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Brazil

Aquatics Day in Rio... and TOM DALEY


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The final day of my Olympic adventures!

Another early morning as I made my way back to the Barra Olympic Park; thankfully all three of my events were located in the same Park today, so I didn’t have to worry about rushing between parks, dealing with multiple security lines, etc.

MEN’S WATER POLO

Water Polo was a late addition to my Olympic plans; I originally just had two events planned for today, but I decided to add in another event to fill time in the morning. It was well worth it! The game turned out to be much more interesting than I had planned – and it pulled me right in! Best of all: I had front row seats to the event!!

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HOWEVER, before the water polo began, there was a practice session for the diving teams going on. Diving and water polo are held in the same arena; the two pools are right next to one another. Needless to say, I was glad that I arrived early so I could check out the divers… I mean, the diving. Yes, the diving… I couldn’t make out who was who, but I enjoyed watching them practice. Their talent is amazing!!

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Serbia vs. Greece
9 – 9

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Up first was Serbia vs. Greece. I was surrounded by Serbian fans and I was surprised at how many of them had made the trip to Rio. To the left of me were some Greek fans and it was an interesting dynamic hearing cheering from either side of me, depending on who scored, etc. I found myself cheering for the Greek team, for no real apparent reason. The game was very close throughout the four periods and ended in a tie.

Italy vs. France
11 – 8

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I was very surprised and pleased when I saw the French team come out to face off against Italy. Before each match, the anthems of both teams is played and I felt a surge of pride and joy when La Marseillaise began to play! The match started off quite well with France performing quite well, but Italy soon began to dominate the match. Their offense was aggressive and the French could not keep up. Despite the French losing the match, it was still exciting to watch.

USA vs. Spain
2 – 4
(after the first period, when I left)

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After the second match concluded I was starting to get pressed for time as I had tickets to swimming that was due to start within an hour. Another surprise greeted me when the US men’s team came out to play against Spain. I decided that I could stay for the first period before having to leave for my next event. There were quite a few American fans there to cheer them on. By the end of the first period, the Spanish were leading and sadly I couldn’t stay through the remainder of the game.

SWIMMING

I left water polo and made my way over to the swimming arena, which was a massive complex on the other side of the Barra Olympic Park. It was a very nice arena. My seats were in the “nose bleeds” – two rows from the very top. However, it did give me a good view of the entire arena. Sitting in front of me was a group from the UK, cheering on their team with gusto. I arrived early enough to watch the swimmers during the warmup session.

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Women’s 200m Freestyle
6 heats

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The first round of heats was for the women’s 200m freestyle which was rather fun to watch. Some of the heats didn’t have a full complement of 8 swimmers. The UK swimmer that the group was particularly cheering for did well enough to advance to the next round. The Americans did quite well too.

Men’s 200m Butterfly
4 heats

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The men’s 200m butterfly was dominated by one man: Michael Phelps. The crowd was anxiously waiting for him to appear, but we had to go through a couple heats before it was his turn. The crowd when crazy cheering for him when he walked out and it didn’t let up until after he left. He electrified the room and I felt rather excited to see him swimming in person again – especially at the Olympics! Back in 2004, after the Athens Olympic Games, the USA men’s swim team tours the US and performed; when they came to Seattle I went to see them and that’s when I first saw Phelps swim in person.

Michael Phelps did very well, though he didn’t come in first; he did easily advance to the next round though. The roughly 2 minutes that he was swimming flew by and I wished that he could come out and swim additional heats.

Women’s 200m Individual Medley
5 heats

The big excitement from this round of heats was that a new Olympic Record was set by the Hungarian swimmer, Katinka Hosszú. She came in at 2:07:45. Needless to say, when she beat the old record everyone erupted with cheers!

MEN’S DIVING
10m Synchronized FINALS

THE BIG EVENT! I spent the most amount of money on this ticket – it cost more than all of the other tickets combined… and it was worth it! Once again I was able to watch the men’s team practice before the event began. I found that the event was actually the finals, which meant that the teams would be competing for the medals this round!

