Fort Mill Times

An Olympic vacation scores golden time in Rio for Lake Wylie family

The Blakes - Bob, Teresa and daughter Taylor - in Rio for the Summer Olympics.
The Blakes - Bob, Teresa and daughter Taylor - in Rio for the Summer Olympics. COURTESY OF THE BLAKES

Our journey to the Olympics in Rio started 15 months before the games began, with the cumbersome process of entering our ticket requests in the Olympic lottery website. Ticket request applications had to be entered by May 4, 2015, to attend the Rio games.

After perusing the website’s list of events, we selected and paid for 15 desired events. A few weeks later, we were notified we were chosen to attend, but were given only four of our 15 desired event tickets.

Since our daughter, Taylor, is on the Clover High School varsity volleyball team, we were heading to Rio to see a lot of court and beach volleyball. Fortunately in March, the International Olympic Committee released another round of tickets, and we added a number of beach volleyball matches to our list of events.

We arrived a day before the games began, so we spent our first afternoon on Corcovado Mountain. Although the views were spectacular, the real prize was a short ride farther up the mountain, under the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer and it’s gape-jawed view of iconic Sugarloaf. We lingered long enough to catch a spectacular sunset.

Though we enjoyed so many sights and events, our favorite activity was beach volleyball. In particular, the game between Brazil’s No. 1 team and USA’s No. 2 team.

Although our team lost, the vibe was incredible. During every time out or stop in the action, frenetic Samba kicked in and the stadium’s dance team led the crowd in crazy hip-shaking moves. No surprise. Brazilians love to dance.

Our rented condo was half a block from Copacabana Beach and the beach volleyball stadium. We lounged on the crescent of golden sand and strolled the Copacabana Beach promenade, overflowing with kids from the favelas and tourists from seemingly every corner of the globe. When we had a little down time, we ventured away from the beach and wandered like locals, stumbling upon a hidden gem of a restaurant or stopping in a cozy neighborhood grocery store to get a taste of what life is really like in Rio.

With all the dire warnings about public transportation, we decided to use taxis and Uber. Uber was excellent - the most convenient way to buzz around town to the different venues - and typically half the cost of the metered taxis. In addition, Uber drivers were in their mid-20s and attempted to interact with us, though the language barrier was at times insurmountable. Occasionally our Uber ride would take us along a portion of a main road that skirted the edge of a favela. At night our drivers didn’t stop at those red lights. They carefully rolled through - too dangerous.

Though it was winter in Rio, temperatures were in the upper 70s to mid 80s - a nice break from the intense August heat here in Lake Wylie. Despite all the fear mongering leading up to the Olympics, we didn’t see a mugger, a protester or a single mosquito.

Instead we found warm-hearted Cariocas (residents of Rio) eager to interact with the throngs of visitors invading their tropical oasis.