28 August 2016

Rio Olympics 2016!

A bit of background:  Our son and daughter are sailors - no surprise,  Peter indoctrinated them from age 3 and 5 respectively.  And both took to it from day one.  At our cottage on Stony Lake, they were both members of Stony Lake Yacht Club.  Emily admits that her first priority was the social scene which was thriving but she loved it enough to spend a few summers as instructor and then race coach.
Tom at the helm of Optimist "Squirt" with Emily as crew, both in cool shades.

Tom was into competitive sailing, travelling with fellow cottager and coach Vaughn Harrison - now an olympic coach and with his own business, International Sailing Academy - to North American regattas from the ripe old age of 12! Tom was quiet about it but his dream from about that time became to sail in the olympics.

He competed in the laser class full-time for several years, travelling world wide to compete in international regattas.  Less than a year ago, he switched fleets to Finn, the heavy weight, more technical, solo men's boat.  Three days after first sailing the Finn, he won the North American Championship. This was followed by a season of strong results including 8th in the World's.  Tom was named to the Canadian Olympic Team in May, 2016,  WOW!!!  We were thrilled that his hard work, gambol with the switch in fleets, determination and perseverance had paid off.

And we were going to Rio to watch our son in the Olympics. How cool is that!

Tom presented us with perfect t-shirts!  "Proud parent of a Canadian Athlete".  They immediately became our favourites .  Luckily, it was cool enough for us tropical types to wear them almost continuously.
Our daughter, Emily, and her boyfriend, Gid, Peter's sister Lisa and her husband, David, joined us.  This cast of characters are dispersed all over the world.  It is a feat to get together - we were grateful to Tom for pulling us to Rio.  We were his fan club and enjoyed every second.

August 4th, the day before Opening Ceremonies.  The excited support team with Tom.
All tatted up for the occasion.

Signed by the Olympian, graphics by David.  Ready to go to the Opening Ceremonies.

The athletes walk into the stadium.  We madly whooped and hollered and waved our Canadian flag about.  Em spied Tom and Tom, looking over his shoulder, said he saw us, too.  For me, it was a blur - excitement and a couple of tears.
The finale had paper streamers falling from above to lay a carpet on ourselves and at our feet.  Fireworks, coloured lights, music.  It was an extravaganza! done incredibly well.
Happy looking Tom, near the front of the pack.  He snap chatted Emily about the wait in the Canadian athlete bus on the way to the opening.  They all sang O Canada as a warm up to the big event.  Fantastic!
Arrived 2 hours early.  Enjoyed our beer in Olympic collectable cups, now on Milly

At Canada House, the huge opening ceremony pic showed the back of Tom's head.  He was probably looking for us.  Oops!
We corrected it with a live photo shop.

Canada Olympic House was a great place to hang out  decorated in cottage theme apart from the huge screens with CBC olympic coverage.  They aren't at our cottage anyway.

Need I say more?
The team and coaches.

The lounge at Canada House.  This is taken in the a.m.  By evening, it was packed whenever we went.
Gid and Em bobsledding at Canada House.  We beat them!
The Finn course for the first day of racing happened to be just off the sailing venue beach.  The support team gathered in full Canadian regalia.  We could watch the sailing live or on the big screen.  

Support team.  Of course, we arrived super early.  By the time the event started the beach was packed.

A sail past at the end of the race.  Wind was very light and flukey coming off Sugarloaf which made this the toughest course of the six.

Not actually taken during the race but there's Tom and there's Sugarloaf.  Gives you an idea of why the winds are fickle on it's leeward side.  All on-the-water shots are care of Ken Dool, Tom's coach.
The next two race days brought higher winds and huge seas.  Both days the Finn courses were on the outside of the bay without shelter from the swells and waves.  Most of the other fleets were not seaworthy enough to handle the conditions out there.

Just a little wet.  Water quality became a factor you just had to live with.  No way to avoid getting wet.  However, given the media hype about the quality, we are not aware of any sailor getting ill.
On the second day of racing, Lisa, Em, Peter and I watched from a bar at the top of SugarLoaf. (Gid and David took in some golf.)  Stupendous views even though the boats were a little small!

Lisa and Em enjoying the bar....

Peter and I looking a little tense.
The fourth and fifth days of racing were again with light, fickle winds and strong currents.  Peter and I couldn't get to a place to watch the fourth day but on the final day we scrambled around the base of Sugarloaf at a "use-at-your-own-risk" labelled trail.  Steep rock pitches took us to a few pillars which once held a viewing platform - maybe - long since vanished.  The pillars were lumpy cement on top but made adequate stools for awhile.  The races, unfortunately, were long delayed and we could only watch the beginning of the first.  And the boats were teeny, weeny on the horizon.  Shade made the seating chilly and the lumpy cement was no longer remotely comfy so we ended our vigil before the first race was even completed.
Just a tad steep.

My lumpy perch.

What we could see of the race.  

