What It’s Really Like to be Visiting Rio Right Now
Our student reporters get the real story from Rio
After a week of celebrating wins (that’s 69 medals and counting for the U.S.), the top headline of this weekend from the Olympics will give you pre-Opening Ceremonies deja vu.
Reports surfaced Sunday morning that Ryan Lochte and three other members of the U.S. Swimming team were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro. Over the last several weeks, the Brazilian city has been flooded with locals, tourists, media and athletes for the 2016 Olympic Games. The event has had the world watching Rio, during the good and bad. While Lochte’s story is not everyone’s, it hasn’t been a complete anomaly. We spoke to athletes’ friends, families and other visitors to find out how things are really going at Rio.
“It’s been good. Rio is incredible. It’s nothing like the UK,” Jonathan Ames of Great Britain said. Ames’ brother, David, is a member of the Great Britain field hockey team. While Jonathan, his friend Zara Treacy and mother Carole Hodgett agree that Rio the city is incredible, the Olympic Games have been another story.
“From the last Games that we were at in London, it’s a totally different setup,” Jonathan said. “It seems like everything is really badly organized. You’re fending for yourself in all aspects.”
Thomas Colle, visiting from Ireland, reported that food was not being sold at some venues during the first day of events, while Treacy and Hodgett said that everything from transportation around Rio to picking up tickets (which Hodgett described as a “nightmare”) has been a headache.
Treacy recounts one instance where it took her and Jonathan three hours to get to the field hockey venue for a game.
“We only made the last 15 minutes,” Treacy said. “And it was his brother playing.”
Olympic Games organization and readiness was a common theme among tourists, but visitors like Kyle Anderson of Long Beach, Ca., share stories of safety concerns many had going into the Games.
Anderson, who has friends who play on the USA rugby team, shares the story of how he “almost got robbed.” During his first night in Rio he was in a taxi when suddenly all the cars around him began reversing. He saw pedestrians running in the opposite direction.
“They just come out in fours, the robbers,” Anderson said. “They stop all the cars and they rob people car by car.” It was similar to what Lochte and the other U.S. swimmers encountered.
Anderson got out of the cab and waited in an alleyway until the police arrived.
Then there’s USA men’s beach volleyball player Casey Patterson, who said he has had no problems in Rio thus far.
“I stayed at the village for a couple days and it was awesome,” Patterson said. “We didn’t experience any problems. We’re closer to our venue now at a hotel but there’s no problems there either.”
Patterson, who has been to Rio many times before, said not much is different except the increased amount of security.
“I feel safer now than I ever have,” Patterson said. “It’s kind of rad because I was hoping it would be like this, to feel safe.”
Joás Victor Byone Meneges is one of nearly 90,000 employees helping stage the Olympic Games. He stands outside of the metro system on the corner of Praça Cardeal Arcoverde directing and helping tourists.
“It’s been better than I expected,” Meneges said. “I thought that people would complain more but I think that people got into the spirit.”
“To be fair to the Brazilians they’ve put on one hell of a party. Many of the people we’ve dealt with are absolutely fantastic,” Colle said. “But there is a bit of a bitter aftertaste.”
Elizabeth Wyman is a Ball State University student and writer for Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Ind., to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and facebook.com/bsuatthegames on Facebook.