Western New England University sport management students and faculty are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games. Junior Erika Sheinhait of the women's swimming team continues to share her experiences with another blog post! Be sure to check out the photo gallery below as well - all photos were taken by Erika.
As we continue in Rio, sleep is at a minimum. But it is all worth it because of the experiences we are all getting. These memories are once in a lifetime, and I have so much to tell.
On Sunday, we were unable to go to the events we were scheduled to go to because of our afternoon schedule. I was supposed to go to field hockey with half of the group while the other half missed boxing. Instead we went to a waterfall in the Parque Nacional de Tijuca. After, we stopped at a market, only open on Sundays, to buy some souvenirs and chachskis. Our next stop was the Truce Foundation Gala. Here, we worked as student ambassadors to help run the event. This event was put on to honor ambassadors of peace around the world. Honorees included IOC member, Anita DeFranz (USA) and United Nations Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke (GER), among others. We got to speak with some of the VIP guests, including Lord Michael Bates (GBR), who walked from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to raise money for UNICEF. He did a similar walk in 2012 from Athens to London. This was a valuable experience where we got to meet and listen to some of the leaders in promoting peace and sport. Before leaving, we got to hold one of the Olympic torches, which was unreal. It was one of my many fan girl moments on this trip so far.
On Monday, we went back to Olympic events. On the schedule was women's singles tennis. The stadium is in Olympic Park, so we got to walk around and see multiple venues, including the Aquatics Center. As a swimmer, this was absolutely amazing, and I wish I could have gone in. But hey, at least I saw the outside.... I got to meet the parents of one of the Canadian swimmers and traded pins with them as well. Part of Olympic Park is an Olympic superstore. It is basically a store the size of Home Depot filled with Olympic souvenirs. Luckily, I was able to stock up and get some cool presents for my family. In tennis, we got to see USA's Madison Keys face off against Kristina Mladenovic of France. Keys came from behind to win in the tie breaker. We were cheering her on from the stands and want to take a little credit for helping her overcome the adversity in the score. We were the obnoxious USA fans cheering her on (did you see us on TV?). There were lots of Europeans cheering for France, so we were making sure USA was being heard.
Tuesday was the first day the group split up and went to two different events. Half went to men's indoor volleyball, and the other went to rugby 7s. I went to rugby 7s with most of the boys in the group. Rugby is a new sport in the Olympics for most of us because it hasn't been played since 1924. There are two 7 minutes halves with a 2 minute intermission. Instead of the usual 15 players, there are only 7. The games are fast paced and there was a game every 30 minutes. We go to see Australia vs. France, Japan vs. New Zealand , Kenya vs. Great Britain, Spain vs. South Africa, Argentina vs. USA, and Fiji vs. Brazil. Many of the games were upsets as favorites New Zealand and Australia both lost their respective games. We were expecting these teams to dominate based on their history. Both have since been eliminated from medal contention. The USA vs. Argentina game was very exciting, but unfortunately Argentina scored the winning try in stoppage time. We were surrounded by Argentine fans, so the loss hurt a little more. We also sat next to one of the player's (Zach Test #5) family. We got on the big screen so we waved our American flags proudly. It was a lot of fun to watch, especially because during every game, no matter the countries, people got behind one. When Japan scored to beat New Zealand, the place went crazy. The atmosphere was incredible. After rugby, we met up with the other half of our group and went to the International Broadcast Center (IBC). We got a tour around the building and got to see the "command center" where every event is broadcasted. That's every single Olympic event. That broadcast is then sent to the national broadcasts where they are able to add their logos and such to make it their own. We also got to go into a ultra high-definition theatre that made me feel like I was in the arena. The sights and sounds were so real that I had to check to see where I was. They also had a virtual reality room where we put in goggles and watched live boxing, looking around the arena as if we were there. If I looked right, I could see that side of the venue. I looked left, up, and down and I could see everything as if I were in the venue.
On Wednesday, we split up again. Half went to fencing, and half went to women's indoor volleyball. I went to volleyball. We got to see two games. The first was China vs. Puerto Rico, and the second was Netherlands vs. Italy. Both China and Netherlands won in 3 straight sets. It was a lot of fun, and the second game we sat in a sea of orange with Dutch fans. The games were competitive and provided lots of excitement. The in-game entertainment was also very good, so it kept the game going. It was definitely lots of fun. In between the two games, they dropped giant balls from the top rows to be hit around, similar to hitting a beach ball around the stands at Fenway Park. Later, we went to the mall to get some food and go shopping. I just have to give a shoutout to the little kiosk that made gourmet churros because it was delicious (it was filled with Nutella and topped with chocolate, caramel, and m&m's).
So that's a wrap on the first half of the trip. There's still a lot in store, so I can't wait. Thursday is the day I've most been waiting for because it's Olympic ping pong. I anticipate lots of good stories to come.