To make the event even better, I discovered that TOM DALEY would be diving for Great Britain. I’d bought this ticket hoping that he would be diving, but there was no way to know that beforehand. I was elated when I saw him name on the lineup! More on Tom later…

To make everything even better, I had front row center seats for the event. I couldn't have asked for a better seat for the event (other than sitting with Mr Tom Daley, of course...).

Eight teams performed in the finals:

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When the event began, all of the teams walked out and lined up right in front of where I was sitting so they could be announced! They were facing away from us, but would turn around as their names were announced. I was eagerly waiting for Tom to be announced and had my camera all ready to go... when a fucking cunt douche woman from the US walked right in front of me!! Fucking bitch saw me leaning forward with camera ready and she just barged her way down the row. I swore loudly and she just looked at me. A woman behind me (also from the USA) tapped me on the shoulder and told me how sorry she was for what happened. She could clearly tell that I had a thing for Tom and she reassured me that there would be plenty of opportunities to get pictures. It was very, very kind of her to say that. I did manage to get a good picture of the USA men's team greeting the crowd.

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Each team performed six jumps throughout the event. It was amazing to watch these men jumping and flipping through the air with such relative ease. The Chinese team dominated the event: their dives were near perfect. They were in perfect sync throughout and everything was flawless. The crowd loved everything they did. The Mexican team had an enormous fan base at the event, which surprised me (I'm not sure why it did, but it did). The Mexican team did well, though they did have some issues during their dives. The Brazilian team had significant support from the crowd, obviously, but unfortunately they did not perform as well as the other teams. The teams would slowly make their way up the diving platform as the teams in front of them would go. There were four levels: top level for those currently diving, second level for those next up, and so on.

The Russian team:

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The German team:

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Team USA was the second powerhouse during the event and garnered tons of cheers each time they performed. The two divers blew me away. I just watched in awe as they would dive time after time. They gold and silver medal spots were between China and the USA, no other team could come close to their scores.

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Then there was Tom Daley...

The Germans and the British were battling it out for the bronze medal position throughout the evening: one team would pull ahead one round and the other would come back the next. The tension it was building was incredible! I kept snapping photos of Tom as he would prepare to dive and I managed to get several truly great photos. This was the one time that I was hoping for Germany to screw up because I wanted Tom to win a medal.

Fair warning: I took an insane number of pictures. And yes, this is but a fraction of what I took...

Dive #1...

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Dive #2...

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Dive #3...

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Dive #4...

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Dive #5...
I have a video that I'll upload for this later. YouTube won't process it right now.

It all came down to the very last dive of the night, which was for Team Great Britain as they were the last team in the lineup. Germany had done quite well in their final dive and the difference in points between the two teams was down to mere fractions of points.

Dive #6...

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The dive was phenomenal, but would it be enough to secure the bronze medal?? Tom and his teammate waiting anxiously at the edge of the pool for the results...

THEY DID IT!! TEAM GB WON THE BRONZE!!
The crown erupted with cheers and I was ecstatic! Tom threw his arms around his diving partner and they fell back into the pool in a great display of the joy they were feeling. I looked down to the family seating area and saw Tom's fiance run over to him and give him a hug; it was sweet and wonderful.

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Medal Ceremony

The final part of the event was the medal ceremony. The kind woman behind me pointed out that the medal podiums were at the far end of the arena; she told me to rush over there so I could get some great pictures. I thanked her for her wonderful help and advice before running over.

The medalists appeared on stage shortly thereafter and received their medals. Cheers were heard for all three teams: the crown was genuinely happy for them all.

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After receiving their medals, the divers walked around the arena so the entire crowd could see them well. Their final stop was with the press, which just happened to be below the seating area I had moved to. I stayed and snapped some more photos before the ushers told us that we had to leave.

