The Olympics

Jody's Story - part 1

The Olympics – Jody’s Story – part 1

Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Friday, August 5, 2016

Now those people that know me, know that I am not a massive sports fan. This is probably down to when I was growing up, my dad had virtually back to back sport on tv all day every day. Yes I’ve probably had enough sport to last me a lifetime. Having said that I do love to get out on a horse and I have a huge passion for F1.

But in 2012, Bryan got us tickets to the Super Saturday athletics event where Mo Farrah smashed the world record to win 1500mts and Usain Bolt also beat his own world record in the 200mt sprint.

That was such a great day with such a fantastic atmosphere that it gave me a taste to see a bit more.

So when we were setting off on this our second around the world adventure and Bryan suggested ending the trip with a stopover in Rio to be volunteers at the Olympic Games there, then of course I said why not!

at the Rio offices

at the Rio offices

So 2 years ago our volunteer journey started and we sent in our application. Since then we have completed on-line test after on-line test, had interviews over skype and watched countless training videos all in preparation.

The main difficulty we have faced in this whole process has been the computer systems the Olympics uses. Tests were very badly written – eg tests designed to check our understanding of English and grammar were full of grammatical mistakes that rendered the questions very difficult to understand in the first place. Some just didn’t make sense at all. You would get an email saying go and do such and such on the Volunteer’s web portal, and there would be nothing there. Or when you got there it was all in Portuguese so you couldn’t understand it.

Arrgghh! The frustration we have had with it – ATOS who write it all need sacking!

But despite all that, here we are… In Rio at last.

My process to get here hasn’t been as straightforward as Bryan’s even though I received my offer letter and job role ages before Bryan. Why?

Well it goes back to ATOS and their awful computer system again.

the first Rio store at the offices

the first Rio store at the offices

When you receive your job role offer, you have 6 days to respond or the job goes back in the pot again and you have to wait for the next job.

I had applied for Transport which initially I had hoped would mean I would get an air conditioned car to drive around Rio in. I didn’t care if I would be driving athletes, officials, sandwiches or traffic cones, I just fancied the idea of driving stuff around.

So in December 2015 I received the email in which I was offered ‘Transport at Maracanã Stadium’ which i accepted (in the given time frame). A few days later I mentioned to Bryan that I had done this. ‘oh let me see’ he said as he wanted to know what it would look like.

To our surprise my status on my portal hadn’t changed – it still said ‘position offered’. So we went back through the process and accepted the role again. Knowing we had done it exactly properly, we thought oh well maybe it takes a while to come through.

So imagine my horror when my status reverted to ‘application under review’. I called them straightaway and told them what had happened and they reassured me my application was accepted it’s just that I would now have to wait for another position to be offered. This was going to be a long old road!

special Olympic lanes

special Olympic lanes

Well first the weeks and then the months went passed and nothing changed despite periodic calls and emails to their helpdesk. On the Facebook page we belong to we knew I was not the only one in this position so we decided the best way forward was to sort it out in Rio itself, face to face with a real person.

Once here in Rio. we took a trip to the Olympic Offices and even met with some nice people there who assured me they would send me an email within the week. Did I get an email? Nooooo. Of course not – this is Brasil and nothing happens when they say it will here.

Well, as we have documented in a previous entry, I went to the Uniform and Accreditation Centre with Bryan when he went to get his uniform and I met with the wonderful Luiz whom within just 30 minutes had my position rolling along nicely.  He got it all sorted out for me even though it meant switching from Transport (yellow uniforms for operational areas) to Team Green – Event Services ie working with the public in the Velodrome.

Oh this was going to be fun!

the wonderful Luiz

the wonderful Luiz

I got an appointment come through on my portal for some ‘face to face training’. I got myself across the city and up to the 9th floor of the building where I was greeted by a lovely Brasilian lady. She spoke English but told me the next 4 ½ hours was all going to be in Portuguese with no translation available. Oh joy!

Well it doesn’t surprise me to be honest but she gave me a quick 10 minute run-though in English of what was going to be covered and told me I could leave if I wanted to. But I wanted the fancy bag and book that was laid out on every seat so I prepared myself to give it at least an hour before slipping out the back. You never know I might be able to understand some of it anyway.

I took a chair at the back and nabbed my book and bag. The training began then a few minutes in to it, everyone turned around to look at me. Why were they all staring at me??

The trainer said ‘oh it’s ok I am just talking about you’. Gee thanks Mrs!

With this, some girl right near the front starts waving at me wildly and pointing to the free chair next to her. She didn’t give up either so I begrudgingly got up and moved next to her. How on earth was I going to slip away now???

The wonderful Luiz again

The wonderful Luiz again

Well about 1 ½ hours in it got quite lively and I used to opportunity to make my getaway. By now I had a raging headache, had learned nothing new and only been able to make out a small bit of what they were saying based on what the lady had told me beforehand. The lady I had been sitting next to couldn’t speak a word of English either which was a shame but it was nice to meet more Event Services people.

