By all accounts, and my perspective, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were a big success–especially given all the negative media coverage leading up to the games. (Now, we can get into a more in-depth socioeconomic conversation, but I’m speaking to the event and experience of Rio, in particular.) I had an incredible time in Rio de Janeiro. Sure, I was concerned about my safety and the Zika virus heading into the trip, but overall, I found that using common sense and staying out of places I shouldn’t be was enough to have a successful trip. I was able to go to my first Olympics and visit Rio/Brazil/South America for the first time. My lack of Portuguese didn’t help, but it wasn’t a major impediment. Also, a seasoned Olympic traveler shared an important point: When you visit a country for the Olympics, you are typically getting the best treatment possible. Security is way up and the country wants to put on a good face, or, a “show,” if you will, so it’s a great time to visit. I found that to be true in Rio. It is too bad, that Lochte had to get weird and make up that story, I digress.
Here are some quick highlights of my trip:
- On one of my first days, got to witness Usain Bolt coast to a victory in his first round 100m heat. Had a good view of the finish and his walk through the maze of worldwide media after the race.
2. Olympic Beach Volleyball in Rio was incredible. Not just the setting, overlooking Copacabana Beach and the South Atlantic Ocean, but even the music (DJ or live band) in between points and the general spirit/energy of the Brazilian people and crowd. It was definitely a unique experience. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the greatest things that has ever been invented.
3. Visiting Christ the Redeemer. Incredible experience. Also was able to spend a moment in the chapel nestled inside the base of the statue. On the walk back down from visiting, I will admit, internally, I became a little overwhelmed. Of course, in typical B. Laesch fashion, I did not really display this emotion, so nobody in my group really know. But what will stick with me, is that after that personal moment, I heard a voice in my head say, “Can you hear me, now?” I will always remember this. It was clear and concise.
4. Favela tour. We were able to take a tour of Rio’s Favela Rocinha–which is one of the biggest. It was an eye-opening experience. A bus took us to the top of the hill and we literally walked through the favela, all the way down. To see how these people live, in crowded conditions, poverty, poor construction and in gangland, was something I will never forget. I think I’m still processing it. At a certain point in the tour, it was truly overwhelming and I needed to get through that walk and back into the city just to clear my head. Just imagine living there everyday. I did see some hope there…but it was rough… We think we have it bad in the U.S. sometimes… This was life changing. I’m not sure how, yet.
5. Track and Field (Athletics) was incredible.
6. I met Kim Jung Un. (Surprisingly, with no security detail… Weird… Oh well.) Apparently, according to theChive, others did, too: Kim Jong Un had a great time at the Olympics … sort of (10 Photos)
7. Despite some games in pool play that were way too close, USA Basketball got it done in a definitive way.
8. The Closing Ceremonies were one big international party. The closing of the Olympics in Rio and the handoff to Tokyo were both a lot of fun. (Including an appearance by Super Mario.) It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Nobody wanted to leave. Or, at least, nobody in our group wanted to.
There is lot more that I could post but I have to get back to work. May post a “Part 2” in the future.