Friday 12 August
We opted for a late start having not settled in to the hotel Fasano until 2am. We took a stroll down Ipanema Beach and around the corner to the Sheraton Hotel where we had to pick up our Olympic cycling tickets. The NZ Olympics lounge has a set up there where family members of athletes, or in our case athletes that were in the running but didn’t quite get there.
Rio, with its granite mountains rising almost vertically in various shapes up to 700m and its long white sand beaches, makes for a spectacular scene.
There are lots of police and military people on the streets. Security is taken really seriously during the games. We have to go through a metal detector and bags through X-ray every time we enter our hotel. Makes one wonder if Bin Laden had shares in the company that makes these things.
The beach is quiet today as strong winds and rain have kept the crowds away.
Later in the afternoon Ilana, a local woman who we had met in NZ last year, comes to join us at the hotel. We head up to the roof top bar with views up and down Ipanema Beach and out to sea. It’s a nice place to spend the evening.
Saturday 13 August – Sylvia
Rio looked even better this morning under a cloudless blue sky. After a leisurely start we wandered along the other end of Ipanema beach. At the far end we came across an outdoor gym area where a number of topless local men worked out with concrete weights.
We wandered further around to Copacabana – more scantily clad people in all shapes and sizes thronged the beach. We visited the Copacabana Fort, completed in 1914 to defend Rio. They had some pretty large canons and we were able to walk through underneath to see all the mechanics of how they worked. It was deactivated in 1987 and is now home to the Army Historical Museum.
It was then time to head to the Olympic Park area to watch the NZ women’s team pursuit team in their bronze medal race. Despite all the noise in the media we have been extremely impressed with Rio’s execution of the games. Our trip to the Olympic Stadium area was very efficient. First by underground metro and then BRT (bus rapid transit). Everything ran like clockwork. We didn’t even have to queue at security at the games venue itself. There must be thousands of people employed to support the games, from the significant police and military presence, who all seem very friendly, to the people at the games area whose job seems to be to get everyone excited to be here. Some of the infrastructure has not yet been completed in a permanent form – the overbridge from the BRT to the Olympic Park and the top seating area in the velodrome were both temporary scaffolding constructions but both worked well.
In reality, watching the cycling at the Olympic Games was really no different to watching any other cycling we have been to, albeit we did see a fairly exciting gold medal race in the women’s team pursuit with Great Britain breaking the world record by over 2 seconds. Unfortunately NZ were beaten by Canada for bronze.
We reversed our route back to the hotel. You get a sense of how big Rio is. Despite everything running smoothly and efficiently it still took about an hour and a half of travelling each way.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed some of Mariana and Michael’s cheese (from Buenos Aires), massages and a couple drinks on the rooftop bar before calling it a day.
Sunday 14 August
Our guide, Rita, picked us up at 1030 and we headed to the oldest railway line in Brazil. Built in 1884 this funicular runs up the 700m high granite outcrop to the Corcovado. Rio seems to be really good at moving people. Every seat is filled in the two carriages and the next load is waiting in a room near by. Twenty minutes or so later we are at the top. The area around the statue is packed with people, some lying down on mats to get a picture of the statue. Finished in 1931 at 31 meters high it’s quite a spectacle.
The views from here are even more spectacular. There is a bit of smog around in spite if it being a clear blue sky day. Condors soared in front of us floating on the rising air.
We trained back to the bottom and then drove along a ridge line with views out over parts of the city. They really know how to stack houses in around here. Favelas (illegally built houses) are plentiful here stacked together usually on the side of a mountain.
We took a stroll down the Convent stairway at Santa Teresa, created and still a work in progress by Selaron, a Chilean bloke who came there and started sticking up a few mosaic tiles and by the looks of it has got quite carried away.
From a derelict house that had speakers blurting out a weird noise we looked down on an old aqueduct, now used as a railway bridge, and a pyramid shaped cathedral.
We then headed for the cable car up to Sugarloaf, a 400m high hill. Above the base of the cable car three climbers were ascending the rock face.
There were large but fast moving queues at the cable car. The first took us to up to the first hill, once again with great views around the city. The next car took us to Sugarloaf, with more spectacular views over the many beaches. Olympic yachting was taking place out at sea
We were lucky to have our guide Rita as we would have certainly not seen all this in a day on our own. The distances here are quite deceptive with everywhere being further than it looks. Rita was also able to bypass some of the massive queues.
Mico monkeys played in a tree as we were about to catch the cable car down.