Alan Worrall continues to share his Rio 2016 experience: First of all, thanks to everyone who have enjoyed and commented on part 1 of my Olympic experience. I hope by doing these series of my Olympic journey that the reader may in some way experience what it is like to attend an Olympic Games.
Now let’s get back to the action: The commencement of the Athletics programme traditionally starts on the second Friday of the Games. So we headed to the Olympic Stadium which was located approximately 1 hour north of where I was staying in downtown Rio. The stadium was located in the Copacabana zone along with the famous Maracanã stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. It was in the Maracanã where the Olympic flame was lit. So on entering the Havalange stadium it felt a bit strange not having the Olympic flame. The outskirts of the stadium were located in a suburban part of Rio which did lack an atmosphere and only later the following week did the locals show any interest with what was going on by hosting street party’s and music in the background. The stadium itself was quite compact, a bit unlike the Aviva with high stands on both sides and some additional temporary seating on the bends. The first morning of the Athletics programme traditionally is the commencement of the sprints, women’s heptathlon etc. For these games it was decided to run a number of finals in the morning. So that morning we were treated to the women’s 10,000 metres. No Irish athletes running in this race. The British had 3 athletes including the evergreen Jo Pavey who was competing in her 5 straight Olympic games at the grand old age of 42. Jo is a true inspiration and ran her heart out and was one of the few athletes not to be lapped. On that first morning we had our first world record and over the next 9 days there was to be a total of 3 records and numerous Olympic records set.
On the negative side the high number of empty seats was a sign that these games were going to a bit different. The new women’s Olympic campion over 10,000 metres in a new world record was Almaz Ayana who knocked 14 seconds of the old record set back in 1993 by Wang Junxia. The front running of the Ethiopian girl was a sight to behold beating one of the greats
in Tirunesh Diaba in the process. The closing morning session we were treated to an excellent high jump competition involving the women athletes in the Hepthalon.
As in previous Games I try to see some other sports Rio would be no exception. So on the Saturday morning I made the long journey to see the Golf. If Rory or Jim Spieth weren’t going this Harrier was. After getting lost on the Metro and 3 train changes plus a bus ride I got to the Golf venue beyond Barra. A ticket was purchased and I was in. The first golfer I spotted was the American Bubba Watson, closely followed by Matt Kucher and in the distance Padraig Harrington. I decided to follow Irelands Seamus Power up to the 9th hole. Seamus played like a true professional and it was pleasing to see a tight group of Irish supporters giving him support. I meet the Irish Golfing Legend Paul Mc Ginley on the way around. After that following the golf till 3 p.m. I headed back, this time no dramas and back for the evening track session.
Sunday 14th August the women’s Marathon. I was on a winner here as the marathon passed by the Hotel 6 times. It was also a fabulous morning for the spectators not the runners. We had 3 representatives in Fionnula Mc Cormack, Leevales Lizzie Lee and Briege Connolly. It would be fair to say the girls did us proud in very testing conditions. Briege in particular was enjoying every moment. Well-done girls.
As highlighted in my first post on the website going to a sporting event where you share a common interest with others is a great ice breaker. Some of the people I meet were as follows. Barry Robinson from England. Barry attended his first Olympics in Melbourne in 1956. He travelled by sea which took 5 weeks, spent 4 weeks in Melbourne and 5 weeks to get home.
He also went to Rome in 1960 and saw the greatly missed Cassius Clay box. The Olympic bug brought Barry to Tokyo in 64, Mexico in 68 and Munich in 72 and 28 years later Sydney in 2000. Barry is 82 years old and went to every morning and evening session and the stories and time we spent together were an absolute pleasure. Hats off to you Barry.
I also meet a lovely American couple Tom and Carol Ecker from Iowa. Tom is an Olympic Historian and lectures on the Olympics and is a writer with a very much quirky take on life and sport. Like Barry, Tom Olympics stretch back to the sixties. He regaled me with stories seeing Beamon in 68, Black power also in 68 and the Munich and Montreal Games.
It was also great to run into some Irish supporters and friends of athletics in the form of Noreen Keane, Eric Hayward and the great Sean Callan.
On Monday 15th August I went to the Sugar Loaf Mountain and to see Rio in full glory. The views were out of this world.
Forget to mention Mo Farah won the 10,000 and Usian Bolt won his 3rd 100 metre title. The crowds in the stadium on these night were well supported. Unfortunately, this was not case for other sessions.
Christ the Redeemer somewhere in the fog.
In the company of an Irish Marathon legend.
Thomas Barr in the men’s 400 metres Hurdles.
The men’s marathon.