Reflections from Rio

They said it would be a security nightmare. They warned tourists they risked getting Zika if they travelled to Rio. They said it would be a logistical nightmare.

In the end Rio 2016 was an Olympic Games to remember. I can’t speak for everyone, but during our stay here not once did I feel threatened. My health has remained intact. There was not one issue about getting into or to any of the venues.

Thank goodness I didn’t listen to what ‘they’ said. Thank goodness Rio 2016 offered up one of the great sporting competitions. What a privilege to be a part of it all.

It seems strange to think that combined with the World Cup in 2014, this is my third month in Rio de Janeiro. Even stranger to think this could be my last time here.

 Andy with fellow PfS team members Pete and Pedro.

Andy with fellow PfS team members Pete and Pedro.

It has been a wonderful experience and over the course of the last few weeks I feel that as well as witnessing some fantastic sporting moments - Mo Farah comes to mind - I have also had the opportunity to get to know the people of this city even more.

I have read reflections from a few journalists and they hit some important notes. It is without doubt that from a sporting perspective these games were a great success.

As I hinted at in the first few lines, Rio 2016 has not lived up to the pre-tournament hyperbole of being a city in decay.

However it would be naive to think everything is rosy. It would be naive to think that everyone in the city is behind these Olympics.

This is not to say that everyone who lives in poorer communities hated the Olympics (that is false). So many of the bars in Curicica, for example, had the Olympics on TV.

But as we saw when we walked around Curicica there are still many people living in poverty. Do I expect the Olympics to fix all this? Of course not. However, we would not be doing our job as journalists if we did not highlight these wider, bigger issues.

Sport is fantastic, it throws up the most incredible stories. But it can also shed a light on what is happening in the background. What we found, more so now than during the World Cup, is the importance of community. As people turn away from politicians, fed up with broken promises, many are relying on help and strength from those around them.

One such example in Curicica was the role of the church we were staying at. Giving out clothes and food to those who needed it, giving advice (not just prayer) to those who were in troublesome situations. Visiting drug addicts, shunned and forgotten by many, to give them their first proper meal in a week.

It is only because of the Olympics that we can highlight what is going on here. Community is important.

This was not the only time ‘community’ was mentioned. Cast your minds back to the morning we spent with a group of refugees, who were cheering on the Refugee Olympic Team. Through the Olympics these amazing guys and girls could highlight how they have been accepted in Rio, how they may have been forced out of their home communities but are now part of the Rio community.

Mariama, the refugee we spoke to from the Gambia, spoke passionately how she wanted to inspire other women in her position to have strong roles in community.

And let’s not forget the actual Refugee Team. A group of people who can often be negatively stigmatised, welcomed into the Olympic fold. That is what community is about.

When we spoke to athletes, Christian and non-Christian, all of them pointed towards the support of their families and friends, in some cases churches and God, in their journeys to compete in the greatest sporting competition.

Community, it seems, is the buzzword.

So where does this leave us? Where does this leave Rio? Going forward, I hope more money is spent on bringing people out of poverty. I hope the legacy of these games is to help more people find community in whatever form that takes.

For us at Passion for Sport, we have witnessed the remarkable and the sublime to the harrowing and hard hitting. Rio has welcomed us with open arms and it will be a wrench to leave.

Tokyo 2020 will be an exciting project and a new adventure but we will never forget Rio. The marvellous city.

By Andy Bloss