started laughing and smiling with me. This became my nightly routine for 4-5 nights and I gave American flag pins to the guards I befriended (and a few extra for their kids!)
Regarding Uber, most drivers couldn’t speak English so the rides were also entertaining. My most memorable ride was with a guy named Sergio. Instead of shying away from the purported language incompatability, he welcomed it! We spoke in a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian all the way back to my hotel and somehow understood each other just fine. A brilliant example of how communication transcends words sometimes, too!
2. Olympic Village: Regrettably, I couldn’t get my act together to take advantage of this but the Village actually has its own post office and special stamps for people who mail things from there. Unfortunately, while I couldn’t get into the Village with my credentials, friends of mine could and I learned a lot about the environment from them. I guess a lot of the athletes sit around and eat McDondald’s, which seems to confirm an ESPN report about behind the scenes in the Village (from a while back.) Threre’s also an occasional Olympic newspaper published and printed every few days. I did manage to get my hands on a copy and thought it was great! Everything was in English and French, the official languages of the IOC. One article celebrated the diversity and multiculturalism of the athletes and featured photos of at least forty of them. The game was to guess which countries each of them was from – which was quite difficult! The point was that many countries are diverse themselves and that we should be open to breaking down stereotypes.
3. Boxing Fun: During the last week of the Games, we had a gold medal bout every day with the last 3-4 days consisting entirely of them, beginning later in the afternoon. This brought more press, specifically more entitled press, who were harder to deal with at times. A few from Sportv caused quite a scene. One refused to leave the press tribune area he didn’t have access to and when my very experienced and competent Australian supervisor asked for his credentials, he yelled at her, saying, “This is my country and our Olympics. Go back to your country!” I was appalled for two reasons. 1. That was beyond disrespectful. 2. There is no way Rio would have been able to pull the Olympics off without foreign expertise and involvement. Another Sportv employee kept trying to sneak into another section she wasn’t allowed him and argued for it just because her friend was there. So unbelievably rude. Outside of difficult press members, everything went fairly smoothly. I am grateful every single member of our boxing press volunteer team spoke English because we really were dealing with people from all over the world!
4. Miscellaneous: Things went from bad to worse at my original accommodation. The Belgian owner of Pousada Marambaia was shady and took advantage of our large volunteer group, long story short. I was the only American volunteer staying there and as inherently a direct and straightforward person especially compared to the European volunteers, who were less inclined to stir up conflict, I complained several times, pointing out things that should have been taken care of. In the end, while I thoroughly enjoyed staying with and getting to know those fellow volunteers, I decided to move out four nights early and stay at Airbnbs in the awesome Flamengo area of Rio. Looking back, I’m really glad I did so and am still planning on writing a poor review of my original accommodation before having it translated into Brazilian Portuguese as well.
Next up….touring a bunch of the hospitality houses and my penultimate day of volunteering at the boxing events! Still can’t believe how the time flew by in Rio.