Monday, August 1, 2016

Adjusting to Carioca Pace; Chatting w/Matt Lauer

Sunday and Monday were designated catch-up days in the Olympic City. I had some lingering client work to tend to, affording less time for exploration.

Fortunately, there was still time for shorter adventures.

It's been tricky for me to adjust to the slower pace of Carioca life. Everything seems to take twice or three-times as long as it could or should. It's not as bad as the pace in Athens, Greece (where far less seems likely to be accomplished), but the simplest of tasks drive me to the brink. 

For instance, my favorite camera of all time inexplicably broke on Friday. Quick fix, right? Easy to replace in one of the world's biggest cities?

Photo NOT taken with preferred Sony Cyber-shot DSC RX100
Not so in Rio, where I visited more than 10 "camera stores" only to find photo processing or discount frames but not a single point-and-shoot device. 

After many hours of inquiries, I was directed to a beautiful but remote-for-tourists upscale shopping mall and came across a camera or two, but nothing on par with the wish-list replacement. Who would have thought "no cameras for sale in Brazil?" 

Also faced challenges at the CoSport ticket center, where I expected to arrive and walk away with my remaining Olympic tickets in 10 minutes tops (that's how it worked in London and Sochi). 

Not so at the Rio processing, where there's an emphasis on processing to the tune of 1.5 hour or more wait times. We're talking old-school clip boards and runners hustling in and out of an office tower in search of ticket packets. This was ridiculous! And to top it all, I have to go back later this week to get some of the tickets they did not have the option to prepare since May purchase dates. Frustrating. 

I could not resist laughing and poking fun at the CoSport signage (see photo) in what was later nicknamed the "room of disappointments" (this writer was neither the first nor last to invest hours for the CoSport ticket pickup only to be given news of delay and many unhappy returns).

Looking for positives, however, I did find some essentials on my shopping list. At the mall a small Official Rio 2016 Olympic Store came into view, and they had a men's XL polo shirt long-since sold-out at the Copacabana Megastore. 

Bonus, also found an Intimissimi shop to buy new undershorts, an Olympic tradition since the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics in the company's home country. 

And at CoSport, a savvy customer service professional kindly offered to provide periodic updates via email to reassure me the tickets would be ready mid-week. Breathing easier. 

Later, at the Rio 2016 ticket office, their volunteers eagerly handed my tickets and posed all sorts of questions about arriving to the city. Good energy. Feeling better. 

The evening brought a nice surprise of running into Olympin patriarch Don Bigsby showcasing his wares to curious potential pin collectors. Don really enjoys teaching children about the hobby and it was fun to see him in his element while interacting with families.

Also met my first pair of Olympians at this Games: Two female sailors from Slovenia.

We chatted about their practice runs in the harbor (yes, there is pollution) and how they are getting acclimated to South America (they arrived July 25 and all is well). 

They told me they are medal contenders for their boat class and I presented them with blog pins. So cool! 

Across the street at an upscale hotel, I stopped to ask the concierge for directions and wound up having a conversation with NBC's Hoda Kotb, who introduced herself and asked how my Rio adventure was unfolding so far (she is one super lady). 

Moments later we were joined by "The TODAY Show" host Matt Lauer sporting white slacks and casual dinner attire.

I asked if he recalled meeting for a brief interview in Louisville on the day of Muhammad Ali's memorial service

Matt Lauer (center right) hits the town.
Not surprising, Lauer did not recall the early-summer introduction, but he did briefly comment on his other experiences from that day in Kentucky before the Rio anchor duo dove into an awaiting town car bound for dinner reservations.

It all happened so fast there was barely time to snap a photo. 

Bumping into Lauer did remind me to locate the audio from our conversation in Louisville, and here's a transcript of that June 10, 2016, interview:

Wolaver: Mr. Lauer, I write and Olympic news website in Atlanta. Do you mind if I ask a question while your taking these selfies (with fans)?

Matt Lauer in Louisville June 10
Lauer: Let me do it now when I'm not taking selfies. 

Wolaver: How many times did you have an occasion to meet Muhammad Ali?

Lauer: Many, many times, probably 25 times. He was on the show all the time, and I would come down here to do events at the Ali Center. Lani is a good friend. I love their family and I am grieving with their family but I think this is a great day to be able to really celebrate his life. 

Wolaver: Where were you when you learned the news of Ali's passing?

Lauer: I was home. We were getting ready to go on the air. We knew it was grave last Friday night and so we were sitting at home in touch with the family and got the call a little after midnight. I've been really very pleased at the outpouring of love and respect that I've seen for him over the last five or six days.

Wolaver: With the news of your colleague and Zika, how are you feeling about your trip to Rio?

Lauer: I'm looking forward to it. I completely understand Savannah's reasons for not going. I think that's smart for her, but we've got a great team going, we've been planning for it for a long time and Rio should put on a great show.

(Note: Savannah Guthrie had just announced her pregnancy and passing on Rio a day before this Lauer conversation.)

Wolaver: Got some pins to trade yet?

Lauer: Haven't gotten 'em yet -- I usually get those a few weeks before.

Here in Rio I was so surprised by the chance meeting there was not time to offer Kotb or Lauer a trade.

Next time!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

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