Letters From Rio: Bug Spray Yes, Luggage No

Aug 3, 2016 - 11:19 AM
Bug repellent. Check. Photo by Mollie Bailey

Hi everyone,

Great news: Yesterday I arrived in Rio safely a few days ahead of the start of the Olympic Games. I’ve had my fair share of excitement along the way, namely that my flight from Washington D.C. to Miami was 2½ hours delayed, so I landed on one side of the U-shaped Miami airport five minutes after my flight to Rio started boarding from the other side of the U.

So I did my best Usain Bolt impression and arrived just before the doors closed.

This was especially lucky as there were no other seats on flights to Rio on any major airline until Aug. 7. Had I missed the flight I would have had to wait a day, then fly on Copa—the Wintec of Latin American airlines—via Bolivia. As much as I do like fun passport stamps, I wasn’t in the mood to get another.

I met photographer Shannon Brinkman and president of the Olympic eventing ground jury Marilyn Payne at the airport, then went through the usual shenanigans—getting Olympic accreditation sorted, filing a report for my lost checked bag that didn’t make my tight connection, admiring the travel outfits of the Azerbaijani wrestlers and Bermudan rhythmic gymnasts.

Marilyn, I’m guessing, was whisked away and is hopefully getting some VIP treatment. Shannon and I found a bus to the press center to check in.

More good news: there’s bug repellent in our welcome bags! This is especially helpful because as of this morning my bag still hasn’t arrived, so bug spray is one thing I won’t have to buy.

Whew. Thank goodness my cut-out of Jimmy Wofford was in my carry-on. 

It took a few hours for Shannon and I to get our ducks in a row at the press center—lots of websites to register for and places to check in—and we were finishing up just in time for a press conference with the dressage riders at the press center.

I have never seen Steffen Peters in a warm-up jacket—until today.

I was the only member of the equestrian press there, and there were about 15 other members of the general sports media as well as a reporter from Wellington who had plenty of questions for the ¾ of the dressage team who spends the season there. The riders were fantastic at talking to the non-horsey press on their terms (“You’re right, it is kind of like the relationship you have with your dog”) and general interest questions.

The dressage horses all arrived safe and healthy from Belgium yesterday morning, and everyone—Steffen, Allison Brock, Kasey Perry-Glass and Laura Graves—seemed visibly relieved. Steffen said that the facilities here are as good as any at his previous four Olympic Games, with big stalls for the horses and plenty of room.

Tomorrow I’m signed up to tour the barns and the cross-country course, so we’ll see what photos we can get from there.

Shannon and I travel well together—we’ve been doing it since 2007—and she kindly offered to let me crash at her apartment till before Lindsay gets in tomorrow to complete Team Chronicle and the two of us move to the venue hotel.

It’s starting to look a lot like the Olympic Games!

So with Shannon’s many bags of camera gear (and my woefully pathetic computer bag and tiny backpack) we navigated the huge bus depot and got to her rented apartment. One problem: no one there was expecting us.

Thus began a multi-hour calling pattern with the rental agency, with them promising time and again that someone was on the way over to bring a key. In the meantime Shannon and I befriended a gaggle of children in the apartment complex, all of whom were eager to ask about living in the United States and show off their roller-blading skills.

Two different parents saw their kids surrounding us and came over to check out what the gringas were doing there, and each of them, separately, called the rental agency to give them a piece of their own mind then invited us to spend the night with their families.

This is why I love Brazil: I’ve been coming here since I lived here in 2005 and every time the people are so fantastic and helpful. 

Eventually I connected with the guy from the rental agency who took us a block away to where our apartment actually was (never mind the address on our booking form nor our multiple conversations).

Her neighborhood is great: very safe with a shopping center around the corner, where she bought groceries for the week ahead, I bought a toothbrush and deodorant, and we both got açai, my favorite Brazilian treat.

Olympic fever has definitely taken over the town. Volunteers are everywhere and eager to talk about their experiences (no one seems to have received any training) and the grocery store was full of foreigners sounding out words like “obrigado” (thank you).

We chatted with one volunteer who was at Greenwich in 2012 for the Games, and I met another Brazilian volunteer who knows and loves the Chronicle. “You’re like Horse & Hound, right?” Right.

We’ve spent the morning working, and I’ve been itemizing everything in my suitcase on the airline website. Luckily I brought everything I need to actually report on the Games on my back and mostly just had clothes in my bag save one important thing: pins.

As you know, I personally have a rocky history with pins as currency at these major international championships, and I’ve already given away the four emergency pins I had stuffed in my computer bag.

I would ask Lindsay to bring more pins on her flight, but unfortunately I have stuffed every Chronicle pin left in existence into that one lonely bag, lost somewhere between here and Miami. I will have to come up with another creative way to smooth the path to getting things done down here, possibly continuing with my English-Portuguese-Spanish translation services, which have already been in demand.

Thanks once again for the opportunity to come to the Games. I’m really excited to represent the magazine and see the amazing sport. I’ll write soon with more updates.


Mollie Bolt Bailey

Mollie Bailey’s in Rio de Janeiro reporting on the Olympic Games for the Chronicle alongside coworker Lindsay Berreth. Make sure to follow all their shenanigans at the COTH Olympic Games page.


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