Whirlwind – that’s the best way I can describe these last few days. You think you have a moment to relax and get organized and suddenly you’re in a mad dash for the unexpected. As I write this article, many journalists are heading to the Opening Ceremony, but none of us got tickets. As much as we all wanted to go and would still gladly go, in a way it was a blessing in disguise because we can already feel the workload building.
So, going back a bit. The landing at the airport in Rio was seamless with accreditation right out of customs. Then on to finding a shuttle to the Main Press Center and then an uber to an apartment I’m sharing with fellow journalists Cealy Tetley, her husband Bryan Barrier and Kim and Allen MacMillan.
The apartment where we are staying is right across from the ocean. Remember all those pics you’ve seen of ugly water. Well, not here. This water is beautiful and the sun bathers are covering the beaches.
Our apartment is spacious with plenty of room for all of us and much cheaper than what others paid for the press hotels, which we’ve heard aren’t worth the $254 dollars they are paying a night per person, compared to our $50 a night. Luck was with us, thanks to Cealy, who did all the research and bargaining to find this Air BNB.
Next in the plans was going to the MPC to get photo vests, sign in to Nikon or Canon, and check into transportation. Uber was the way to go when we first came but now only the official vehicles are allowed on the roads and so bye bye uber. We’ve mapped out a new plan to get to the MPC where we can take a shuttle to the Equestrian Center. The official vehicles, including the shuttle, are traveling on a road designated for just them. So, the hour long ride we took during the 2007 Rio Pan Am Games only takes us 30 minutes now. Others may get caught in traffic, but not us.
We arrived on August 3 rd thinking we had a free day on August 4 th , only to find out that was not the case.
So, on Thursday, we faced the true shuttle challenge. That ½ hour ride I mentioned, took us three hours of frustration, all because of lettering. They told us Bay D and then take 35. Well there is a Bay D35, which we hopped on, not realizing that the bus # was 32. Needless to say, we were taken everywhere but where we needed to go. That’s when we finally hopped into a taxi.
As an aside, the ride on the shuttle passes an array of beautiful apartment buildings and run down neighborhoods. Graffiti is everywhere and as you pass some of the areas it’s clear where you would not want to be walking alone day or night.
Despite taking the alternate routes to the equestrian center, the good news is we made it to the stable tour where we were allowed to take pictures but not approach or talk to the riders. You’ll see some pictures of that and other things I’ve mentioned here. Eventer Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton were wandering around, while dressage rider Shelly Francis was relaxing outside the stables. The most impressive part of the tour was leaving to head out to walk the cross-country course and passing all the grooms relaxing and grazing their horses.
Gustavo Lorenzo and Rabbe Wrede were just a couple of the staff posing for some cool pictures for us while also being helpful in answering questions. Because we didn’t have time to drop off bags at the media center before heading out, my backpack was starting to get a bit on the heavy side and Gustavo politely helped by carrying it around for me.
So much negative has been passed around but the truth is the setup is very nice. Even the cross-country course is colorful, the fences well built, and the ground we are told has met and almost surpassed the standard. There’s a cushion you feel when you walk. As has been the case recently in the high profile events, it’s more of a technical course than a long galloping course with lots of questions, hilly terrain and turns. The course designer, Pierre Michelet wandered to some of the fences with us and explained the direct and alternate routes and some of the questions each fence posed for both horse and rider.
On our way home to catch the shuttle the streets were lined with people waiting for the torch to pass. Families, couples and kids of all ages were having fun. One group of girls saw the camera and their pose was priceless.
For food, we are on our own but the supermarkets have everything you can imagine. You just need to see what is pricey and what’s not as the range does not compare to what we see in the United States.
The number of people in the Mundiale we went to was truly insane. Where did they all come from?
Water is better in bottles as the chlorination in the drinking water and showers is very noticeable. With the weather being quite warm during the days (despite this being their winter) water is a must if you don’t want to get dehydrated.
Today was the jog or first horse inspection and it was done in the Olympic Equestrian Centre. This arena is beautifully laid out. The horses all sparkled and many had markings on their rumps. A total of 73 horses jogged and ultimately all passed the inspection.
I have to say that the highlight of the week so far was watching Cealy clear out the mosquitos. Yep, there are mosquitos and lots of them. And to handle the situation, the owners of the condo we are staying in left us with lots of spray and electric zappers and when they zap they ZAP!
The welcome bags we got at the MPC all contained a bottle of Off! and we’ve been encouraged to keep doors and windows closed, especially at night.
One other highlight was having Norman, the mascot of the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games, travel the cross-country course with us. Then there was we know not what. We think it is a monkey, but maybe one of our HorsesDaily readers can tell us by looking at the picture with the flying tail.
Another one of those special moments was one morning when I was sound asleep and suddenly heard loud music. I ran to the balcony and down below was a parade of people following the torch (or at least that’s what we think it was). The picture says it all.
Days have already started to be long but it’s also exciting to be here to see how the action unfolds. It’s a lot better than we had anticipated. Military are everywhere carrying rifles and the word we’ve gotten is daytime is fine – nighttime is not. Since we are pretty much confined to the venues, computers and cameras, there won’t be much worry about that.
My moment of glory was on the cross-country course when we stopped at a beautiful Rio 2016 wooden sign to take a picture that will be a memory forever. The backdrop was the grazing horses and the surrounding terrain. It was the highlight of the day.
If you are curious about anything that’s happening here, feel free to reach out so we can let you view these Olympic Games from the inside. Tomorrow is the big day because that’s when Eventing starts. It starts with two days of dressage, followed by cross-country on Monday and show jumping followed by the medal ceremony on Tuesday.
Stick with HorsesDaily as they bring all the action to you, both in front and behind the camera!