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By this point I was beaming with happiness! I had just seen the one Olympian that I truly wanted to see perform and he had done a tremendous job. It was incredible! Amazing! Outstanding! It was the perfect way to wrap up my adventures at the Rio Olympics. It was the best event of the Games and there was nothing that could match it. Walking back to the bus station I was just overcome with such incredibly happiness; pure happiness that I've not felt in a long time. It was a happiness that nearly brought me to tears for whatever reason.

But now I'm back at the hostel, packed up and ready to leave Rio tomorrow. I am off to Iguassu Falls on a 9am flight!

I close with a few pictures that were taken by the pros during the final moments of the diving match. Just amazing. :-)

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Posted by Glichez 16:46 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Fencing, Table Tennis, and Gymnastics!


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Day two of my Olympic adventure here in Rio!

Another early morning as I had to make my way to the Barra Olympic Park by 9am for fencing. I had to take the Metro Line 4, which is brand new (it opened to the public a week ago and it was built for the Olympics – nothing like cutting it down to the wire!). After taking the metro, I had to transfer to the BRT bus; thankfully they had an express bus from the metro station to the Olympic Park. All told the transit time was just under 90 minutes. After arriving at the Park, I walked across the makeshift walkway they had built for the Games: basically scaffolding with platforms to walk on.

Security to get into the Park was rather easy and quick, though it helped that I arrived so early in the morning. The Park is HUGE with multiple venues spaced all around. I was truly impressed by what the Brazilians were able to pull off with the Park.

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FENCING

My first event of the day was men’s fencing. My seat was over to the far side of the venue and provided a decent view of one match, while the others were too far to see much. I initially found the sport difficult to follow as I knew nothing about it, but it didn’t take long to catch on. The match closest two me features a Brazilian and the crowd was going crazy each time he scored a point.

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I saw several matches during the 2 hours I spent watching fencing. Towards the end I got to see Germany play against France! I had worn my new “Deutschland” t-shirt today and it was great to be able to support Germany. The match was incredibly intense: one side would be up a few points and the other would close the gap. Thankfully Germany prevailed!

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The final match up that I saw was Russia vs USA. There was a very large crowd cheering on the Russian side and a decent amount of American fans. Several times throughout the match the fans would get into shouting competitions: who could chant “U-S-A” or “RO-SI-YA” the loudest. Despite some serious effort by the Americans, the Russians won.

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One funny moment happened when an American fan yelled out “Just the tip!” to encourage the US fencer.

After I left fencing, I had to make my way over to another venue park, the Riocentro Park, for table tennis. The park was about a 30-minute walk away, again along the makeshift walkway. The views of the city were rather beautiful. Then the smell hit me. There was a waterway running along the road and… the smell was beyond describing. It reeked of shit. Literally, like shit. It was like 1,000 people all just took a crap in the water and left it there. To top it all off, the breeze was blowing the smell toward the walkway! Joy!

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The Riocentro Park was a smaller area, but still quite nice. There was a covered area that had several interactive exhibits: weightlifting, badminton, volleyball, etc. I decided to grab a bite to eat along with a beer. All of the beers at the Games are sold in yellow commemorative cups; you get to pick out the cup you want as well. I’ve managed to collect three cups: fencing, archery, artistic gymnastics (all events I saw). Today’s lunch was a chicken sandwich with cheese which was rather good – far better than the hamburger I had yesterday.

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TABLE TENNIS

Table tennis was inside a massive arena, but it only utilized part of the building. This event had general admission in your assigned section; I managed to get a good seat to see 2 of the 4 matches that would be played simultaneously.

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Up first were the women and there were several very good players, including one from North Korea! She was playing further away and I couldn’t get a great shot of their match, but it was fun to watch. She managed to beat her competitor.

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The other major match that was going on was between Russia and Belarus. It was a very intense, heated match up and Belarus managed to win – and the crowd went crazy! Each time a match finished the players would walk around the arena and many of them would stop to say hello to fans.

