Andy Bloss is one of our English language producers working with Tom Ellis to gather material from around Rio during the Olympics. He was part of the Passion for Sport team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, here, comments on his first thoughts upon returning to Rio.
I had a strange sense of deja vu on Monday as I strolled down Atlantic Avenue in Rio de Janeiro.
It is the main road which runs adjacent to Copacabana beach and as I walked down it was like I had never been away following the World Cup in 2014.
The sun, the sea, the sand, the sounds, the beautiful backdrop of Sugar Loaf mountain in the distance. It is all still there and it is still magical.
However despite this feeling of nostalgia there is obviously a lot of differences as the 2016 Olympics looms ever closer.
Unlike the World Cup which was spread around Brazil, the Olympics is very much putting the spotlight on Rio.
Over the next few weeks the world’s greatest sportswomen and men will be in one place and I can’t think of a city that deserves it more.
There are quite a few people (including those who live in Rio) who would disagree with that last sentiment.
It has been well reported, especially in England, about the downsides of Rio. This time the usual examples of crime and economic woes have been trumped by the spread of the Zika virus.
There is no doubt these are troublesome issues. Gang crime is seeping back into some communities following the pacification programme and Zika has reportedly impacted a huge number of families.
But having arrived in Rio you start to get a sense of perspective. We are staying in Curicica, a community not far away from the Olympic Park, and speaking to some of the locals here they couldn’t hide their smiles as I doused myself in mosquito repellent. It is easy to forget it but this is winter in Rio de Janeiro and “mozzie” danger is at its lowest.
In terms of crime and danger on the streets, I get the impression once again, just like two years ago, that picturing Rio as some kind of warzone would be doing a disservice to the brilliant people that live here. I have lost count already at the amount of times I have been helped by “Cariocas” who have obviously taken pity on me and my dreadful Portuguese.
Over the course of the next few weeks I hope we can highlight some of the issues in Rio but show, in a positive light, how the people of Rio and local churches are tackling them. We'll also be aiming show what the Olympic atmosphere is about and exploring Rio’s culture further.
To be here in this city during the 2016 games is a huge privilege. There is no doubt that there are some rough edges here in Rio and these need to be highlighted, but it is also true to say (and no pun intended here) that the city also has a heart of gold. Bring on the games.
My top five things I am looking forward to (in no order):
'Super Saturday' on August 13th (Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and the 100m women's final)
Witnessing some of the great social projects put on by local churches
Learning more about the culture and history of Rio
- Beach volleyball
Make sure you keep up to date with our Destination Rio project, and all that our team are doing in Brazil!