1. Sightseeing: As I planned, though I couldn’t find a buddy, I took the express bus to Ipanema Beach and walked from there all the way to the end of Copacabana (about 5 km?) I felt particularly safe along the beach promenade and was easily able to safely take out my iPhone for photo snapping. Lots of coconut drinks for only 5 Reals (less than $2). The latter beach is more touristy and I preferred Ipanema, which is more laidback and full of iconic surfers at the north end. At the end of Copacabana, I found the NBC Today Show booth where they will be shooting from and Access Hollywood is right next door. Apparently, if we show up between 7:45-11am, we have the chance to be featured on Today. And finally, successfully got my Brazilian SIM card working so I am now reachable here without wifi! #winning
2. US Volunteer Meet-up: At 6pm, about 50 American volunteers and I met in front of the Olympic Rings right in front of the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel. Many photos were taken and then we stayed for an internationally-themed butterfly light show projected onto the hotel itself with lasers. 16 of us went out to a typical Brazilian buffet where you pay for food by weight and enjoyed a beer on the beach. So nice to meet fellow Americans as I am the only one at my accommodation. Lastly, some of us headed to Heineken House’s opening night as tickets were only €1.
3. Heineken Hospitality House: So for about the last 20 years or so, HHH has been THE place to party at the Olympic Games. I first learned this in Sochi but was without a ticket. The HHH here is so cool!!! There’s a huge pool with a Holland flag-adorned volleyball net, a swim up pool tiki bar, Palm trees everywhere a la Rainforest Cafe, huge screens above the pool to watch Dutch athletes compete, reasonably priced food and drinks, and two dance floors with one manned by a Euro DJ and Brazilian samba dancers. Rumor has it that DJ Nicky Romero will be doing a surprise performance. Needless to say, I’ve already begun rallying the troops to make this spot the home of my 30th birthday bash on the 20th!
4. Rio Transport: The nightmare continues and it is really stressful and a pain to get anywhere. Similar to Sochi, I heard that the owner of the BRT system had familial links to government and Olympic officials so that’s why they opted to the pain-in-the-butt BRT instead of a more extensive metro system. I have resorted to taking longer commutes just for the sake of avoiding 4-5 changes between methods of transport. Really, it’s awful and makes me grateful that Sochi transport, though long, was so easy to navigate. There were checkpoints along roads last night and many were shut down around Olympic Park by noon today prior to Opening Ceremonies.
5. Volunteer Issues: There is a massive volunteer shortage. They needed and still claim to have 50,000. However, there are only 38,000 of us and we are stretched very thin (I have a lot of work shifts!) I also heard that volunteers are only allowed to work 80 hours total…we shall see. It seems that we aren’t allocated very well. Some volunteers tell me there areas need more people while others seem to have too many and volunteers have nothing to do. Unfortunately, transfers are near impossible because of the difficulty of changing accreditations for people. My first shift ringside at boxing starts at 9am tomorrow!
6. Photos: The north end of Ipanema with quintessentially Brazilian soccer on the beach, Rio 2016 Havianas flip flops (all the rage here), and me with an Olympic torch. On the way home last night, another volunteer and I ran into a few torch bearers who had just finished. We asked to hold the torch and they kindly obliged. It was, surprisingly, very heavy!
Stay tuned for more….I’ll be at the Opening Ceremonies tonight with Claire Dawn-Marie Gittens, Dave Romanyk, and Nick Pinò! If you have questions about specific things going on here, let me know! And of course, Snapchat via haaggendazs