My 8th Olympics.
So was Rio 2016 my favourite? No.
Was this my least favourite of the 8 ? Most likely.
It’s going to take a week or so to let this Olympics sink in properly. I might have in fact had a memorable experience, but without knowing it at the time.
There was a definite divide between those of us who turned up in early August, to those who have lived on this land for many generations. The people of Brazil don’t need to change, they don’t need to speak English, nor change the way they live their daily lifes. We working tourists need to fit in and live like they do, to eat their food, learn a little basic Portugese, or even learn to dance a few steps of the Samba.
From my perspective it seemed that the Olympic movement was forced onto them, and many resented that in different ways. So we as the Media stayed wholly and enclosed under the safety of the Olympic Bubble, never venturing out past the high security fencing of our Media Village or the Sporting Venues. We saw and experienced nothing. Our mistake ? Not sure.
Theft. Guns. Bullets fired at Media buses and Media Acccomodation. Stones thrown at these same buses speeding through the poorest of neighbourhoods, where a magnificent sporting venue had been built and stood glistening in stark contrast to the reality of that neighbourhood.
A military force that was imposing and threatening.
A military force that aggressively detained me, confiscated my camera and phone, had me seated with hands on head for 2 laps of the Womens' Olympic Triathlon Run for being on the field of play, when in all right I had the the proper accreditation and ‘privileged’ Green photographers jacket to do so. I thank the elderly lady from the nearby drink station seeing that I was in need, came over, translated and explained to these clowns in Camo why I was there and convinced them to at least call to get the Media motorbike to come pick me up.
Miltary Security with big guns, and little penises.
I am not here to mock or ridicule Brazil. Far from it.
They also did a lot of things right. A lot. There was also some genuine personal touches that made our days.
In my world as a photographer, Brazil had their chance, and they blew it. Enough said.
Olympics is, and should be all about the athlete. Nothing more. This isn't about me.
But there are memories that I take home with me …..
* We’re all brave until we realise there’s a mosquito in the room.
* I’ve got a better chance finding a unicorn than I do of going through an entire day without dealing with some jackass NBC Cameraman.
* It was a dilemma I had from the Day 1. Each Insect Repellant spray bottle holds 125ml of liquid. 6 hours of protection per squirt session. That’s 4 sprays per day. To be safe to be sure, let’s make it 5 spray sessions a day. Body coverage height was just under 170mm. Do I spray fully clothed, semi clothed, naked ? Here in Rio for 22 days. Extra safe protection = double the squirt. Squirting during open sunlight and warm air temperature told me that there would be a skin surface evaporation variable to factor into the equation. I was never good at Maths at school. In fact I sucked.
So I simply smuggled a 5 litre drum of insect repellant into my village room just to make sure.
4.99 litres still remain in the bathroom back at Barra 3.
* The more caipirinha you drink, the better you are at Portugese.
* Those who stayed within the Olympic Bubble ate very poorly. A chance blown by Brazil to highlight the amount of diverse and tasty food that feeds this land. Not once did I see or sample feijoada. No beans, No rice. No Churrasco. The Media who were feared by the tales of street violence or petty theft, ate a poor mans breakfast at their village, and a selection of western slop at the Main Press Centre that made airline food look like a 3 star Michelin Restaurant meal.
Western Buffet slop that was weighed at the cash register at $45 a kilo.
Another chance blown.
* Loved their coffee though. Thick Muddy Smoky. Sticks to the roof of your mouth. Couldn't get enough. Why a coffee IV has not been invented is beyond me. What is modern science so busy with ?!!?
* The buses that transported us were new, clean, plentiful, always on time, fast, and drum roll please …… they were equipped with free WIFI. It was a masterstroke service by Rio2106. Especially for those who wanted to continue working during the 90minute journey to the Athletics Stadium, check out the likes on their Instagram account, or when one simply wanted to contact family at home. That time was not wasted.
* Days 12 13 14 15 of the Games was spent in Copacabana next to the Triathlon Venue. My last night was the evening when Brazil wins the Gold against Germany in Football. An amazing night as Via Atlantica filled with cheering, dancing, car horns a’blowing, and gunshots fired into the night sky. As my Brazilian friend told me, the national sport of Brazil is not Olympics, it was Football.
* Sanitarios Masculinos is the sexiest way to pronounce Mens Toilet.
* I was so fortunate to work with the best Media people on the planet. Kathleen, Hanso, Brett, Erin, Chelsea and Janos.
* Cate Campbell blowing me a kiss from the Medal Position. The 4x200 Australian Mens Medley Relay Team walking into the Photographers pit to High 5 me, saying ‘Yo Da man’. Gwen Jorgensen walking off the Triathlon Medal Dias with her Gold Medal, coming at me with a crushing hug, and whispering in my ear ‘Look what I’ve just done’.
My photography does make a difference to these athletes, and they let me know in their own sweet way. Chicken Soup for the Soul.
* Swimming Australia’s coaches and support staff coming over to see me at the photographer’s pit to simply say Hello or check if I needed something.
* My worldwide Triathlon family of the ITU made me feel cozy and loved in my final days spent at Copacabana. They are truly my ‘second family’.
* I take the "L" and "R" on my headphones way too seriously.
* The first time I hear Peter Allen’s ‘I go to Rio’ song is Day 9 at the fencing, just after the completion of the Italy v Ukraine Team Epee Semi Final. It was followed by Kenny Loggin’s ‘Footloose’. The memories of University come flooding back.
It was also the last time I would hear it.
Never heard Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ throughout the Games. Gutted.
‘The Girl from Ipanema’ I heard twice. At the Opening Ceremony, and the the last song in the Taxi to the airport to come home. My Rio experience bookended by that one song.
* Last year, Wagner from Sao Paulo, told me that it was good luck to drink Capairinha by the glass, in odd prime number quantity. So you would have to drink 1 3 5 7 11 glasses to avoid bad luck.
I believed what Wagner said and went to bed most nights in a hazy manner. He emailed me when I got home and told me that was a joke, not a custom.
This year I thought I would fool him and drink in even numbers. 2 4 6 8 etc. This year I went to bed most nights in a hazy manner.
* I’ve never been to a karate class, but every time I saw a mosquito, I turn into a black belt master.
* Gringos Fotografos. A closed group on Facebook consisting of the 14 Aussie photographers that had been accredited to Rio2016, and formed prior to the Games by Dave Hunt from AAP. A Facebook site where we would exchange ideas or information, ask for advise or to borrow a piece of equipment lost or stolen, pass on a comical photographer story or post a photo of one of the Gringos Fotografos' snapper sleeping on the job. We even complimented those who had pulled off a magical image from the day before.
We as a group made light comedy of the long tiring hours, we would sit and protect the cameras and laptops for another who needed to go to the bathroom. Take turns at coffee runs. Aussie Photographers are indeed the best in the world, no doubt about it, and this group banded together to lighten the homesickness, lighten the aches and pains, put smiles on each others faces, and to pull the other one up when things were down.
I was proud to be a Aussie Gringo. We all were.
* In chatting with one of my photography idols mentor and friend, TimC mentions that if he died and every day thereafter was photographing an event at the Olympics, then he would truly know that he had died and gone to Heaven. Tim pretty much summed up my life in one sentence.
Till Tokyo 2020 ...... Mozzie Mozzie Mozzie Oi Oi Oi.