SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 53

n August 5, the best of the best will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in hopes of earning at least one

of the prestigious gold medals, one of the highest achievement possible in athletics. The irony, of course, is that the summer games are being held in the dead of winter in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio is a place with an incredible climate as well as natural and cultural beauty that will surely make for incredible photos during the games. While Rio is seemingly picture perfect at the surface, there has been trouble in paradise since the city’s bid to host the games. If you’ve had access to the internet over the past few months, you have probably seen some sort of article published about Rio and the Olympics. Unfortunately for Rio, not all press is good press.

With the promise of revitalizing the Marvelous City (Cidade Marvalhosa for our Portuguese speaking readers), Rio de Janeiro placed a bid with the International Olympic Committee to host the 2016 games back in 2007. In October of 2009 the city was awarded the right to host the 2016 games over Madrid, Spain. Since then, the promise of a revitalized Rio seems like more of a pipe dream than ever. Since January, Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil have dealt with: Zika virus, economic fallout leading to the worst Brazilian economy of the 1930s, crime at an all-time high, protests from citizens, protests from law enforcement, the failure to deliver on promises of cleaning up polluted sites to be used as arenas for some of the events, failure of construction projects related to the Olympics, the impeachment trial of their president over accusations of corruption, and continual criticism and doubt from the media, scientists, doctors, and even the Governor of Rio himself. This laundry list doesn’t even include the addition of 500,000 people to the city for the duration of the games. Wow.

In June I traveled to Rio de Janeiro to see the reality of the situation for myself (and to escape the sweaty grips of summer in Miami). From the second I stepped into the Galeão International Airport and saw the mountains and fog on the horizon guarding the sunrise I was in love. It was so much more beautiful than I had imagined it to be.

I had spent about six weeks using an app called Duolingo and an online video series called Semantica Portuguese to help me learn some conversational Portuguese, so navigating my way from the airport terminal to my hotel in Copacabana, one of Rio’s famous beaches in the southeastern portion of the state, wasn’t too difficult. As my driver braved his way through a free-for-all traffic pattern that reminded me of driving on I-95 in Miami, we saw some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city followed by some of the richest. People of all shapes, sizes, and colors were walking the streets as motorcycles and mopeds zipped by. It only took me this short ride to figure out that I had left Miami to vacation in a less glitzy and less put together version of Miami. Who knew that existed?