From running into roving packs of Canadians, meeting the people who’ve helped the athletes we admire get to where they are and seeing the real Rio, here are the absolute best parts of our trip to the Olympics.
Yesterday was my last day in Rio, and I was so sad to leave. It has been amazing watching the best athletes in the world compete with one another—and more importantly, have fun (ahem, Andre De Grasse and Usain Bolt, whose 200m final last night was pretty amazing), break records and do more than they thought they could. But just being in Rio has been so wonderful, too. Before I left, I heard a lot of comments about potential dangers and how to stay safe and, though I was pretty sure my usual travel precautions would be more than enough, it was hard not to be a little bit nervous. But as it turns out, I didn’t need to be worried at all—the city was clean and felt very safe, the locals were friendly (and so patient with my atrocious Portuguese!). I had a great time. In fact, here’s what I liked best:
1. Being part of Team Canada
I loved walking around with my Canadian gear on; whenever a volunteer at one of the venues saw our group, they’d start chanting “Ca-na-da! Ca-na-da!” Running into other groups of Canadians cheering in the stands, or even just walking down the street, meant an instant connection with complete strangers. And getting to check out Canada Olympic House (pictured, above), a Canuck clubhouse for the friends and family of our Olympians, was actually a little trippy. The work of Toronto design firm Yabu Pushelberg, it felt like a cottage transplanted to Rio—Muskoka chairs, a red and white palette and even faux grass and strings of Edison bulbs gave a distinctly Canadian vibe.
2. Seeing some famous, and not-so-famous sights
The first non-Olympic thing I asked to do was see Christ the Redeemer, as I’ve maybe mentioned before? And that was definitely cool. As was checking out Ipanema Beach (as in, “The Girl From…”), and the famous mosaic steps in Lapa (above).
But our guide, Felipe, also showed us some amazing, off the beaten path attractions, like an old mansion that leads to its own private forest; apparently, it’s up for sale. Anyone have $6 million to spare?
Rio’s also a city with amazing street art. We drove through Santa Teresa, a gorgeous neighbourhood close to Rio's downtown core, and every street was packed with gorgeous colonial architecture—which was often covered in graffiti. Even if you don’t love this very modern art, the juxtaposition of past and present was striking.
3. Meeting our Olympians, and their families and friends
I felt very lucky to hang out with Olympians Rose MacLennan and Brianne Theisen-Eaton, to watch Mark Oldershaw compete (pictured, above) alongside his wife, Annamay (a former Olympian herself), baby daughter, Josephine, and mom, Connie Lee, and to hang out with Andre De Grasse’s mom, Beverley, and other family and friends several times over the past few days. It can be easy to forget the massive support system that our athletes have, from loved ones to coaches, doctors and therapists. But there are tons of people who help our athletes make it to the Olympics, and excel once they’re there—and they’re pretty inspiring, too.