I have been asleep for the past two days; Rio and the Summer Olympics literally sucked the life out of me, but in the best way possible! It was an experience of a lifetime; I ticked yet another country off of my bucket-list and was able to see some of the world’s greatest Olympians in action! But, while it was memorable and major, it was also exhausting and trying at times.
Here’s the major and not so major of my Rio 2016 Summer Olympic adventures.
THE NOT SO MAJOR: With this being my second Summer Olympics experience I thought I had it all figured out, but Brazil was no London, and with Brazil being a Latin American country, one thing that I had not factored in was the language barrier. With the lead up to Rio, I had prepared for every possible scenario. Mosquitoes and Zika – I had lots of OFF. Possible robbery – minimum bags, no jewelry. Sickness – a bag chock full of antibiotics, and assorted meds. What else could go wrong?
No one speaks ENGLISH! If you’re a parent, this would be akin to trying to understand what your child is saying, except your child can’t talk yet. It, (the child) keeps crying and screaming. The most frustrating thing in the world is not being able to effectively communicate. Yes, many people may say, ‘but you knew you were going to a country where English is not their first language”, yes, that is correct. But, what I expect is when you take on an event of this magnitude, the people that are on the front line, giving directions to events should know how to speak English! The language barrier was the absolute worst. There were days we were given the wrong directions, days where no one knew where anything was and days where it seemed like no one knew anything at all. Could you imagine the level of frustration? Word to the wise, never ask for directions; you’re honestly better off using Google or figuring it out by yourself.
The people; yes, yes, I know, “You’re going to the Olympics, expect there to be lot of people.” It still does not prepare you for the insane amounts of people and traffic everywhere. I can’t deny it, Rio’s train system was exceptional; they made special Olympic trains for the Games and shuttled spectators to and from the events seamlessly. So, still wondering why it’s in the not so major? Imagine thousands of people trying to get back home at the end of the night with only two running trains. Disaster! The lines to get to the trains were so insane, I estimated at least a three hour wait. We decided to simply walk until we were able to catch a cab.
If you’re a blogger like me, or someone looking to visit historical sights around the city, don’t bother. While I was able to get some pretty good snaps, it was most stressful. Imagine me trying to get a signature jump in at the Escadaria Selarón and the Cristo Redentor in the middle of hundreds of tourists, who don’t respect the “I don’t want y’all in my picture” rule. Ha! The Olympics is not the time to sightsee.
THE MAJOR: Nothing beats an Olympic experience. I repeat, nothing beats an Olympic experience, trust me. When you’re sitting in the Olympic Stadium, listening to thousands chant “BOLT, BOLT”, for Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt or watching him obliterate the competition, all of the bad are immediately erased. When you are able to witness your home country win an Olympic medal, and drape your country’s flag around your body, nothing beats that! The thing about the Olympic Games is you are able to see just how much people love their country, if only for a month. Riding the train in your country gear, walking around the Olympic Stadium and being stopped by random people who tell you they love your country and how beautiful it is, is a proud moment. There is unity and there is camaraderie.
I was able to meet so many Olympians during tours, walking along the streets, and in the stadium. My most memorable meeting besides snapping a picture and doing an interview with The Bahamas’ 4×400 bronze medal team was meeting Haiti’s Jeffrey Julmis in the airport. I won’t lie, I laughed, a LOT and hard when I saw the video of him taking a hard tumble in the men’s 110m Hurdles, but was somewhat inspired when I saw him get up and continue the race, eventually finishing last. While he did not win the race, he had won the hearts of many. He was gracious when I walked up to him and started to ask him a few questions, he even acknowledged his own misfortune. Me, I would’ve died of shame. He owned it, and I found it to be kick ass.
Oh, I just remembered, yet another major moment! When I bought my Olympic ticket, I knew that I would be seeing Usain Bolt and the Bahamas relay team, but what I didn’t know was that the mens 5000m was the same night. Ha! I was able to witness the greatness that is Britain’s Mo Farrah, the most successful Brit athlete in Olympic history, who ran away with a gold medal in the men’s 5000m capping off his Olympic feat of double gold in the men’s 10,000m & 5000m on the final night of Olympic athletic action. The Brits went WILD, as did I.
The parties. To say that I partied would be a lie. I hate partying; I’m the worst. My partying consists of looking through my phone at all the snaps of the day; that’s my happy place. I don’t even like alcohol. But, I did spend one night on the town in Rio, and it was rocking. Imagine hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the street, dancing, drinking and just having fun. That was the scene in Lapa, on my one night out in Brazil. It was like nothing I have ever experienced. I must say, I also had the BEST margaritas of my life while vibing to some samba.
While Rio was a challenge, I would do it all over again…with a translator, maybe. I was THIS close to cancelling the entire trip twice. Once, when the news of Zika broke and twice, when I started to read about the robberies and violence and protests. Needless to say, I didn’t let the media win. Yes, Rio is not the safest place, but never once did I feel unsafe in the country. You never let your guard down when travelling, anywhere. I am happy to say that I was not bitten by any mosquitos either. Truth be told, I saw one mosquito, and we made it our life’s mission to kill it before it had the opportunity to bite. The media’s job is to inform, entertain and also to sensationalize, and I think Brazil was a lot of sensationalization. The people and country of Brazil were welcoming, even with the language barrier. Their culture is amazing and rich, and I feel so full and blessed to have been able to visit and help to dispel certain stereotypes.
Tokyo? They say the third time’s a charm. See you soon!