The Olympic park itself is a large parking lot with about 6 humongous venues. If you had any romantic pictures in your mind of a gorgeous “village” with lots of athletes walking around – it is not like that. The park is about an hour outside of “real Rio” in a residential area full of new apartment buildings – so not the typical Brazilian feel either. The area was brand empty before the Olympics so it is all new constructions. The venues are impressive from outside but very simple from inside which you can’t really tell. Most of the “stadiums” are temporary, meaning they are made of scaffolding of sorts and will be taken apart (let’s just say I was glad we were not in an earthquake zone). The center court for tennis, the large game arenas (4), the swimming area an the velodrome are all stable, concrete buildings.
A few things surprised me.
- The food was seriously lacking. Despite McDonald’s being one of the major sponsors, there was hardly ANY food anywhere. That was my most common question from spectators – something about “comida”. Remember, my flawless Portuguese at this point is going by any recognizable word in the question – and it worked just fine. Just listen to bebida, cerveja, salida, banheiros, comida, ingressos, some kind of latin sounding sport – and we were game! Add a few directional adverbs like right, left, straight – and I managed to answer 90% of the questions. McDonald’s had one smaller shop with ice cream only – so a bit strange. The junk food and 2 food trucks per venue just couldn’t cut it.
- The drinks were not lacking but rather limited. Coca Cola and Sqol – the main soft drinks and beer provider – did their job and were everywhere. A bit pricey for locals but not that bad for the foreigners – about 13 reals for beer which is around $4 – in a nice, souvenir like cups with sports on them. No coffee or any other alcohol anywhere. But I snapped 12 cups as souvenirs 🙂
- No wi-fi – that surprised me and me + foreigners were suffering the consequences. But then, I was there to work so it actually kept me focused. But also meant I am a bit behind in blogging, work and sending pictures home.
- The transportation as I said was top notch – hardly any waiting for buses even with huge crowds.
- Moving between the venues could take a while – I mean athletics or other sports were on the other side of town so 1-2 hours could be an issue. So lots of planning needed.
- Coca Cola had a huge house here and they had the longest line in the park – I think they were giving away some sort of free bottle and had some nice pins or so to buy but still – coming from Atlanta, I avoided it to a huge surprise of all of my co-volunteers.
- Tickets were sold out – I was glad I got some before coming as it would be difficult while here.
I can’t really see what they will be able to do with the park post Olympics – it is a bunch of arenas/halls together that just can’t be 100% utilized or even maintained … but I think every Olympic city struggles with it and eventually turns it around to housing, university properties, etc… Good luck Rio – I was certainly impressed what you put together given the negative pre-press!