Stay calm and enjoy, Australia

I tried to open the kitchen window but couldn’t – there wasn’t one. The ‘window’ is a mosquito net, though it is as effective as the Stormers or Sharks defence,... Read more
Stay calm and enjoy, Australia

I tried to open the kitchen window but couldn’t – there wasn’t one. The ‘window’ is a mosquito net, though it is as effective as the Stormers or Sharks defence, writes GARY LEMKE.

I ran the hot water tap in the shower after a long flight from Johannesburg to Rio, via Sao Paulo, but settled for a cold shower instead. I put the key in the bathroom door and turned the lock, but the one side of the lock fell to the floor.

Welcome to one of Rio’s official media villages, this in the Barra region. Did I lodge an official complaint, as Australia did over their apartment block in the athletes’ village, that is ‘not safe or ready’ and they had discovered blocked toilets and leaky pipes? The heck no!

Have Team Australia forgotten the chaos in the days before the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi? Australia described conditions in the athletes’ village as ‘uninhabitable’, with bathroom fixtures that did not work, construction debris to be cleared and sand and dust on the floors. Even a Team South Africa athlete found a snake in their room and on the day I arrived, grass was still being planted outside the team’s entrance.

At the time the Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said of Delhi, ’in hindsight, no, they shouldn’t have been awarded the Games’.

But guess what? The Games went on and Australia topped the medals table, winning 74 gold and a total of 177.

These early ‘fears’ are common with most multi-code sports events and Rio is no worse in terms of preparation – admittedly it’s only been 36 hours since arriving – than many other such events I’ve intended.

Personal experience in Rio has already shown wifi that is readily – and available for free – in the media rooms, on the buses and in the media centre. Buses are running on time and the accreditation process has been seamless. What has been achieved inside a couple of hours in Rio literally took days to set up in other many host cities.

Perhaps Australia, and other visitors, are temped to compare Rio 2016 with London 2012 and if they are doing so, they shouldn’t. London was always going to be an impossible act to follow, but I reckon Rio’s going to be just fine.

The language barrier is a problem, but that says more for a visitor like me being unable to communicate in Portuguese than it is for the local to speak English.

The city, and country, fluctuates wildly when it comes to rich and poor and even on the drive to the more ‘affluent’ Barra region and Olympic Park, one can’t miss the squalor and poverty.

Anyone who thinks it’s tough ‘roughing’ it with the odd hot water tap that’s not working, a leaky pipe or ‘unliveable’ conditions should just take a walk out of their comfort zone and see how the other half live.

The Brazilian currency, the Reali, is stronger than the Rand, going at around 4.5 to 1 with a 500ml bottle of water – drinking tap water is a no-no – translating to around R13, although it is cheaper in the supermarkets. Petrol, or ‘gas’ comes out at around R17 to the litre.

Day one in the media village also brought a military helicopter flying low overhead and en route there were regular police and army personnel, with enough weaponry to let you know you mustn’t bring a knife to a gunfight during these Games.

It also gave me an early introduction to the mosquito. Ah, you know the one. The carrier of the dreaded Zika virus, which has led to a heavy withdrawal of, mainly men golfers from these Olympics.

Despite the language barrier, Zika is a word that is instantly recognised by the locals. A shake of the head and a ’no Zika’ has been a common reply from those who have a limited knowledge of English.

Last night I was ‘attacked’ by a mosquito. She (?) came in through the window and looked for her target. She came in to land, not like a gung-ho Tom Cruise on an American aircraft carrier in Top Gun, but like a feather drifting to the floor. At least, that’s what it sounded like and, believe me, the sound of a mosquito is something that wakes me, and keeps me awake at night.

She was certainly less noisy and less persistent, circling a few times but being discouraged by a sheet being pulled up to just above the shoulders. South African mozzies definitely have more ‘houding’.

A few wild swats with the hands in the dark of night and she seemed to drift away.

In the morning colleague Shane Keohane called me to his room and pointed to the floor. It was a dead mosquito, except, it didn’t look like a mosquito, more like something between one of those mozzies as we know them, and a fly. I dared not take it down to the reception area.

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