I’ve been in Rio De Janeiro one whole week. It’s an astoundingly beautiful city. Towering mountains, beautiful beaches, really nice people who don’t laugh at your very limited Portuguese.
It feels indelibly real. It bursts with life. An enormous, rolling, sprawling place where people spend their whole lives, that can easily shrug off something even as big as this. It’s fair to say you’re not really feeling Games-fever rolling around the city yet, two weeks out from the opening ceremony, but you sense things changing. The country is still in deep recession, the Olympics bid was won when the country was riding high with record oil prices. (More on the background to the Games here).
There’s been a list of well-documented problems, none of which seem to be that much of an issue on the ground anymore, and certainly aren’t worrying any of the permanent staff here – just as long as that tube extension gets fixed, things will be fine. I’ve felt pretty safe wandering around – safer than parts of London – helped by an ever increasing armed police and military presence. Security is already tight and getting tighter. Touch a lot of wood – and presuming a lot of people here get a wriggle on in the next couple of weeks – this is all going to go just fine.
Over these weeks of build-ups, the huge machine that is Press Operations gradually awakens. It still feels quiet, but soon it will be the athletes, and then the fans, and then who knows what will happen.
Some of us – like me – are attached to a specific venue where particular expertise is required, and some are free-floating as necessary. We will all likely spend some time working on other sports. And after that, the Paralympics. I’m not sure I’ve ever spent more time in a city that’s not the one I live in.
Me and the ladies in charge of rowing and sailing news aren’t staying in the various Villages with athletes and other media; we are in staying in the Centro, the downtown of Rio, best imagined as a mix of ‘old town’ and financial district. Near the coast, but not the beach. Busy during the day, dead at night and at the weekends. This part of town is also where the Sambodromo is located.
We’ve been commuting to the Olympic Park, which gives a lesson in contrasts. One road there gives us a long run in to the mountains with Christ the Redeemer redeeming all below, hugging stretches of coastline, rugged, misty peaks, past the spectacular Lagoa where the rowing will happen, past the jockey club, past one of the handful of golf clubs (golf is very much a rich man’s sport in Brazil).
The other, slightly quicker “Linha Amarela” route is very different, taking us past the docks, up and over the northern stretches of the city, crumbling concrete and rumbling, dirty buses and trucks. It takes us past the immense sprawl of favelas called the Complexo da Maré; jerry built housing, miles and miles and endless terrible miles of it, until a toll road eases us into the Barra area, a long stretch that looks like Florida, lined with shopping malls and tidy apartments, and eventually the soft-lit expanse of the truly vast Olympic Park, dwarfing London, ready to go, dormant, run over by ant-like workmen now just trying to make the details look nice.
All this contrasts again with the best known neighbourhoods of Rio, the tourist and beach ‘Zona Sul’ areas of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon, which I still haven’t managed to properly explore. But even they rub up against giant favelas such as Rocinha – although not many “shanty towns” have a view like this.
This is a very, very beautiful place, with gigantic contrasts between rich and poor, and very different attitudes towards many things. I really like it. And I couldn’t think of a better place to hold a sporting competition. If the Cariocas get behind it, it could be one of the greatest outings ever.
There’s less roundup news this week. Things have gone very quiet, suspect there will be a blaze of publicity kicking off shortly though. The Brazilian team are mucking in with the host nation’s publicity machine, naturally.
You’ve probably noticed that all Russian track-and-field athletes have been banned from Rio, shortly to be followed by all the weightlifters. We are still waiting to hear if there is a total ban on all Russian athletes, which would deeply affect the archery; don’t forget the Russian women’s team are ranked second in the world after guess-who.
Rio2016 have announced that there will be three different types of medal ceremony, ‘traditional’, ‘popular’, and ‘cool’. I wonder which one archery will be getting, considering it is obviously all three of those things?
Indian archer Laxmirani Mahdji has been bio’d in the Indian Press. Everyone – even TV stars – wants a selfie with the Korean women’s team. Khairal Anuar Mohamed is doing it for his late father.
Some excellent stats from WA right here. Read this.
Nearly a thousand Gamesmakers from London 2012 are back for another round.
I’ve visited the Sambodromo, which opens for practice tomorrow. More about that in my next post. Cheers.