Olympics: Wrap Up

This is my way delayed wrap up post dedicated to planning a trip to the Olympics. While we went to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, I’m hoping some of this information will come in handy for others planning trips to a future Olympics. It’s the advice I wish I had read and the advice I would give to anyone looking to attend the Olympics. We hope to go to another Olympics in the future (hopefully Paris 2024?) and plan to use what we learned to make the next trip even more memorable.

This post will be a bit different from my other Wrap Up posts, as it’s less destination specific (I hope), and more event related. Hopefully some of what we learned and advice I can give, will carry over to other Olympic host cities. Rio was a bit unorganized it seemed and a very spread out city so I almost feel that any other city will be a bit more organized and have the arenas closer together. But regardless, I feel it’s sound advice for someone looking to attend the Olympics. As a reminder, here’s my timeline of how we prepped for the Olympics (written before we left). So without further ado, let’s get on with this…

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Badminton (Rio Day 8)

Our final Olympic event was badminton and we couldn’t have been more excited to end with a fun event. We don’t watch a lot of badminton at home, maybe occasionally watching a match during previous Olympics but that was about the extent. I’ve played a backyard game of badminton only a handful of times. But it was a lot of fun to watch live badminton.

Badminton has been an event in the Summer Olympics since 1992, though it did appear in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a demonstration sport. Asian nations typically dominate the sport with China leading the way with a total of 41 total medals, followed by Indonesia and South Korea with 19 medals total each. In the Singles competition 29 competitors (both men and women) are selected to compete, while 19 pairs are selected for the doubles competition. A badminton match in the Olympics is a best of three games played to 21 points using rally scoring. The winner must either win by two points or be the first player to reach 30 points.

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Olympic Boulevard (Rio Days 4, 6, & 9)

One of the improvements Rio put in place for the Olympics was a revamping of port area. One of the most defining aspects of the unveiling included a Guinness record setting mural by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra. The mural, Ethnicities, stretches for 3000 square meters and features a member of an indigenous tribe from five continents represented by the Olympics rings. It was an incredible mural, though hard to take in all at once, especially with the crowds.

Street Art Mural on Olympic Boulevard

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Women’s Indoor Volleyball (Rio Days 4, 6, & 8)

We might have gotten a bit too hyped up when our ticket lottery results came back. We mostly won tickets to women’s indoor volleyball matches and while we didn’t pick all the time slots we were awarded, we still probably chose too many. We didn’t want to go all the way to Rio and end up with just a few event tickets, so we chose a lot of what we received in the lottery. We didn’t realize that had we been a bit more patient, we could have ended up with a wider variety of events including ones we most wanted to see. We enjoyed our volleyball tickets, but by the end of the week, we were a bit indoor volleyball’ed out. It didn’t help that we didn’t even mix it up with men’s and women’s indoor volleyball, it was exclusively women’s volleyball that we chose. Oh well. Live and learn.

Both women and men’s indoor volleyball has been a staple at the Olympics since 1964. Though at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, indoor volleyball was a demonstrated by the United States. In the men’s indoor volleyball competition, Brazil and the United States have typically had the greatest success at winning medals (three apiece), though the former Soviet Union also has three gold medals. In the women’s side of the volleyball competition, only five countries have won a gold medal including Brazil, Cuba, China, Japan, and the former Soviet Union. Interestingly, the initial indoor volleyball competition at the Olympics consisted of only round robin where each team played all other teams and the medals were determined by total wins. This led to the medal determination sometimes before the end of the competition. This changed at the 1972 Olympics into the current format of the preliminary round of round robin followed by the final round single elimination. Currently the Olympics feature 12 teams each of men and women.

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Beach Volleyball (Rio Days 3 & 5)

Beach Volleyball on Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the Olympics was an epic event. We had three different beach volleyball tickets during our time in Rio, but we all would have been willing to go to more. It was such a fun, party like atmosphere with all the locals who love the sport. It was probably the funnest atmosphere at an Olympics event for us. Volleyball is such an integral part of Rio and Brazilian culture itself and it was just an amazing experience all around. Beach volleyball always would have been on my Olympic wish list no matter the location, but it was an absolutely essential event in Rio.

Beach Volleyball was an exhibition sport at the Barcelona 1992 Games and was officially added to the Summer Olympics at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Since the addition, Brazilian teams have dominated and the country has secured at least one gold or silver medal at each Olympics. The USA has also been fairly dominant, also securing at least one medal at each Olympics. The Beach Volleyball competition at the Olympics features 24 teams each in the men and women divisions, with a max of two teams per country. One spot is always reserved for the host country. The preliminary portion of the tournament has undergone multiple changes since the addition of the sport in 1996, but currently all 24 teams play a round robin schedule with the top two teams in each pool of six (along with 4 out of the 6 third place teams) moves on to the medal competition which is single elimination.