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Next it was time for the men to play. I wasn’t able to stay very long and watch them too much because I had to make it back to the Olympic Park for my final event. However, I did get to see Russia square off against Ukraine. The Russian player was insanely tall and looked somewhat silly hunched over the table as he played.

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I made my way back to the Barra Olympic Park, again walking through the shit-smelling walkway. Security to get in took a little longer this time because the crowd had grown, but it was still a breeze. I arrived in plenty of time and decided to walk around some. I found this massive plaza with people gathered around, eating food from the many stands nearby. The crowd was huge!

Clouds started to roll in and I feared that it would start to rain, so I made my way over to the venue for gymnastics. En route I grabbed another beer (grabbing the fencing cup this time!). When I arrived at the venue they were keeping us in the queue to get in, so I sat down and enjoyed my beer. It started to sprinkle a little bit, but it never actually rained.

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS

Once they finally scanned our tickets and let us move on, we were herded together outside the venue (but inside the ticket area) and waited for an additional 20 minutes or so; the crowd was getting very impatient, waiting to get in. We were finally let inside about 30 minutes before the event began. My seats were on the third level, almost in the nose-bleed seats. However, this game me a great view of the entire venue! They had the tumble mat, uneven bars, balance beam, and the vault setup.

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The women performed tonight, the highlight being Team USA! The Netherlands also had a full team performing. There were also several individuals who were from countries who couldn’t send a full team (Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Iceland, Venezuela). Each group of women would start at one station, have the entire team perform there, and then they would rotate around. Team USA started tumbling, then did the vault, the uneven bars, and finished on the balance beam. The crowd went crazy each time an American did well – it was nice to hear USA being cheered for rather than against.

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Team USA dominated the event and brought the team to first place. This was the quarterfinals and there was still another round of gymnastics to go before it would be known who would move on.

The trip back to the hostel was smooth; the crowds were crazy, but it went quick enough. The walk to the hostel from the metro station, while only taking 5 minutes, was still nerve racking because it is dark and not well lit.

Right now, as I write this, a group of early 20-something Australians are playing a drinking game, being quite loud and very obnoxious. They bought 23 beers (by my last count, though the recycling bin is clearly full of beers they’ve already had).

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One of the guys drinking with them is an American from Colorado! He grew up in Arvada. His name is Chad and he came over to chat for a bit, which was cool. He works on cellular towers around the world and will be heading to some island in the Indian Ocean next month for work.

Posted by Glichez 17:12 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Archery... and a sunburn


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Today was the first day of the Olympics!

Last night I slept rather well… until around 4am when one of the roommates began to snore quite loudly. It gave me flashbacks to the roommate I had throughout my tour of Iran, though his snoring was far worse.

I was up early at 6am to get ready to head out to my first Summer Olympic event: men’s team archery! I made the short walk to the metro station and made my way to the Sambodromo where the event was being held. Upon reaching the venue I realized – to my horror – that I had grabbed the wrong ticket: I had my ticket for fencing, not for archery! In a panic, I ran back to the metro and rushed back to the hostel to retrieve the correct ticket. The metro ride was 30min – one way – and thankfully I had left early enough that I made it back with mere minute to spare before archery began.

Seating was done by sections and within each section you could sit wherever you wanted. For this event I was in the lower section and I scored a very good seat close to the archers. There were four matches during this event.
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PRELIMINARY ROUND

France vs. Malaysia
6 – 2
I was quite pleased to be able to see France participate and even more pleased when they won their match.

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Netherlands vs. Spain
5 – 1
I found myself cheering for the Dutch team for whatever reason. They did quite well against Spain, beating them with a tie in their final round.

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Here's a video I took of Netherlands archer Mitch Dielemans:

Brazil vs. China
2 – 6
The stadium erupted in cheers when the Brazilian team appeared and each time they would score a 10 (bull’s eye). Sadly for the Brazilian fans, the Chinese team easily outperformed them.

