1. Boxing Fun: After I worked the morning shift yesterday, the USA Dream Team AND Floyd Mayweather came to watch the boxing action at Riocentro. During my shift, I had the pleasant surprise of meeting LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam. She came looking for a place to sit and I happened to greet her. I asked about her credentials and upon seeing her name, my eyeballs about popped out of my head and I did a physical double take. Annika is with the media so I gathered that she must be doing golf commentary here. Today, I watched our USA boxer Vargas take out a fiesty Brazilian. Another Brazilian boxer advanced to the gold medal match in his weight class and the crowd went nuts. We have gold medal bouts every day now and our press ops team has to kick it into high gear. This consists of managing press access, watching photographers, prohibiting unauthorized filming, and escorting the athletes through the mixed zone interview areas to the press conference after the medal ceremony.
2. Rio Transport: With all of my bus adventures lately, I feel like Dena-Kae Ferguson in Japan! Also, EXPO roomies, Daisy Chen, Ekaterina Bukhalo,Mirela EilcognomeNonvelodico, Jennifer Feng, remember how we used to come back home and rehash the crazy things that happened during the day? That’s how I feel about riding the bus here! Haha. Today, I had an elderly Brazilian woman unnecessarily chastising me because she though I was trying to sit in the yellow special needs seats. I couldn’t understand a word she was saying so finally the young guy next to me took out his phone translator app and we communicated through that. He asked me if I knew where I needed to go (yes!) and then told me the yellow seats were reserved for those with special needs (I knew that). I explained I was trying to sit in the gray seat behind the yellow seats but then someone sat in it before me. He chuckled upon reading my last message as he realized it was all a big misunderstanding. However, that woman kept ranting about how Brazilians need to “watch out.” Bus happening #2: On the way home tonight, the bus was crowded (like always) and I had to stand. A woman and her kids sitting in seats by me offered to hold on to my big tote bag because the roads are so bumpy. They watched over/held it the whole time so when I got off the bus, I handed them a bunch of USA flag pins. While trading pins with volunteers and staff is a treat, it’s way more fun to give them out to local people I meet!
3. Event Action: Took in men’s semifinal tennis and women’s singles tennis finals yesterday! The Del Potro-Nadal match kept all of us on the edge of our seats and I was disappointed to see the latter lose. The best moment of the night was seeing Monica Puig win Puerto Rico’s first ever gold medal and then getting to celebrate with a Puerto Rican! The Puerto Ricans were out in full force with all of their flags and I teared up just watching it all. Historic win for her and all of PR! We then went to watch the beginning of the Brazil-Colombia soccer game on the big screens at the back of Olympic Park. It was quite entertaining to see all of us leave the bar and move to the Astro turf grass area to watch the game at around 10pm. I’ll be attending water polo quarterfinals on Tuesday during lunchtime! I’m curious to see if that pool is green like the diving one they had to shut down.
4. Crime/Safety: By now you’ve see that Lochte was robbed at gunpoint. (Makes me angry and sad!) A few American volunteers were also robbed at gunpoint on Ipanema Beach with military police only a hundred yards away. These criminals simply do not care. Another volunteer I know experienced a carjacking. Any of these things could have happened to me and thus, these incidents are made even more real. They subsequently reinforce the fact that public transport is safer than private cars like Ubers or taxis. I’m staying in a very safe area and while I was contemplating moving for my last week here, I think it’ll just be for the last 3-4 days to minimize my time in more at-risk areas. In addition, I’m glad I bought a cheap $60 smartphone to use while here so it won’t matter much if someone swipes it while I am walking around using google maps. Although the US has some cities with very dangerous areas (Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore), I never had to worry in those places the way I have had to here. This makes me appreciate my time in Japan even more because of how safe/protected I always felt.
5. Volunteer Life: There is a volunteer named Brent Folan who has made the WSJ and People for his photos with all these famous athletes here. Many American volunteers and I are frustrated that he seems to be playing more than working, inadvertently taking away a volunteer spot from someone who really wanted to be here to help. I feel especially sad for a few friends of mine who desperately wanted to volunteer and despite following the process, were not offered a position/shifts. Sigh! All volunteers have now received at least 4 free tickets to events, again probably just to fill seats. I have heard rumors of volunteers sneaking into venues without tickets and proper accreditation so I can only assume that security is barely checking credentials and permitted areas on our accreditation….Though I have learned a lot already here, I am considering applying to be a volunteer at the USA House at the next Olympics because I heard they were still looking for volunteers with less than a month til the Olympics. A far cry from the application I had to open two years in advance to volunteer for Rio 2016! Now looking forward to the potluck party the Brazilian staff are organizing for our boxing press team. All I have to do is bring the booze 🙂
6. Miscellaneous: The best part about my time here has HANDS DOWN been the people I’ve met and the people I continue to meet. The little moments of international exchange that go on nonstop are in-part why we do the Olympics in general. I’m not sure if I’ll be an Olympic volunteer again but this has genuinely helped me brainstorm micro-ways in which to foster grassroots internationalization.