I’ve reached Rio in one piece but the only trouble is, my bag hasn’t! I’m not the only one; unfortunately those of us on the Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires who then caught the connecting flight to Rio are all in the same predicament. That includes IOC member and past New Zealand Chef de Mission, Barry Maister, as well as some lovely young members of the sailing team, a team manager and some coaches.
We were assured that the bags would follow closely behind us, but this morning that news has been updated to bag arrival time of about 9 o’clock tonight. Let’s hope they will be delivered to our accommodation as promised. Just as well I packed a few spare clothes and the essentials. Well… most of them; I don’t have the insect repellent with me (yet) or any of my nice new NZ Horse & Pony polo shirts.
The flight was great, with the added bonus of meeting Jean and Rob Johnstone (parents of Clarke) at Auckland airport. Jean was cool and collected but as she started spotting various other New Zealand Olympians in their uniforms (which look a lot smarter in real life than in the photos), you could see her excitement levels rising and she raced off to meet as many as she could. One very proud Mum, and while he didn’t show it, an equally proud father. As they have a night or two in Buenos Aires en route, the Johnstones hopefully didn’t have the bag issues the rest of us did.
Another big bonus was the successful upgrade to Pacific Class (in between Business and Economy) thanks to my Airpoints! I had more leg room and had the honour of sitting next to Dr Dave Gerard. He was the New Zealand Chef de Mission at the Atlanta Olympics and has very fond memories of the eventing competition at those Games, listing Blyth and Sally’s success as one of the highlights for him. He is now involved in the medical side, and is working out at the sailing venue.
After spending the night at an airport hotel (convenient and very nice), I was back to the airport to try to track down my bag, and hook into the Rio transport. It was chaotic and those wanting to get on the media bus were told to wait in one spot, which was right in the path of arriving people. A group was also protesting about something, although while you could hear them clearly thanks to the megaphones, I had no idea of what they were saying, as I don’t speak Portuguese. I saw more guns (and soldiers and police) today than I have seen in the last ten years, I think! I’m not a gun expect but there are some serious-looking ones at various places. I wasn’t keen on taking a photo of anyone with a gun…
Eventually we were plucked out of that human traffic jam and hustled on to a bus to hit another traffic jam but an enterprising policeman managed to get the bus through into the ‘Olympic lanes’ and we whizzed past about 10km of backed-up traffic, arriving at the Main Press Centre in good time.
I’ve ended up spending most of the day so far there. I’ve got my super-fast internet connection (USD$175 for the entirety of the Games, thank you very much), got the internet connection working properly (thanks to photo manager Michelle for her fabulous help), and having seen the queues for the food at the media canteen I resorted to muesli bars from the supermarket, which luckily also sold adapters that I could use.
I then ran into John Kyle (FEI commentator) and Grania Willis, press relations manager for FEI and an old friend. She’s an awesome woman who, just after the Athens Olympics, became the first Irish woman to reach the summit of Mt Everest!
Not long after Grania and I had a good catch-up, in walk the familiar faces of fellow Kiwis Di Dobson and (about 10 minutes behind her) Libby Law. Di reckons she has a huge amount of clothing thanks to getting the full NZOC uniform (she is working as press attache for them), so if my bag doesn’t turn up, I may start putting some pressure on her to share some… It’s not like I could even begin to imagine any of Libby Law’s outfits being any use to me!
I’ve just about done my dash at the MPC. The rest of the Games will be spent at the media centre at Deodoro. I’m heading out there soon to check into the media accommodation where I am staying and get my first look at the equestrian venue.
My first impressions of Rio in the daylight are positive. Yes, the rivers we saw on the journey out to Barra were disgusting, and some of the housing was quite ‘different’ from even the worst of New Zealand housing. There is also is a lot of obviously very recently done work, such as the squares of green grass which have only just been laid along the road, and there is a lot of work still going on, like the frantic painting of murals.
But I am pleased to report that while it might appear a bit chaotic to start with, most things are working. Looking forward to catching up with the riders and horses soon.