We’re nine days into the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and we’ve already seen many unforgettable moments. History has been made and records have been broken. So far, it’s living up to the hype.
I was fortunate enough to travel to the Rio as a guest of Swisse. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I made memories that will last a lifetime.
I expected it to be one big party throughout the city, as Brazilians know how to celebrate. But I did not anticipate to experience a deep sense of conscience and unity. I have a new-found respect for the people of Brazil, and have been reminded of the beauty in our differences.
Keep scrolling to see a round up of the action that captured my attention.
1The Opening Ceremony
For Brazilians, it is all about the Ginga (pronounced jeen-gah). I’m talking spirit. It is ingrained in their way of life; from the way they play football, to the Capoeira (Brazilian martial art). And the opening ceremony optimised this fun and carefree attitude.
Here are just a few highlights:
- Having grown up with my dad playing Frank Sinatra on repeat, I was always familiar with the song “The Girl from Ipanema”. However, I never realized its origins stemmed from two local Brazilian poets inspired by the way a young lady walked down the beach as though she was dancing. To see Giselle Bündchen, one of the most powerful supermodels and businesswomen on the planet, walking through the stadium to this song was electric.
- If sport isn’t your thing, than perhaps Tonga could convince you otherwise. Judging by the shrills, Tonga’s Taekwondo flag bearer, who looked like he had a near death accident with a pool of baby oil, might be enough to get you interested in the Olympics.
- The first-ever Refugee Olympic Team marched in the Parade of Nations carrying flags emblazoned with the five-ring Olympics logo.
- The most iconic image of the Olympics is often the lighting of the flame. It was expected that Brazilian football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, would be the one to light the flame. However, he was too unwell to attend so this honour was passed onto Vanderlei de Lima. I had never heard of Vanderlei before, but his story encapsulates the Olympic Spirit. At the 35km mark of the marathon at Athens Olympics in 2004, Vanderlei was clearly leading the race when a spectator attacked him. He recovered and finished with the bronze medal. His grace following the event earned him the Pierre de Coubertin Award.
My Olympic experience started with Water Polo. Now, I wouldn’t say that it was high on my must-see list, but I was thoroughly impressed. It was like rugby in speedos – fast, physical and technical. We didn’t see the Aussies compete on the day, but I have a new appreciation for water polo athletes, like Swisse ambassador Rowena Webster. Rowie is known as one of the top three players in the game, particularly for her powerful defensive skills.
Then, we went to watch the Aussie Boomers play against France. With many Australians playing in the NBA we are considered a genuine medal chance, and they delivered, beating France 87-66. We were then lucky enough to have front row seats to see the American Dream Team take the court against China. We unfortunately missed seeing our Aussie women take the court, with Swisse ambassador Liz Cambage the first women to slam-dunk in a professional game.
From Rose to Thorpe, Fraser to Jones, Olympic swimming has always been Australia’s bread and butter when it comes to gold medals. The 4 x 100m relay, with Swisse athletes Cate and Bronte Campbell, were touted as our first medal hope. With a large Aussie contingent in the crowd, the room was buzzing as Mack Horton took out the first Australian gold medal of the Rio Olympics in the 400m freestyle. After three new world records, the night was capped off by a magnificent victory by our new Aussie golden girls. I felt incredibly proud to be able to witness this moment and sing our national anthem.
I couldn’t wait to see the beach volleyball, especially since it was held on Copacabana Beach. With local favourites competing, the stadium was filled with Brazilian flags and colours. A local DJ fired up the crowd, and there were magnificent laser light displays. The action and excitement on the court was matched by what was happening off it. Unfortunately, the Brazilians lost to Cuba it a tightly fought contest.
We then made our way to the field hockey to see Swisse athlete ambassador Chris Ciriello, also known as ‘The Italian Stallion or Big Dog’. Chris is known as one of the most dangerous players in the game and one of best drag flickers (a scoring technique). The Australian team, The Kookaburras, are currently ranked number one in the world and were taking on Spain. The Aussies were expected to win easily. The Spanish scored early and seemed to park the bus (went on the defensive), but the Australians pressed hard for an equaliser. Despite this, the Spanish managed to hold on for the win. From winning gold medals in the pool one night to going down in a close battle the next, sport can be such an emotional rollercoaster.
7Spending time with the locals
From couples dancing in beachfront restaurants to groups of men, women and children playing endless games of beach volleyball, Copacabana Beach lived up to my (high) expectations. Whilst strolling the gorgeous shoreline we came across some local teenage boys having a kick of football. One problem, I didn’t speak Portuguese, and they didn’t speak English. But, after a few gestures about joining in, the gringo (Portuguese for foreigner) was welcomed with open arms. We played by the same rules, with the same objectives, except they had a lot more skill. The power of sport to unite and bring people together from different backgrounds never ceases to amaze me. We even caught the attention of an Indian news crew.
I can’t wait to watch the continued success of the Australian athletes, and I would like to thank Swisse for their amazing hospitality at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.