Thursday, July 29, 2010

Better Know An N.O.C -- Paraguay

It's been too long since the last post of a "B.K.A.N.O.C." -- Better Know An N.O.C.

This entry is for South America's national Olympic committee for landlocked Paraguay, which is nestled amid Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia.

A few years ago I experienced Paraguay first hand, first entering from Brazil via Ciudad del Este, terrified because our taxi did not stop at the border crossing on the Paraguay side of a large arch bridge (some travel books warn that Ciudad del Este is about the least-safe city in South America). Fortunately when we finally stopped the cab and walked back to the bridge, the crossing guard laughed and instructed us to "just go back" to Brazil. Whew! We carried our backpacks while some of the locals carried parcels of goodness knows what.

At any rate, a few days later, had a more relaxed entry into Paraguay at the southern border town Encarnacion, which is a fun little metropolis. It was interesting to see an early 1900s locomotive -- a real one -- in operation (on about a quarter mile of track) on one corner of town. Our "downtown" Encarnacion hotel was $4 per night. Great food at the town square, and the sushi restaurant beside the bus depot!

But back to Paraguay's N.O.C. and Olympic connections.

Paraguay entered the Olympic Family in 1968 with a single foil Olympic fencing competitor at Mexico City, and Paraguay fielded a team at each summer Olympiad since (except 1980 as the nation joined the U.S.-led boycott of Moscow's Games). Paraguay has just one medal -- silver in the 2004 Athens football (soccer) finals against Argentina.

I won't soon forget Paraguay's track and field entrant at Athens and Beijing (and I hope London): Olympic javelin would not be the same without Paraguay's Leryn Franco hurling Paraguay's Olympic dreams across the Olympic Stadium grounds every four years.

After a night in Encarnacion, my girlfriend, her sister and I took a jalopy bus to Asuncion, which is also an interesting metropolis and home to the Paraguay Olympic Committee. Some of the friendliest people in South America are in Asuncion, and we were impressed with the historic architecture.

I'll be rooting for Paraguay at London 2012 (their team at the 2010 World Cup did well; expect good things in the U.K. competition.

Photo via this Flickr account

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