We have decided every day of this trip will include a minor kerfuffle. Today, we went to the Cosport (authorized ticket seller for USA and some other countries) ticket pick up which our Canadian friends from the Christ the Redeemer van said it was a nightmare of a process. They waited in line for 4 hours to pick up their tickets they had purchased online after the deadline for Cosport to mail the tickets to you. Yesterday, the Cosport pick up office randomly closed at 3 pm. Today, they said due to increased volume of customers, they changed their hours to be open for fewer hours. From that information alone, we knew this morning would be a kerfuffle.
We arrived at the Cosport office at 9 am, an hour before they officially opened. There were no signs anywhere. A man directed us through a parking garage, and we followed blindly. We then entered an outdoor patio where other disgruntled fans were gathered. The only signage to indicate you had arrived at the right place was hand written in sharpie on printer paper. We got in a random queue full of equally as confused fans as we were. At the front of the line was a Cosport employee with a tiny notebook who has hand writing down your customer ID number and order number. Then, nothing happened for 45 minutes. Pure and utter chaos. It was like church camp check in.
Finally, a Cosport employee emerged with a box lid of envelopes. She stood on a bench in the middle of the crowd and yelled a few names out. People who were on the same handwritten list as we were received their tickets. We did not. We waited some more. Another handwritten list was generated, and another employee served as a runner to retrieve the tickets from what we imagine was an unorganized storage closet. Ten minutes after running upstairs, a volunteer would return with fewer envelopes than names on the handwritten list. They would call or in some cases, whisper the names on the envelopes to the mêlée of people. This process repeated and did not improve until a man who looked somewhat authoritative appeared. He starred promising individuals he would bring their tickets down immediately which started more chaos. We befriended a mom and daughter from Nashville, an Olympic doping committee volunteer who had drug tested Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky this week, and British girl named Priya who insisted no Cosport employee had common sense or initiative in her adorable British accent. We agree, Priya.
Alas, Kyle started kindly harassing the Cosport employees, offering to be the ticket runner, asking when the tickets would come down, etc. After 1.5 hours, we received our 4 gymnastic tickets and immediately caught a cab to take us to the Barra Olympic Park.
Rio is a huge city. Barra is at one end of the city and where most of the Olympic venues are located. We took an hour long cab to Barra. Then we switched to a bus. The buses are surprisingly efficient since there are designated bus lanes. However, the public transportation stations are confusing. Signage is seriously lacking, and there aren't any Olympic volunteers in the stations. Luckily, the locals are so friendly here and have helped us find our way. Once the bus drops you off at the Olympic park, you have a good 10-15 minute walk in the incredibly hot Rio sun to the venue.
We finally arrived at the tennis center an hour late. We had center court tickets. The stadium was very nice, but we noticed a few things that could be featured on a "Is Rio Ready?" segment. First, the seats had numbers duct taped on them. Guess they ordered the wrong numbered seats. Secondly, the bathroom sink faucets were too short and did not reach over the sinks, so water was spewing all over the counters. Most importantly, the entire Olympic Park did not serve food. There were concession stands with full menus; however, the only things you could purchase were ice cream, beverages, chips, peanuts, and biscuits. Since there was no real food in the entire Olympic park, we settled for the mysterious Brazilian biscuits. These biscuits were ring shaped snacks that looked like pork rinds and tasted like air. That was all we ate until 7 pm. As my dad said, "I was worried about you getting Zika or mugged in Brazil, not starving." We also really appreciated the exposed wiring behind our seats that we could tether our American flag to. Was Rio ready today? Not quite.
The first tennis match (tênis in Portuguese) was female singles between Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) and Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain). Carla had a huge comeback after the first set and dominated the next two sets, winning the match. The second match was male singles between JW Tsonga (France) and Malek Jaziri (Tunisia). It was an awesome match, and Tsonga ended up winning. The MVP of the men's match goes out to the ball boy who kept missing Jaziri's signal for his towel. Fans started catching on to him missing the signal and started cheering for the boy when he did anything. He really should get the hustle award. He may not have had the best ball boy skills, but he had a lot of heart. Another fun moment of the match was when a fan started the wave, and it went around the stadium five times while the players got annoyed with us.
After the match, we headed to the Olympic Stadium for women's soccer. On our way out an NBC news anchor overheard us speaking English and asked us if we knew English. Yes, you just heard us speaking English... She asked where we were from and was thrilled we were Texans. She got even more excited when Alyssa and I said we were from Houston. It turns out she was Dominique Sasche from Houston's NBC affiliate KRPC 2. Dom (as I now call her) isn't a morning news anchor, so I have only seen her on the news commercials that interrupt the Today Show. Dom was just chit chatting with us and out of nowhere switched to her broadcasting voice. The camera turned on, and a microphone was placed in front of Alyssa. She proceeded to interview is and asked about our safety concerns in Rio. Alyssa said we felt very safe which is 100% true, but then Kyle mentioned yesterday's peaceful protest on Copacabana and how it still felt very safe and calm. That was Dom's cue to segue into her breaking news topic. She asked if we heard about the suspicious backpack that was detonated on Copacabana today. We don't have data plans here nor had we had wifi all day, so we all got that dumb look on our face like "what?"
We found wifi and had friends in Houston record the news. Alyssa made the cut for two seconds saying "we feel so safe" during the bomb story. Hilarious. It turns out the backpack was a homeless person's unattended baggage with no signs of explosives in it. Better safe than sorry though.
We then traversed Rio to the Olympic Stadium to watch women's soccer. First was South Africa against China. South Africa has an Aggie, Stephanie Malherbe, on the team, so we rooted for them. Unfortunately, China won 2-0. Second match started at 10 pm against Brazil and Sweden. We bought Brazil shirts to blend in with the locals. Alyssa's yellow shirt had a giant pi the of Christ the Redeemer on it, while Kyle, Erin and I opted for the Brazilian national soccer team jerseys. The majority of the stadium was filled with Brazil jersey wearing fans. They were so loud and excited. Brazil dominated Sweden 5-1. Marta Vieira da Silva scored two goals. The crowd burst into a chorus of "ole ole ole ole Marta! Marta!" which is now my new favorite tune.
While searching for the bathroom, Alyssa and I met the nicest Olympic volunteer from Virginia named Bre. Bre was surround by Brazilians asking her questions in Portuguse. When Alyssa and I finally asked her where the bathroom was in English, a wave of relief hit her, and she asked us to speak with her for a while. We chatted with Bre and learned she signed up to volunteer in 2014, completed an assessment, had an online interview, and then waited for her assignment. She was assigned to the Olympic Stadium for soccer and track and field. To be an Olympic volunteer, you must complete the aforementioned assessment and interview, commit to being at the Olympics for ten days, pay for your flight and lodging, and take an online Portuguese class. Originally, Brazil promised volunteers free housing, but that promise fell through when Brazil ran behind on construction. Every day, Bre volunteer she gets a gift and free meals. Also, public transportation is provided free to volunteers. Tokyo 2020 will be a few months after I turn 30 years old. I think volunteering for the Olympics will be a perfect 30 year old crisis. See you in Tokyo.
Other things we learned today, when you buy a bottled beverage in Brazil, they take the lids off and won't let you have them. Also, an American family we met went to London and Sochi and promised we would become addicted to the Olympics after this one. As I said above, see you in Tokyo.