In 2015 a friend of mine gave me the great idea to apply to be a volunteer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro! Unfortunately I was not initially accepted into the program. But after the games started my friend Nick tells me they need more volunteers and to fly down ASAP. After only having 1 hour of sleep I was packed and on my way to Brazil, or so I thought.
In order to get to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (on United Airlines) from New Jersey you must make a connection in Houston, Texas. Unfortunately for me the flights were full so instead I made my way to Austin, Texas. Upon arrival in Austin I had hoped to catch a quick 40 minute flight to Houston but they were also full. At this point I decided to rent a car and drive 2.5hrs to Houston for my flight to Rio later that night. Once I got to Houston everything worked out and I was on my way to the Olympics!
The flight to Rio was amazing because I got to fly with some of the athletes from Team USA! Notably I was lucky to have my picture taken with Kerron Clement who was to be participating in the Men’s 400m hurdles in which he ended up winning the gold medal!
After I arrived at the apartment where I would be staying I looked outside the window admiring my surroundings and I look up to find the famous Christ The Redeemer statue! At this point I assumed I would start volunteering right away but that was not the case. Apparently the Olympic Committee was having issues with my application for the first three days of my stay. During that time I did what anyone else would do, go sightseeing!
The first day in Rio was beautiful! The sun was shining, and it wasn’t too hot so I went for a walk with my Nick to Copacabana Beach. Walking along the beach there was plenty to see and do! From end to end there were mini cafés and restaurants, extravagant sand castle designs, along with a mini NBC studio, and the Beach Volleyball stadium.
The next two days were just as fun! First I ventured out to see the famous Christ The Redeemer statue. Transportation was very cheap and I was lucky to have Uber accessible. In Rio they have the normal Uber and for an extra fee there’s Uber English with English speaking drivers. Getting up to the statue is quite the hike (there were a few adventurous people who made the climb) up a very steep and tight two lane road without a guard rail. All vehicles are limited to how far up the hill they can go so you are dropped off at the ticket office and gift shop. From there you take a shuttle even further up the hill to the top where the statue lies. The view of Rio from that height is breathtaking, add that to the very large statue and it’s quite the image.
The other tourist site I went to see was called Sugarloaf Mountain. To go up the mountain you take a cable car to the first mountain and then there’s another car to the very top. Both have spectacular views of the Copacabana beach and downtown Rio. If you find your way to Brazil I recommend checking this out, I believe it was less than $20.
After a few days of waiting I started working at the Olympic Stadium for Track and Field events. I was at the transportation desk in the VIP/Olympic family lounge. The greatest thing about this position was that I had a front row seat to see Usain Bolt win his 100m medal. Coming from a Jamaican family this was an honor as this is supposed to be Bolt’s final Olympics.
Overall Rio was a great experience, the people were very nice and helpful, even if they didn’t speak English they tried. The news made it seem as if there were robberies or many bad areas but that was not the case. I would love to revisit in the near future. Until next time everyone… “Live everyday as if it were your last!”