In the meantime Lorraine arrived in Rio to stay with us and I got to go back to the UAC with her to meet with the lovely Luiz again. I didn’t go inside with her but when she told Luiz I was with her, he insisted on going outside with her to see me. I was sitting on the wall and I heard someone whistle but ignored it – like you would. Then i heard it again and looked up and Luiz was there with his arms wide open shouting Jooooddddyyyy!

Well anyone would think I was his long lost friend for the greeting I got. He is so funny. I think he was just having a bad day and wanted to get out of the office!

We also took a trip to the Olympic offices with Lorraine because outside they have a huge wall of names. Apparently every volunteer name is on that wall and we hoped we could find our own. It was such a massive wall though it was nigh on impossible and we gave up.

Quite unexpectedly, I received an email to tell me I was being offered more shifts. Back onto my volunteer portal I went and guess what – 4 shifts being given to me….In the Aquatics Centre. Yeahy Maybe I would get to work with Bryan & Lorraine. However, this would mean going back to the UAC to get my pass updated so I could get access into the new venue.

Oh no – Luiz is going to think I am stalking him…!

my team leader Pedro

my team leader Pedro

Some site training had been arranged for me at the Velodrome in the Olympic park. This meant I got to see inside the Velodrome which has only just been built and it was good fun. I met my team leader; Pedro and a few more people besides and everyone seems very nice. A very nice lady named Patricia who was another volunteer, spoke excellent English and stuck by my side throughout so she could translate what was being said for me.

It was dark when I left and fairly quiet in the area of the park. Then I hear a big shout go up ‘Gorgy’ – they can’t say Jody here. Some of the ladies who had also been on the training had spotted me, so I went over to them and got crushed under huge black bosoms as they took it in turns to hug me. They took me under their wing and in our best broken English/Portuguese/Spanish we chatted all the way to the BRT (Bus Rapid Transport).

I have a feeling it’s going to be a really nice crowd I will be working with!

One of the luckiest moments so far was one night – Bryan & Lorraine were both working, It was around midnight and I was in bed. It had been a particularly noisy evening outside too but it suddenly got louder. People cheering and lots of sirens.

I got up to investigate and grabbed my phone as i did so. Luckily I had a feeling something good was about to happen and turned my phone on. Just 3 minutes later I watched as the Olympic torch ran past the end of our street. Wow! That’s twice now in 2 consecutive Olympics the torch has basically come to me. If I wasn’t feeling the Olympic spirit before, I certainly was now!

I knew other volunteers lived in the direction it was heading so I got straight onto the phone and text the rest of our gang in whatsapp. Benjy got the message and raced outside with his phone and was able to catch the procession. I am so glad he caught it and the photograph is courtesy of him. But what a bonkers time to do it – it was gone midnight now. These crazy Brasilians!

From the crowd of volunteers we met up with originally, we have remained constant companions with a few. Unfortunately Becks had moved to another part of the city, but Emma V, Benjy, Ariane and her mum Martine are all staying in the same area and are all really lovely and we enjoy their company. Many times those whom are working similar shifts meet up and travel in together. Bryan and Lorraine moreso than me at the moment as I haven’t actually started work yet but I do meet up after their shifts or we grab some supper or something together.

For the opening ceremony of the Olympics, most of us received free tickets to the rehearsal which was brilliant. Poor old Lorraine was working but the rest of us met for lunch first then all headed over together. We had a great evening which we have written about separately.

the opening ceremony with fellow volunteers

the opening ceremony with fellow volunteers

For the real thing though, we were hoping to all meet up as a group and watch it on the big screens rumoured to be going up along Copacabana beach. Well as a lot of things South America, they never materialised and we had to come up with a plan B.

So far the choices were to find a bar or to travel up to Centro and find the big screen in the Olympic Boulevard which would be packed out. A great atmosphere we were sure but knowing Brasil, they wouldn’t think about all those people having to get home afterwards and we wouldn’t be able to get a metro home.

Well Ariane and Martine came to the rescue. Hooray!!!

Martine has an apartment here – she is from Belgium but has been living here on and off for years. Their apartment is close by and she invited us all over so we could be together and watch it on tv. How fabulous is that?

Well after such a kind offer we could not refuse. And we all wanted to be together – which is so lovely. It really wouldn’t seem right if we didn’t see the whole thing through to the end together now.

So after a busy day going up to the top of Big Jesus, we got back and dashed over to their place just in time to catch the show. Well they have the most beautiful apartment (wallpaper from B&Q apparently 😉 ) and had laid on a fantastic spread which made our nibbles we had grabbed from the shop on the way over seem a bit pathetic really.

The beautiful flame

The beautiful flame

Martine got straight on to making caipirinhas – the national drink of Brasil (not sure that’s entirely true but we think so anyway) and at last we could watch all those effects on the screen which had not been visible to us at the actual performance.

Not sure how much V saw as she has put in so many hours lately she was nodding off. She didn’t make it to the end with the rest of us but she saw all the best bits.

And the grand finale which we didn’t see at the rehearsal – the flame.

Actually, unlike a lot of the show, it didn’t disappoint one little bit. It was Beautiful!

Well done Rio!

Let the games begin….!


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