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Taipei vs. Indonesia
2 – 6
This match I was not particularly invested in, though it was still fun to watch.

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When the match ended it was only 10:30 and I had thought that the event lasted until 1pm; I was surprised when the announcer bid us all farewell and announced that additional matches would be held at 2pm.

I made my way out of the stadium, grabbing a quick bite to eat at the concession stand. The hamburger was so-so; there is something about either the meat and/or the cheese that I’m not a fan of (I had the same reaction to a McDonald’s burger I had during my layover in Sao Paolo).

I decided to skip my sightseeing event this afternoon (going to see Christ the Redeemer) and instead decided to buy a ticket to see the afternoon archery session. The afternoon would have Team USA perform and I was interested to see how they did. The ticket line was quite short – there was only one person in front of me. I sat in line for nearly 2 hours waiting to get the fucking ticket. At first I thought the person in front of me was being difficult, but it quickly became apparent that the vendors had no clue what they were doing. There were people in other lines having the same issues: the cashiers had no idea how to sell the tickets or use their computers. The language barrier became an even bigger issue: many other people in line (from France, China, Australia) were trying to speak English to the cashiers, but none of them spoke English (this despite all signage being bi-lingual). There was one guy who spoke English and he was quite helpful. When it was finally my turn, it still took nearly 45 minutes for them to actually sell me the damn ticket. Needless to say, I was frustrated and exhausted afterwards (we were all standing around in the blazing hot sun during this entire process). Fuck!

I rushed back to the hostel to put on some sun-tan lotion, which I had forgotten to apply before I left in the morning (I can already feel the sunburns…). Then I rushed back to the Sambodromo to see the semifinals round.

QUARTERFINALS ROUND

France vs. Australia
3 – 5

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Korea vs. Netherlands
6 – 0
The Korean team proved to be a powerhouse that steamrolled over their opponents. Their fans were all over the stadium as well.

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Italy vs. China
0 – 6

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Indonesia vs. USA
2 – 6
Team USA performed very well and easily beat Indonesia. I was happy to see a few America fans here and there in the stadium, but they were far outnumbered by the number of people cheering for Indonesia. Spectators were cheering for them simply because they wanted Team USA to lose (this would hold true no matter who USA was playing against).

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To me surprise, this particular event included both the semifinals AND the finals (yes, the medal rounds!).

SEMIFINALS ROUND

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Korea vs. Australia
6 – 0
Korea killed it again – they made beating Australia seem like it was nothing at all. The fans in the stadium were going crazy!

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China vs. USA
0 – 6
As with the first match where USA performed, the crowd was cheering against them; there wasn’t any booing, but you could sense that they wanted anyone except USA to win. The Chinese team put up a good fight and the rounds were quite close, but USA pulled out another win – on to the gold medal round!

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BRONZE MEDAL ROUND

Australia vs. China
6 – 2
This was a very intense match and several rounds came down to a one-point difference. I was cheering for the Australians during the match and was happy that they won the bronze medal.

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GOLD MEDAL ROUND
Korea vs. USA
6 – 0
This match was very tense to sit through. The stadium was full of Korean fans, with almost everyone cheering for them except for the tiny pockets of USA fans. I cheered for Team USA quite a bit – they needed all the cheering on they could get. Sadly, it didn’t seem to help much. The Korean team continued their steamrolling and killed it during the match.

Apparently I was on the NBC coverage of the final match as well! My sister was watching and told me that she spotted me! :-)

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Finally, after all of the matches were done, the samba group performed for a little while on the field as they prepared for the medal ceremony. It was an added treat to get to see the medal ceremony – and a great way to close the first day of my Olympic adventures!

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... and yes, my camera does have something on the lens. Try as I might, I've been unable to get it off. The spot on most of the pictures drives me crazy...

Posted by Glichez 16:04 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Sugarloaf Mountain, but no sight of Jaws or James Bond


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The past two days have been incredibly LONG and tiring. To begin with, I had some last-minute change of packing plans, which stressed me to no end. My sister, niece Jane and nephew Jack were in town visiting and I wanted to spend time with them before I left on my trip as well.

All three of my flights were on time and went rather smoothly, though the total time it took me to get from Raleigh to Rio was around 25 hours. I had a 2hr flight to Ft Lauderdale, where I had a 6hr layover; the airport didn't have much in the way of entertainment, so I spent the time watching movies and TV shows on HBO Go. The flight to Sao Paolo left around 9pm and lasted just over 8hrs. I dozed off and on throughout the flight, but I didn't manage to get a good rest. The dinner that was served was some pasta dish that was so-so. I watched the first half of X-Men First Class before trying to sleep again. During the middle of the night we hit some pretty rough turbulence that kept waking me up. We landed in Sao Paolo just before 6am (Brazil time, +1hr from EST). I had another 6hr layover in Sao Paolo before I had a quick 45min flight to Rio.

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Everything went smoothly upon arrival in Rio. The driver that I had booked was there waiting for me and was incredibly friendly. He explained about the safety of Rio as we walked to his car. We left the airport and he told me all about the city and various sights and facts concerning it.

Our first stop was Sugarloaf Mountain, and the primary sight that I wanted to see in Rio. This location was featured in the James Bond film "Moonraker" when Jaws and Bond do battle in and on cable cars. Despite searching all over the mountain, I couldn't find them anywhere!

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However, they did have a cable car on display like the ones used in Moonraker... and I did spot Drax's airfield...

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I took the cable car up to the first mountain and was astounded by the view of the city! I could see the gorgeous bay, the beaches, all of the mountains surrounding the city.

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I waited in line to take the cable car to the top of the second mountain; the line was quite long, but well worth it. While waiting for the cable car, a large group of people came down with one person carrying the Olympic torch! It was incredibly timing!

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On the way up we saw three people climbing the mountain! It was breathtakingly beautiful from the top; I didn't think that the view could get better than what I'd seen from the first level, but it was! From this height I could see all of Copacabana beach, as well as the entirety of Rio.

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I spent 30-40 minutes walking around, admiring the amazing views before heading back down to rejoin my driver.

The next stop was the Escalera de Selarón, which is a wonderful set of steps that are lined with individual tiles. Many of the tiles have pictures or sayings and are all different. It's a popular tourist stop and there were tons of people there as well. The driver was kind enough to take several photos for me, which I am very thankful for.

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Driving through Rio I was surprised by how run down and dumpy the city truly is; I didn't have very high expectations, but this was below those. It was rather sad actually; everywhere I looked the poverty was blatantly obvious. There were several nice parks that we drove by, but the driver advised not walking through them alone. I was able to see several favelas as well, which were in such bad shape. The police and military were EVERYWHERE: on almost every street corner, around all major tourist attractions and transport hubs.

After a quick stop, we headed off to my lodgings: the Cabanacopa Hostel. I've always been weary of hostels as I prefer more privacy and seclusion, but this one was a pleasant surprise. It is very busy with guests in for the Olympics, but everyone seems friendly and the place has a fun vibe. I'm staying in an 8-bed shared dorm room. So far I've only met one of my roommates, a very nice guy from Tunisia (he even gave me a keychain from Tunisia of a little fez!).

Now I am sitting in the lobby/bar area of the hostel, hoping that the Opening Ceremonies will be shown on the television they have here.

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Currently a soccer game is on, but no one seems to be watching it; hopefully they'll change the channel. Several people here are heading into the city to the party/bar/club area known as Lapa, but I do not think that I will be joining them. I've got to be up very early in the morning to make it to my first Olympic event at 9am: Archery!

Posted by Glichez 14:10 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

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