Olympic Rio – reflections and emotions

Olympic Rio – reflections

Tears of joy and disappointment!

This post was ready for the beginning of the week but we have had significant connection problems this week so it has been frustrating not being able to publish it. Hope you get to read it soon! Keith.

So, the show`s over. At least for a couple of weeks until the Paralympics takes centre stage – and all our house visitors have left, for a while anyway. So I thought I might have time to jot down a few reflections – personal views of how it seemed here instead of there (wherever you are, dear reader.)

On the negative side, the most disappointing thing for me was that, having organised for several visitors to come to Brazil, it meant missing my god-daughter`s wedding in Blighty, so this set of reflections comes with a special hug for Sarah (sounds as though you managed to have a good time without me there, anyway! Best wishes from Brazil!)

There were lots of pluses, too, of course. Not least were our three sets of visitors – one family group from Italy who saw our ad on the Homestay site and left us a lovely reference for possible future visitors from that source*; then the daughter of good friends back in UK and her husband, Polly and Paul, who were going on to Iguassu Falls before returning to England`s mists and mellow fruitfulness; and then my great-nephew and his wife, Tom and Lauren, who have gone off to the Amazon for a week in the jungle before spending another few days with us on their way back home.

We have certainly given the local padaria (bread-shop) some good business for our breakfast rolls and cakes over the last fortnight or so. The lady behind the counter looked at me askance this morning when I only asked for two bread rolls and no cake! The padaria has only opened recently, so I guess she thought we simply had a large family!!

The visits overlapped ever-so slightly but with late night events and early airport runs our visitors saw very little of each other! Our Italian visitors` 12 year old son, Gregori, is the Italian fencing champion for his age group, so all of their tickets were for Esgrima (“fencing”, of course!), where I gather they saw at least one Italian win his gold medal. So we are now hoping for an invitation to the Rome Olympics in 2024, if Rome and Italy win their bid for the 33rd Olympiad and Gregori continues winning his matches!

One thing that struck me particularly this time was the massive contrast between the time it takes for each gold medal to be won. So, Usain Bolt`s 100 metres Gold took less than one minute to win even including the heats and semi-finals compared to Andy Murray`s four hour final, not counting the previous rounds. And contrast Brazilian Rafaela Silva`s gold medal for Judo in just a few minutes and Justin Rose`s Golfing gold over four days’ worth of golf. Please do not get me wrong, I am not valuing them differently at all, nor doubting the effort required over the years to put yourself in the position to win, but the contrast seemed somehow more noticeable this time around.

Clearly the emotional investment must be incredible, given the open displays of emotion this year. It certainly seems to have generated a lot of teary displays of joy (and, sadly, many disappointments too!) Fatima teases me sometimes about my own `emotional incontinence`, but I find it moving to see (and feel) the overt emotion of others. I am not sure whether the showing of emotion – in sport, particularly – is greater these days, or whether I am simply noticing it more as I get older. The old-fashioned British `stiff upper lip` now quivers much more than it did of yore, but that is probably a good thing overall, showing that we humans may be capable of showing empathy more than we used to, perhaps?

Brasiliera, Rafaela Silva, was obviously pleased because she had come so close to gold in London four years ago but was then disqualified over an apparently illegal move. She nearly gave up after that, but all her hard work paid off in the end and she is now a star here in Brazil. Indeed, so many of the heart-warming stories here are about Brazilian athletes overcoming adversity and lack of facilities to emerge as stars in their home country. Let us hope there is a positive legacy effect here benefitting the next generation of hopefuls. Given the dire economic and political situation I have to admit to a few doubts on that score.

The emotion even seems to have extended to the weather here in Rio, too. The news broadcasts here all suggested that the heavy rain on the last day, was Rio crying because the show was over! I wonder?

We managed to get tickets to three events over the last few days. First to the men`s Hockey Bronze final on Thursday, the women`s football Gold final on Friday evening and the evening athletics on Saturday, featuring Mo Farrah`s 5000 metre Gold medal and the medal ceremony for Usain Bolt`s third triple event. It felt an historic day to be there, certainly!

It was, in fact, the first time I had ever been to a major athletics event and I was particularly struck by the fact that it seemed so “busy”. Partly I guess because one gets to see all that`s going on in a way you don`t get to see on TV. For example, I particularly enjoyed the little remote control truck they used to transport the thrown javelins back to the throwing area. We were sitting in the first level right behind the Javelin throwing runway, so had an excellent view of all the action there – much less so of the women`s high jump the other end of the arena.

