Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rio: 2016 Olympics Update #1

Debora and I were sitting at a nice cafe in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, looking back at amazing Copacabana beach, it's high-rise condos and the favela perched on the hillside beyond. Look! A stand-up paddleboarder!

Then the call came in: Debora's mother phoned to say that the Olympic torch was running along nearby Ipanema beach and would soon reach us. We grabbed the check and hurried back to the road to get a good viewing spot -- in the front row with our hands on the barrier separating the torch and its parade from the sidewalk and us non-torch bearers.

Silly me to think that a clearly barricade barrier would keep the locals away from their beloved torch!

Later that night we went to an Opening Ceremony party at a friends place. Here I am proudly displaying not just the Stars and Stripes, but none other than The King of Beers, itself. The most American and freedom of all the major international beer brands. America! Fuck yeah!

Oh. But what's that you say? Not American? Budweiser?
Why if we weren't such close friends I'd stick this bottle right up your communist kiester for even hinting at such blasphemy!

Alas, I was informed by my new friend Mario that Budweiser is actually now owned by Brazilians. It's true. AB Inbev is a Brazilian-Belgian multinational beverage corporation that now owns our tried and true.

Fortunately, the Olympics are all about peace, love and sportsmanship between nations, so we can table this controversy for now.

There's world class fencing, cycling and table tennis to be contested!

Similarly to the table tennis matches I watched a couple days prior, the viewing arrangement at fencing was excellent for spectators. In each there were four matches taking place at one time. In table tennis each match lasted about 30 minutes. In fencing they lasted less than 10 minutes. Even though the event was pretty much sold out, many of the tickets were unused because they were sold as part of package deals last year to people who also wanted to see the popular sports like gymnastics and swimming. That made it easy for guys like me to bounce around to near front-row seats for each contest that I was particularly interested in. When it came to fencing, I was excited to see Muslim American Ibitahaj Muhammad be the first American to wear a hijab during an Olympic contest. She won the first match in the round of 32, but then lost the next round to a French woman. The Russians and French are the best in the world at women's sabre fencing, I learned.

It was a fun day and the ticket only cost about $20. Table tennis was priced similarly.

On Sunday the women's cycling road race was held. It was an out-and-back race of about 130km. I was able to cheer them on here just 3km into the race and then again with only 3km left. The race went by just 4 blocks from my apartment.
Perhaps you heard the story about the horrible crash suffered by a Dutch cyclist and the American who was then overtaken near the finish by three pursuers, after being made easier to catch because she didn't have the benefit of drafting off another.

On a lighter note, the Olympics are great fun for the whole family. Each Olympics has cute mascots that help them sell merchandise to children. I only had to wait in line for about 55 mnutes to get this once-in-a-lifetime photo op with Tom, the Official 2016 Paralympic Games Mascot.

Tom was named after legendary Brazilian songwriter Tom Jobim and his name sounds much funnier and mascoty when pronounced with a Portugeuse accent. He is a magical creature, a fusion of all the plants in the Brazilian rainforest. Not pictured is my left hand trying to get a hold of some of the ayahuasca from the tip of his tail.

All Tom knows is "there's nothing better than playing, making friends, and relaxing in the forest".

Tom's got his shit together! He has clearly benefited from all the work with his therapist in recent years.

Read more about him here.

But What About Zika and Terrorists and Raw Sewage in the Water?
So far, from a spectator's perspective, the Olympics have been fantastic. The new subway opened up just in time. It still has that new subway smell. The signs and directions to the events have been clear and easy to follow. And many volunteers are available everywhere for any questions. The volunteers and workers are cheerful and helpful.

The only glitch that's bothered me was on Day One at the table tennis event when they ran out of all the food except for microwave pasta. But other than that things have been great.

Lots more amazing competition over the next 12 days. Tonight I'm going to see the torch burning downtown and check out the hub of action that they've set up. Should be fun.

And so now I'll leave you with this moment of zen...

No comments: