The main reason we started this trip in Rio was because of the Olympics. Such a massive and daunting city, without any knowledge of Portuguese, would have otherwise probably not been the best starting point. But we committed to the Games and bought tickets to a morning athletics session before we even booked our flights.
So this morning when it looked like we weren’t going to make it, we felt a bit gutted. The morning started well, with Amber her usual happy self, but after a patchy breakfast she was a tad fractious. We left for the stadium in good time, but huge commuter traffic and stop-starting trains meant that it took us 45mins to travel just one stop. Amber was becoming increasingly frazzled, so we aborted the journey and headed home, wondering whether it was too much too soon and if we should go at all.
Once home, we gave ourselves a talking to. Amber was fine, we were fine and the Olympics were waiting.
We ordered an Uber and started our second attempt at the journey. This felt more promising. We were at the stadium in 30mins. Success! But no. We were told at the gate that we were at the wrong stadium.
We had gone to the Maracana Stadium instead of the Olympic Stadium (James was sheepish to say the least at this point). Simple mistake to make, but costly. It took nearly an hour to find our way through what felt a complicated (but in reality was fairly straightforward) series of trains with other confused tourists to get to the correct arena.
Finally, we made it! And somehow only missed an hour or so of the morning session. Patting ourselves on the back for having battled what felt at the time like significant adversity, we settled in to soak up the atmosphere.
When watching Rio 2016 on the TV you see a lot of empty seats, and it was true of our session this morning. That said however, well over half the stadium was full, and the mood was lively. There was a good representation of all nationalities cheering for their athletes. A smattering of Brits around us added to our cheers for Team GB. As you would expect, the crowd went wild whenever a Brazilian competed.
We saw the men’s triple jump final, women’s hurdles heats (Cindy Ofili smashed it through to the semis for TGB), women’s pole vault qualifiers, women’s discus final and the men’s 200m heats where we saw TGB’s Danial Talbot and others make it through.
Really though, the morning was building up to one man. We came for the athletics, but stayed for Usain Bolt. As it came closer to the men’s 200m heats, the atmosphere in the stadium ramped up several notches. The excitement was palpable. We had great seats right in front of the starting line, and by the time heats started our whole area was brimming with people eagerly waiting to see him.
He is a man of the people. When he came out onto the track he gave the crowd a curteous wave and clap and had a little jog around, everyone (us included) snapping away to make sure they got their obligatory pictures. He then breezed through the heats, coming first with what seemed like little effort.
Even though there was still one heat to go, the crowd pretty much emptied as soon as Bolt’s race was over. It felt like everyone around us was looking at their phones, comparing photos, making sure they got the perfect picture to post on their social media sites (no criticism intended – we are doing exactly the same!).
All in all it was a cracking morning. Being in Rio and walking around you get a real sense of the scale of the event that is taking place. There is a real buzz here just generally. But to actually go to a session and see what all the fuss is about made it so much more real.
And as I sit and write this this evening, we are watching Olympics live on streamed BBC (take the kids out of the UK and all that), we see that Team GB is absolutely smashing it. Not much more to say. Excellent stuff.