Talking of the javelin, my heart went out to Julius Yego of Kenya who was in first place for most of the throwing rounds after his own first throw of over 88 metres. Then, on his fifth throw out of six, he twisted his knee and was wheeled from the stadium in a wheelchair. A few minutes later the German thrower, Thomas Rohler threw an immense 90.3 metres on his fifth round throw, but, of course, poor old Yego was in no position to be able to respond, he was having his knee bound with a large ice-bag, so he ended up with just the silver medal for his pains (literally!)

The particularly interesting aspect of all this is that Yego is `self-taught` in Kenya from YouTube videos and there is a tribute from YouTube to him at https://t.co/SlEFMAil3G He must be especially frustrated  because he has thrown more than Rohler`s winning throw when he was at the Beijing Athletics meet in 2015 (Throwing the third longest distance ever at 92.72 metres – also on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-WzkDor3ew )

Inevitably he received a very warm welcome back when he limped into the stadium again later as the medal ceremony approached, but “what might have been?” He was smiling broadly as he returned, but it would not be a surprise if his emotions got the better of him in the quiet of the night.  Hey-ho – that, I guess, is life, more or less; as they say here “Vida, mais ou menos!”.

We were also delighted to witness the British women taking a bronze medal in the 4 x 400m relay and they seemed really pleased as it may have been only an outside chance – they also received a warm welcome amongst the many Brits here at the athletics as they circulated on their lap of honour (something else you rarely get to see in full on TV.

On a slightly different note, another `first` for me was the first time I travelled on a Brazilian train (when we went to the hockey match last week) and I have to say it was something of a culture shock. I have previously mentioned the numbers of itinerant traders on the beaches of Brazil, and at busy road blockages during `rush` hours, but I didn`t realise they also populated the public train system. It all started off as we set off from Central Station, with a couple of guys selling popcorn and/or sweets from boxes bought at a Macro wholesale and sold off as individual packets. They announced their wares quite volubly as they walked up and down the length of the train through the carriages.

Then came the guy with one leg and his crutch. He had decided to outdo his competitors by having a headphone/mic attached to a loudspeaker hung around his neck – heavens, that was loud! By this time I was starting to feel my personal space was being invaded, but the procession had only just started. More men and some women offering varieties of health bars, small packs of sweets, cold drinks, crisps, chewing gum and so on and so on. The most ”professional” of these entrepreneurs had their wares attached to a small pole or rope which had a hook at the end which they hung over the hanging frame for standing passengers as they each shouted their presence. This meant they had two hands available for financial transactions.

I am not quite sure how they organised their activity through the carriages but there was only one shouting nearby at any one time but you could always hear the next one approaching. A sort of continuously flowing cacophony! Then, interspersed with the food and drink came a couple of religious guys, one supposedly a pastor of his church and the other dressed in a flamboyant white uniform with aubergine stripes around cuffs of sleeves and trousers and a flashy aubergine badge of some kind on his shoulder.

They both handed out slips of paper declaring their interest (one was about a women`s refuge apparently and the other bit of paper I did not see.) They each spent a few minutes walking up and down the carriage telling (preaching) a detailed tale, before seeking cash and retrieving their bits of paper. At least that bit was environmentally friendly and economical for them!

More food and drink, then the entrance of a guy with an amplifier around his neck walking up and down the carriage playing samba music rather loudly for about four or five minutes. I was beginning to think this was purely a form of entertainment, but he then turned the music off and made a hard pitch to sell CDs secreted about his person and offered MP3 versions as well. He didn`t appear to make a sale in our carriage but, by heck, he was loud!

The last person before we got off the train was an older woman with a modest sized shopping bag offering a huge selection of drinks and crisps and snacks, but if she actually had even only one of everything she announced, her bag would have been much bigger and bulging at the seams, so at least some of her offerings must have been `off the menu` if she had been stopped by a potential customer. And none of her drinks could have been as cold as advertised, since she had no thermal box, as had some of the drinks sellers.

Most of the items were either “One Real” each (just over 20 pence at current exchange rate) or “Two Reals each, Three for Five” or “Three Reals each, or Two for Five”. Some entrepreneurs may have had as much as R$ 300 (around £70) hanging on their hooks, perhaps half of which would be profit and it seems they simply ride back and forth along the train line all day long. One has to admire their entrepreneurial determination to make an honest living, but I do have to say it was noisy a large proportion of the time we were on the train – no “Quiet Carriage” here! To my English ears it was highly intrusive but I guess you learn to `zone it out` if you travel regularly.

*Here is the original “five-heart reference” from the Homestay site, in Italian, together with translation…

Ci siamo trovati benissimo persone veramente squisite che cercano sempre di risolvere ogni tuo minimo problema…ottima colazione ambiente confortevole.

We found really lovely people always seeking to solve your slightest problem … excellent breakfast; comfortable environment.


About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
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