Navigating the Olympic games in Rio

Elizabeth Wittenberg (SLA '17) Majoring in Theatre and International Development

Night one in Rio. Haven’t eaten since the ham flavored crackers that LATAM airlines served. I am lost and panicking but I am on a cable car with a beautiful view of the city lights and two Brazilian women who vowed to take me to the train. At the train station, I am whisked away by another Brazilian woman, who tells me that she does not feel safe with me taking a bus alone, and instead I will be sleeping at her house. With this benevolent kidnapping underway, I meet her mother and son, eat a lot of bread products with cheese, take a shower, and receive clean clothes and a spare bed. After a brief interlude at church, I make it back to my Airbnb, a short walk from the Olympic Park, where I am to begin working a few days later.

Night 18 in Rio, I am sitting in a fluorescent-lit box of a room, watching the green “OK” pop up next to each file of scores, meaning that I do not have to bring anything anywhere. Like many of the 50,000 volunteers from every corner of the earth, I am itching to put my accreditation pass to good use and work in the FOP, or field of play. This is my lucky day, and I am asked if I’d like to operate the referee camera for Taekwondo. I accept and witness the happiness of medallists, coaches, and families, from only feet away.

Other days and nights in Rio I spend sightseeing with hoards of other Olympic tourists: hiking mountains, seeing things I’d seen in coffee table books and internet lists, meeting a wide variety of people from all over the world, and eating meat and fried things from behind glass counters. But no more ham-flavored crackers.

*In 2013, Elizabeth Wittenberg applied via the official Olympic games website to work in Rio. She learned that she had been selected as a volunteer last winter.