Rio 2016 – Day 1 First impressions
We landed in Rio this morning and my first thoughts were as to whether I had brought enough warm and water proof clothes. It has pretty much drizzled the entire day and fog has shrouded the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue that looks down over the XXXI Olympic city and dark skies have hung over us all day.
The airport, vastly improved by all accounts, was impressive. Clean, efficient and organized with hundreds of Rio 2016 volunteers and camera crews everywhere, it gave us a real sense of occasion when we got off the plane this morning, agreeably still in the same time zone as Bermuda. There is a lot to be said for doing an 9-hour overnight flight but not sending your body clock into a spin.
We were picked up from the airport and had to collect some tickets on the way in Botafogo, a place I only ever knew romantically from having the Subbuteo team as part of my collection 40 years ago. As it turned out Botafogo is mostly a middle class neighborhood to the north of Rio, but on the way from the airport.
From there we drove through downtown and then out skirting the coast to where we have rented our apartment in Barra da Tijuca. The drive was eye-opening. I had no idea how the numerous favelas dominate the landscape, ramshackle dome piled on top of each other, engraved into the granite mountains that rise around this famous city. It was both fascinating and sad.
This is a poor city burdened with the cost of the Olympic Games, but from what we saw it has opened it’s arms to this festival of sport although I suspect the number of foreign visitors will be way below early expectations and certainly many of the events so far have been played out to half full arena’s. In fact when I collected the tickets for some of our events this morning that I had pre-booked with masterful planning and foresight, there was an English couple in the office that had flown in on the off chance of seeing whatever they could and they were getting the pick of almost anything they wanted with a few exceptions such as track and field, gymnastics and swimming.
Barra da Tijuca is an affluent residential area on the coast about 30 minutes away from the far more famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. It is quiet here, and so far not speaking Portuguese has been a bit of a hindrance. Grocery shopping was a little tricky to say the least, but we have to be thankful to the perfect English speaker who pulled over in her car this afternoon and told us to get in and showed us where the closest metro station was.
Our daughter was disgusted that we just jumped into a stranger’s car, but this lady was a much welcomed friendly and helpful face.