Now that we have been here in Rio for a week I thought I’d fill people in on just how accurate (or not accurate) the news segments and reports broadcasted in the US are, and how safe and clean Rio currently is for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Expectation- pickpockets, muggers, and robbers
Reality – really big military men with guns there to protect you
When arriving in Rio, I initially kept my backpack on my front side afraid that someone would be able to unzip it while on my back on the bus or subway. I never took my phone out because I know iphones have a high worth here and someone could just snatch it out of my hand. Some of us even kept money and valuables in money belts hidden beneath our clothing to say extra safe. These methods lasted all of 24 hours until we realized all the places in and around the Olympic Venues are HEAVILY guarded with military personnel riding around in big jeeps and armed to stop any violence from happening. Actually I haven’t seen any crime here, except for 2 adult men getting into an argument over the line to get into the park. Before this argument even escalated they were separated by the military and forced to settle down. Even at night, the streets are well lit and I have not once felt worried for my safety.
Expectation- brown water, trash and smelly
Reality – a little smelly but cleaner than most cities
I thought there would be no way the water would even be a little appealing to go swimming in, but on day 2 we went to Ipanema Beach and enjoyed a beautiful beach day among other locals and Olympic goers. The water was a little chilly and the waves were massive but the water and beach was just as clean if not cleaner than those seen in the states.
I’m not sure if I would touch the water around the Olympic Park though, when walking around there is this constant subtle smell of what we now call “poop river”. When walking along the path from the main Olympic Park to Riocentro there is a man made small river that has a lingering aroma of sulfur and poo… that water I will not be going near.
With over 60,000 volunteers, and many of them on custodial services, the city has been very clean and kept up. Although it is easy to point out the areas that have not been finished as they are barricaded by a fence covered in Rio 2016 posters. All around the city there are places that amaze me; the Olympic park and village and the new transportation systems are huge and made to hold so many people, but these places are surrounded by not quite finished features like unfinished side walks and pile of building debris. It seems like they just didn’t have quite enough time to finish.
***I want to add that I know my experiences are going to be different than others here at Rio 2016. We are staying in a very nice area of Rio which I am sure was already a cleaner and safer area than those surrounding.
Expectation; crowded but easy to understand, quick and convenient
Reality- confusing, sometimes convenient and really crowded
The public transportation has been below expectation for much of our trip. Either its slooowww or only available to those with credentials and tickets for that day. When we first arrived, we had to travel to the other side of the city (from Barra to Copa) to pick up our tickets at the Co-sport office. From looking at the public transportation map it looked like we could take a bus, transfer to another bus, take the metro, switch lines and then be there. A lot of transfers for a 15 mile trip. But we figured that we bought the $50US bus card specifically for the Olympics and that we will need to learn the system anyways. So we get on the BRT (bus rapid transport) and take it to where we thought we could transfer to another bus at the same station. False. We had to walk to another station about 5 minutes away to board the next bus to get us to the metro. Little did we know, but this bus was only for those with Olympic tickets for that day- there were no Olympic events that day!! They wouldn’t let us into the bus terminal even though we had the specific Olympic Bus pass and we were on our way to get our tickets. The buses that went by were completely empty. It seemed like a waste of resources having 10 volunteer and BRT staff standing there checking tickets when there were no tickets for that day and no people on the buses. So we had to walk 5 minutes back to the original bus terminal to ask how to get to Copacabana another way. With hundreds of volunteers around but none telling us we couldn’t use the transport and no signs directing us, I felt like we were just wasting our time and those around us because no one really knew what was going on or how to get anywhere. They finally directed us to the city buses, here we got on a bus that stopped ever quarter mile for the next 10 miles. 2 hours later we arrived at our destination. I can see why the locals are having a slight issue with the Rio Olympics, they are forced to take extremely slow and inconvenient public transport when faster is available. Now that the events have begun and we have utilized the BRT many times while having tickets for that day, the staff have completely stopped looking for tickets because there are just too many people to manage, I feel like we got totally screwed those first few days!! Not happy with the transportation system, not only is it not available to all but its also not intuitive and represented incorrectly on the map. The map shows stops that don’t exist and transfers that should be at the same stop but are actually 1 stop away or not even available. What should be a straight forward system is extremely confusing. If we are unlucky enough to be using the transportation when an event ends, the buses are packed so tight the doors barely close! For future Olympics, please think through the transportation a little better because EVERYONE needs to use it effectively and efficiently.
Expectation – long lines
Reality – mile long lines
Overall I feel like everything was underestimated at Rio 2016. All the lines are long, always! From food lines to venue lines, they are unavoidable. But what I don’t understand the most is the lack of anticipation for the influx of people. At opening ceremonies the food stations ran out of food, before opening ceremonies even started!! The system they have works well in theory but without food, there is going to be an issue. The way it works is; there is a line for purchasing food tickets, each food item is purchased here and you are then given a ticket that is good anywhere at that venue on that day. It’s smart if you can anticipate what you will need for the next few hours, because you will already have paid and stood in line and will just need to pick it up at the designated areas. This works well for the beer and drinks section so you don’t have to wait forever to get a drink. But the problem is once ordering your food its often either out of stock in some areas or they aren’t able to keep up on the demand of food and you’re stuck waiting 10 minutes for a hotdog. On multiple occasions I have ordered food to then learn that they don’t have any there and I need to walk all the way to the other side of the park to get what I ordered. It seems like their system could have worked well, if provided with the right resources.
Lines to get into venues seem to be improving from our first day. The first day we had an event at 10:30 so we arrived at the park at 9- it was our first time at the Olympic park and we wanted to see some stuff before the event started. Well we arrived at 9; the gates didn’t open until 9 so we had to wait almost 45 minutes just to get in to the park where we then had to wait in another line to get our bags checked and then a 3rd line to get our tickets scanned. All of this just to get into the park! Just after 10 we finally got in and had to walk all the way over the to gymnastics stadium where we had to wait in line again to get our tickets scanned another time, entering the arena and finding our seats just as the event started- so much for seeing the park before hand! Since the first day they have begun opening the park earlier, which is good because some people had events at 9:30 that first day and the lines caused them to miss some of it, and for the price we are paying for tickets, no one wants to miss anything!
But overall, this experience has been AMAZING!! Seeing the best of the best compete for their countries at the biggest sporting event there is has been nothing less than awesome. Seeing the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team get gold has been the highlight so far! The crowds and atmosphere at water polo and rugby were so energetic, I could feel the whole stadium vibrating with chants and excitement as the teams competed. Up next we will be going to Mens Gymnastics AA finals and Individual finals, Beach volleyball, golf and Track finals! So much has happened and there is still so many more events left to go!
PS. I haven’t event heard the word Zika yet while here.. It seems to be a non-issue, and to be honest I think the Olympic committee has bigger things to worry about (like poop river). I have not even seen a misquito while here!!!