Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Unwrapping Olympic Rings At Barra Olympic Park

Tuesday in the Olympic City was much more centered. The day actually rocked!

CoSport came through with my tickets, the new Metro line to Barra Olympic Park proved clean and easy to navigate, and I finally met the amazing team of "fighters" who are my fellow Press Mixed Zone volunteers for Rio 2016.

Our debut training and venue walk through took place in and around Carioca 3 arena, site of Olympic fencing and taekwondo.

In college I tried fencing for about a week and and it was nothing like the athletic spectacle set to unfold starting this weekend. 

The press mixed zone volunteers -- a.k.a. "MX" team or (for our mostly female group) "the Mixes" (to rhyme with "The Mrs." or "The Misses" with an "ex" sound) will assist credentialed broadcast news outlets and print reporters waiting in the wings to interview Olympians following competitions.

It was fun to learn a new range of Olympic-level media relations tasks specific to the international fencing federation. And *bonus* they treated our volunteer group to lunch after handing over a gorgeous work force Swatch watch. 

Our uniforms are functional but not my first choice for shirt color -- still don't know what to name this shade of yellow (Volvo had a similar color during the early 1970s), but I do take pride in donning the official volunteer team kit.

As our team walked into Carioca 3's main floor for the first time, I started crying happy tears when the sound system swelled with Dian Schuur singing "The Man I Love" -- it wasn't so much the song but the emotion of the jazz underscoring how very happy I was to be in the Olympic element.

It was the first great day for pin trading, too -- came home with more than 40 new items including gems from conversations with Tokyo 2020's Observer Team, media from several nations and even a gorgeous St. Lucia NOC pin from an Olympic Channel volunteer, Daniella, who is my new favorite Brazilian friend (when she is not volunteering, I learned, she is a ballet and journalism student who may also be my guest for Usain Bolt's gold medal 100m final).

Off duty by 2 p.m., we were encouraged to explore all outdoor points of Barra Olympic Park, which was built on a huge delta of land facing one of Greater Rio's largest lakes.

After photographing the enormous venues for Olympic tennis, gymnastics and cycling, I spotted a curious scene unfolding at the Aquatics Center.

Beside a flatbed truck a team was offloading a set of the Olympic rings still in shrinkwrap, and a handful of journalists were having a ball, as I was, photographing and interviewing the Brazilian workers led by a European chief who explained his freelance status.
Check out this video for more details.

Also spotted at Barra Olympic Park: Two- and three-level pavilions for Nissan, Samsung, a Brazilian bank and Coca-Cola, home to Olympic pin trading set to open on Saturday.

I shook hands with a Maryland-based Associated Press photographer, an IOC staff liaison for Toyota, and numerous fellow volunteers who enjoyed our special sneak peek of the site sans crowds (definitely a "calm before the storm" feeling).

Before returning to Ipanema for the evening, I stumbled into Carioca 1 and got to stand on the corner of the main basketball court as one of the team medals stands -- likely to be occupied by WNBA and NBA players in 2.5 weeks -- was moved into place for measurements.

Looking forward to Rio's slam dunks on many Olympic fronts.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver


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