The medal race for the top 10 boats after five race days and ten races, was on the course off the beach.   We had fun with Tom's  and radial sailor, Brenda's, commentary about the surprises taking place on the water.  Gratifying to see a huge crowd enjoying the races, too.
Canada Olympic house celebrated each team on evenings following the finish of the teams' events.  The sailing team was celebrated on our last evening in town along with a few other teams.  We began by chatting to parents, athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators.  We finally met Ken Dool who was impressed with Tom's progress and achievements in the last year and excited about his future.  We liked him immediately!  For the celebration, each athlete was called into the room, a member of each team was called upon to speak, the medal winners' events were replayed and we ended with the whole room standing to sing O Canada.  It was absolutely thrilling for us.
Tom entering the room through a corridor of cheering people.  I even got a hug on his way to the stage.

The gathering of athletes was impressive - gracious, well-spoken and poised.

Our boy singing O Canada!  What a great evening.
Although our focus was definitely on the sailing and how to watch it each day, we did see a couple of other events.  We came across road biking several times while exploring the neighbourhood, peaked through the fence at rowing, canoeing, and kayaking, went to the Olympic Park for men's team gymnastics and to Copacabana Beach for beach volleyball.
Caught this part of the road race while eating at a sidewalk cafe.

The lagoon was right across from Canada House.  Our peek hole was right at the finish line.
Our tickets for volleyball were at 9:00 p.m. and the final game ended after 1:00 a.m.  We watched the Canadian women and men - women won and men lost in a last minute collapse.  Both were great matches.  Beach volleyball is a bit cultish in Brazil - no surprise.  There are all kinds of gestures and chants which the audience participates in after almost every point to loud music and commentary.  We got into it - giant spike, giant spike, giant spike - not the same without the gesture.

We also did some touring and some hiking.
The tallest peak - the biggest of the Two Brothers - was the one Peter and I climbed.  

The one that is hiding behind the wider one.  The tall, pointy one.  Yup, that's it.
It looks over Lebron and Ipanema Beaches where we walked almost every day, people watching.

To get to the trail head, you had to go through Vidigal which is a favela built going up a steep incline.  We took these moto-taxis up the 5 km.  They went fast! between cars and trucks and bumping over a couple of speed bumps. I think my driver's shoulders were bruised from my white-knuckled grip, trying to stay on the back.  It was fun!

The view from the top was spectacular looking over the city and the bay beyond.

This was an outcrop that hung over the larger favela of 70,000 people on the other side of mountain.  My legs hung over  someone's rooftop, many, many feet below.  When I got over the height, the size of the favela was startling, knowing it didn't have adequate infrastructure!  

We walked down through the "pacified" favela.  There are plenty of PP  - pacified police - around, a few B&B's and some tourists.  The graffiti was fantastic.

Our olympic experience was wonderful!  Rio is a great city - it could be sensational with some money and attention to the environment and social services.  However, our olympics took place in the more upscale neighbourhoods.  We were not harassed or threatened at any time and we did some late night walking.  The transportation system worked well for us.  We got around by uber or taxi when the six of us were together and Peter and I mastered the public bus and subway system when on our own - simple, cheap and only occasionally packed.

Sights to behold on Ipanema.  This guy loved being in the big show.

Ipanema sidewalk.  Labour intensive!

The army was very evident on land and at sea!  We felt... safe.
Our apartment was rented from Gid's relatives who kindly had us over for breakfast and to celebrate Gid's birthday.  Their home was a stunning post modern mansion with views of the lagoon and city - tennis court and pool.  Very lovely and generous philanthropic people.  
The olympic organization was mostly great.  Opening ceremonies were amazing and although a long entrance time, our line kept moving and everyone was celebratory.  Lots to look at and enjoy while waiting for two hours for the ceremony to start.  The sailing and beach volleyball venues were no problem but the olympic park was slightly chaotic - granted it was only the first day of competition.  Uber drivers didn't know how to get there.  One gate with many, many venues to serve meant olympic size line ups.  We flashed our special family badges and the unknowing volunteers allowed us in the VIP gate - don't tell anyone.  The volunteers sent us to the wrong venue and the gymnastics venue itself was unfinished and pretty shabby looking.  But this was only one evening of a fantastic two weeks.  Rio did incredibly well on a low budget.

It was a joy to watch Tom with the company of our darling daughter, Gid, Lisa and David.  I can't express how exceedingly proud Peter and I are of Tom and what he has achieved.  His goal was to get to the Rio Olympics and he did it!  We look forward to the next four years!  Can't wait to watch him again in Tokyo!

Meanwhile, our sailing plans have changed.  Instead of heading west through the Panama Canal, we will do the Atlantic circuit first.  Tom will be training for four years out of Valencia.  Em tells us she wants to visit in every European port - we'll see how that works.  And other family and friends will find Mediterranean visiting easier.  So...Med here we come 2017 or maybe 2018...can't seem to pin it down yet.