It’s always been a dream of mine to attend an Olympic games, and I was finally able to check that item off my bucket list this past summer. In fact, when Rio de Janiero was awarded the games in 2006, I immediately called my lifelong Brazilian friend Marco to ask him to save a room for me.
Rio is a city where the people know how to indulge. I’ve visited Marco there a number of times — for Carnival, New Year’s and other occasions — and experienced the infectious Brazilian spirit. You’re surrounded by the world’s most beautiful scenery, including those spectacular granite cliffs rising straight out of the ocean. The food is delectable, alive with tropical fruit as colorful as the culture that created it. The beaches are also incredible, and the importance of the local beach culture means you see gorgeous bodies almost anywhere there’s sand. It gives South Beach a run for its money and beats LA hands down.
All the panic about crime, disorganization and Zika I had heard about in advance of leaving turned out to be just hype. I found the transportation convenient, the venues clean, the infrastructure impressive, and as for mosquitos: I didn’t see a single one. So much had been built and renovated by the city for the games. The buildings along Olympic Boulevard were painted bright with colorful new murals. It seemed everywhere we turned, there was something worth snapping a picture of: from intricate sand sculptures to Rio 2016 signs (pictured).
Though I don’t watch sports regularly, there’s something different about the Olympics that’s always kept me glued to the screen, and it’s even better in person. One particularly memorable event was men’s synchronized diving; even a rainy day could not dim our excitement as we cheered the U.S. winning silver. Part of what made it so special was the fun of rooting for our U.S. team, but it was also the combined energy of the cheering fans from all over the world that helped make it so amazing.
It’s easy to think of the summer games as something that just shows up in our living rooms every four years, but it’s hard to describe how great it feels to actually be there. If you ever get the chance to attend, jump at it. It’s an indulgence I wouldn’t have missed.
Last modified: July 27, 2017