After a 15-hour flight with a change in Lisbon and arrival at 5am in Rio de Janeiro with only two hours of sleep and the nerve-racking day that followed (getting a room, getting internet -for which you need to pay $175 if you want to have a secure and fast connection, and getting familiar with the sports facilities) and after one night of decent sleep I’m now able to tell you about my first impressions.
Let’s start at the beginning: The flight was no problem – the nice thing was that there were so many athletes on the plane, especially from eastern countries and so I caught myself considering other people’s physique and what kind of sport they possibly could do. Was it a wrestler or a basketball player that sat behind me? When we arrived in Rio we naturally had to queue. All the transatlantic flights seemed to have arrived at the same time and so everybody had a chance to stretch their legs after sitting for such a long time. The accreditation at the airport did not take as long. Then there was chaos when it came to the transport to our hotel (if you want to call it hotel): a medley of numerous accredited people, who all pushed each other around on a small waiting area and desperately were looking for the right bus (nobody was able to provide information), and buses, which did not care for the people standing at the side. But we didn’t have to wait for too long and soon were on an Olympic Lane, which made for a traffic jam free journey. Once we had to stop because a pig jumped in front of the bus and crossed the street.
When we arrived in our hotel we came to the realisation that the reception was situated in a tent, as well as the breakfast room, which looks similar to a bad canteen. But ok, we weren’t so naive to believe that we would experience German standards in Rio. And we also knew that we wouldn’t be based in a normal hotel, but in accommodations that were built for the Pan-American Games and which otherwise are vacant. The girls at the reception all were really friendly and everybody had a boy, who carried the luggage. Then I had the first unpleasant surprise: I was told to leave my luggage in the common room (we knew that each apartment consists of three rooms which share a kitchen and a common room), because my room mates could be still asleep. What? A room mate? I didn’t know about this. And $250 a night should justify a single room! The seemingly little problem turned out to be a big one. I was told it could take some hours. The photographers had another problem: they didn’t have water in their apartment. Flushing the toilet once worked and then there was no more water. Other people told me that there was only cold water available! Everybody confirmed this, but then we learned that either the boiler isn’t set correctly or the gas is not connected. The problem is supposed to be fixed this evening. In the meantime the photographers got inventive: they took the icy cold water from the shower and mixed it with boiling water from an electric kettle. Handy!
Without having a room I made my way to the Main Press Centre, in which hundreds of journalists, who do not only accompany one discipline. The registration for Internet and the information system was quickly done, but then here also problems showed up, which will not only affect us, the journalists, but also many others: in the restaurant there were too few cash registers. We had to wait for a long time even if they were not really busy. Also there’s only one cash machine, and who wanted to get some Real had to wait for at least an hour. So it’s good that you’re not supposed to carry cash with you while in Rio.
During the ride from the Main Press Centre to the Equestrian Centre we had to wait again. The bus driver, who was supposed to take us to Deodoro to the arena, said that he would first drive a loop. Then we didn’t know that he would never show up again. One hour later the next bus was supposed to be there – and closed the door immediately after people had left the bus. When we complained to a volunteer he was able to fix the problem. The bus driver wasn’t too keen on driving us even though there is a schedule. He had wanted to take a break.
When we saw the arena eventually we all were thrilled: the arena looks good and in the press centre everything worked out with the Internet. But then we were told not to leave anything in the lockers over night: there was no security personnel. Everywhere you get warned about thieves and as yet we don’t know if we even can leave things in our room. Aside from that we really feel safe at the military property. Half of the about 60,000 soldiers is on the street, most of them with guns. That certainly creates an oppressive feeling, but at least you don’t have to be concerned about terroristic attacks.
When I got back late in the afternoon there was positive news: I have my own room. I only share the apartment with Swedish colleagues. After unpacking I noticed the next problem: there was no bathroom in my room. Ok, I thought, I could deal with that. When I found that that the bathroom opposite my room was already taken by my colleagues and found my bathroom around the corner I was shocked: it’s tiny, there is no possibility to store things there and it’s dirty. I already thought about how many times a day I would have to carry my toothbrush and other things to the bathroom … then there was a knock at my door: the last room neighbours arrived and the Swedish colleague said we had to swap rooms. What the hell? I just had unpacked my things and put everything away and just wanted to sleep. She said she had to share the room and my room had two single beds and the other room only had one double bed. Annoyed and exhausted I got on my way to have a look at the other room but it saved my day: a bigger room, a double bed and the best – the only room in the apartment that has its own bathroom with the size and furnishings of the one that had been stolen from right under my nose. I was dead lucky.