Rio Olympics Report #3

1. Opening Ceremony: Snagged a ticket via a Semester at Sea shipmate (surprise, surprise) here volunteering at Canada House. We had to walk 2-3 km around the stadium from the train station in order to get in with crazy security. This actually made me feel less safe due to the streets we went along but once they checked our tickets for the first time, it was fine. No tickets were really checked inside the stadium so some friends and I opted to sit lower for the duration of the ceremony. Later, as I mentioned before, we made our way down to the front and met heaps of athletes. You can see Michael Phelps below after he walked by us. I thought the event was great – lots of energy! Wasn’t hard getting out of the event especially as transport back was free to avoid overcrowding.

2. Rio Transport: The saga continues. I would like to go one day without some sort of stressful transport mishap. I got stuck on an express bus (apparently) that went by my connection stop. Long story short, one Brazilian guy heard I was going his way (overheard me failing at understanding the military police attempting to help me in Portuguese). He then guided me to by bus and got on with me. When he got off a few stops before I did, I tossed him one of my American flag pins. ☺️ So thankful for his help! Met a Brazilian family from Salvador here for the Games and the father told me he drives everywhere in their rental car here because the transport is so bad. After all of my travels, I can easily say Rio’s is the worst legit public transport system I’ve ever encountered in a major city.

3. Actual Events: I’ve experienced what the media has reported – about 70% of tickets have been sold. Of course, this varies by event. All of the cheaper ones sell and the more expensive ones are left I bought because no one can afford them. Crowds are fairly lively and it’s really nice to see a lot of families here. Here at boxing, we even had some pregame entertainment and a kiss cam during breaks. I have been really digging the music too – Justin Bieber, Dr. Dre, Bloc Party, Coldplay, plenty of dance music, and yes, DMX. Watched a bunch of boxing yesterday and was quite pleased that all of my countries (USA, UK, Japan, and Italy) all won in their respective prelim rounds. I think I laughed the hardest when the crowd started chanting “Pokemon” and “Pikachu” to cheer on the Japanese boxer, Narimatsu. (Coincidently, his next bout is against the American, Balderas!)

4. Volunteer Stories: It was fun to go back to my accommodation yesterday and hear about my peers’ experiences at different venues. I heard that one medical services team lacks supplies and didn’t even have washcloths for those dealing with heat exhaustion. Also wheelchairs with flat tires….without a pump in sight. Others dealt with complaints about ticketing, long lines, and security waits in the hot sun. It is interesting to listen how venues vary in their demand for English support as well. Across the board, it seems we need more event services volunteers (those in green) and less of those of us in yellow (operations.) My biggest complaint (and many others’) is the crazy lack of signage basically everywhere…it’s hard to help people when I can’t even get the info I need.

5. Japan House: Yesterday, after my first shift, I ventured to the Japan House since it’s only open to the public four days during the Olympics. There was an obvious focus on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Additionally, there were cultural activities like tea ceremony and Japanese calligraphy, sake, shochu, plum wine, an exhibit on the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, J-beer samples (Orion and Asahi), and a Japanese samba group doing a concert/performance on stage. There was also this Tree of Water that reminded me of part of their EXPO Milano 2015 pavilion. Very clean, well organized, and engaging. You know I loved it.

6. Living Quarters: Ike Tori Ade, since you asked, mine are far but fine. I have heard mixed reports about the Olympic Village. I did see photos of unfinished work and a broken sink in some Chinese athlete rooms while an Australian official called theirs “unfit.” It has also been reported that the USA men’s basketball team is staying on a cruise ship in port because the Village was not up to par. Other rooms are spartan but sufficient.

7. Miscellaneous: No one seems to be “exuberantly happy” here…and the energy overall seems lower than when I was in Sochi, especially among the volunteer team. As a spectator in Sochi, I remember walking into Olympic Park and the steps with the rings were lined with volunteers clapping and cheering. It made me feel very excited! I wonder if people are just waiting to see if Brazil can pull it off….I tend to think things will improve as time goes on and people better understand their roles, expectations, and spectators.

8. Up Next: I’m going to table tennis tonight for a few hours, round 3 men’s and women’s singles to be exact. Should be intriguing as I’ve never watched competitive table tennis before! Tomorrow brings another 9-3 shift, cafeteria adventures (always including one free Coke product), and a fencing event afterwards! ✌🏻️ from Riocentro…..and more to come on Snapchat!

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