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Men’s Handball (Rio Day 3)

Handball is not a sport I knew anything about prior to the Olympics and honestly, I still don’t know the rules at all. Handball is just not a sport that is widely popular within the United States. However, Brian has been a big fan of the game (at least every four years during the Olympics) and he really wanted to make sure we caught a match while in Rio. We attended just one handball match during the Olympics and it was a lot of fun. I would definitely consider going to another match if we return to the Olympics in the future.

The handball events were held in the Barra Olympic Park and unfortunately we didn’t realize that our morning watching handball would be the last time we were able to enter the park. Due to security reasons, only people with valid tickets for events within the Olympic Park that day were allowed to enter. I understand the concern, but unfortunately we didn’t have any more events within the actual Olympic Park itself and was a bit disappointing that we weren’t able to return later in the week. Being in the Olympic Park was an amazing experience and would have been nice to spend some of our free time within the park. Not sure if future Olympics will take the same security stance and would be somewhat dependent on how spread out the event sights are, but do try to get more events within the actual park itself.

Handball arena

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Men’s Gymnastics (Rio Day 2)

Gymnastics has been my favorite Olympic event forever. I did gymnastics growing up for a long time and was fairly good at it until my coaches told my parents that if I wanted to continue improving and competing that I would have to start coming more than the 2-3 times a week I already was going to the gym. Since I was the oldest, that was more than they wanted me spend doing athletics and told me that I couldn’t go more than I already was. It was devastating and while I know I would never have gotten to the national or Olympic level, it is still one thing I look back on and wish that my parents hadn’t made me give up. They have since admitted that they made a mistake there and all my other siblings were allowed to spend as much time doing sporting events as they liked. Nevertheless, my love of gymnastics continues to this day and watching it makes me always smile.

So of course, watching gymnastics was my number one wish list item when doing the lottery. We chose every single gymnastics event to enter into and were lucky enough to end up with one men’s qualifying round. We messed up after this and basically took ourselves out of a chance to watch women’s gymnastics by getting tickets to other events on the days women gymnastics were taking place. I was a bit bummed when I realized closer to the Olympics when women’s tickets were finally available and we were already booked with other events. So that’s my biggest regret and lesson for others wanting to go, if you don’t get the tickets to the event you most want initially, make sure to leave free time for those days in case you get the opportunity later to buy those tickets. By the time the Olympics came around, you could have gotten tickets to almost any event you wanted with a few exceptions if you were vigilant and checking often.

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Olympic Park (Rio Day 2 & 3)

Our second day in Rio de Janeiro was our first day of Olympic events. The Opening Ceremony had occurred the night before and we were pumped to be starting our Olympic experience. The majority of US Olympic ticket sales are conducted via CoSport. It involves a lot of complicated steps, planning, and luck to get tickets to events. I will detail all of that in a final wrap up style post. But basically, if you purchase tickets prior to a certain date the tickets will be mailed to you. Those that you purchase closer to the actual Olympics, you have to pick up in person (at least as of the 2016 Olympics). Of course, if they ever change to allow electronic tickets, that would hopefully change. We went first thing in the morning to pick up a few event tickets, which I would highly recommend. I’ve heard horror stories of long lines later in the day and week.

From the CoSport pick up location which was nowhere near anything else of course, we had hoped to head to a hospitality house or two and even mapped out how to get there and which bus stop to get off on in the Barra region. What we didn’t realize was the Olympic Park line bus wasn’t going to stop at any stops between the metro station where it ended and the Olympic Park. So we bypassed the houses and our only experience was watching through the bus windows. If we had realized that before reaching Olympic Park, we would have taken an Uber from the metro station to the House of Japan or another house in the Barra region. But once we were at the Olympic Park, it seemed silly to backtrack and waste a lot of additional time in transit. Because Rio is not an easy city to get around in and transportation is quite slow.

But our disappointment was quickly erased upon entering Olympic Park! The thrill of walking into the complex was so incredibly exciting and just so surreal that we were finally there after so much anticipation.

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Christmas Ornaments 2016

I meant to have this post come out yesterday on Christmas, but I totally forgot all about finishing it until this morning. Anyways as we have a tradition of buying an ornament from each of our trips (or each country if we visit more than one on a vacation), here is our round up of 2016 Christmas ornaments.

EuroTrip 2016: Klomp shoes from Amsterdam, Beer mug from Belgium, and an Eiffel Tower from Paris

EuroTrip 2016 ornaments

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Rio 2016: Summary


While I have lots of other posts to get to before I even reach my posts on the Rio 2016 Olympics, here is a quick summary of first thoughts upon returning. It was an interesting trip of contrasting thoughts and opinions on the Olympics and Rio in general. While we loved the Olympics and everything we did in relation to them, our feelings on Rio were starkly different. Rio is very beautiful from far away, but up close and personal, it wasn’t my favorite place I’ve visited. It’s dirty and polluted and often comes with an odor. We found good food difficult to come by and didn’t have a lot of must see attractions besides the commonly visited ones.

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