Ok last nite in Rio and it’s been bit it of a whirlwind up  to now; the weather has been cold and very windy. I actually had to postpone the trip to Angara do Reis as the  weather was so bad, and I didn’t  fancy spending all day drinking beer and shivering on a boat.

Last week I threw myself into decoding the Olympic web site (all in Portuguese ). After several goes I found that there are four centres; Deodoro, Barra (Rio Dois), Maracana, & Copacabana. the main centre is Rio Dois in Barra a place that is miles away from the centre (central).

Equestrian Centre Equestrian Centre Vila Militar RJ

Equestrian Centre

Similarly Deodoro the Equestrian/Hockey/Rugby centre is a good 45 minutes on the train.You access these locations by public transport, having to navigate between trains,  bus, BRT (a train style bus) the metro, an dah tram (soon cum) . My calculation is this will prove well  beyond most Gringo tourists, so the taxis are going have a field day ( pardon the pun). 

An additional factor is that Rio gridlocks for about six hours per day, so you are more or less compelled to stay within walking distance of one of the four Olympic venues, which means making choices over which events you attend.


Standing room only

With respect to completion, the Olympic Park will be ready but Deodoro  looks seriously behind. Examining the failing transport system the trains stand out as severely underinvested. Cariocas commute on a train system that belongs to the 18th century …  crumbling, dirty and dangerous with high concrete passarellas often without a lift in sight. The rush hour is an Auschwitz like experience as commuters squeeze into the cattle trucks in a frenzied rush home. Last Friday it took half an hour to get out of Alvorada Rodoviaria and nearly two hours to get back to Catete. This contrasts with the metro (linha 1 & 2) which is air conditioned, and spacious bringing our Victorian underground system into sharp focus.


The final lesson with Rogeiro literally proved to be an eye opener as we were introduced to drishtis ; these are a set eye exercises where you have to focus on your thumb held just in front of the eye, and the tip of the nose, all held for an inordinate length of time.  Supposedly improving concentration and eyesight,the drishtis lead into a version of a load of … cobblers  ; sitting down with bowed legs, you then insert the arms under the knees, grabbing your feet in a bind,  swivelling the feet upwards to balance on your pelvis/hip bones. I actually managed it,  ok admittedly after falling onto my back.  As I explained before, the length of time dedicated to these asanas allows you have much more of a chance to achieve them as the body inexplicably opens.

Consequently I’m quite impressed with the variety and depth of Brazilian Yoga practice and feel a little bit more flexible even after only three weeks. As we said our goodbyes I felt I would miss our lickle early morning group session with my Yogi.

Brazil, will the nu front tear?

With a week to go it’s a little premature to do a retrospective of my trip but hey ho, here we go.Whilst the Olympics brings much needed investment to Rio’s archaic transport system, the value of the R$ heads south (£1=R$5.7) generating the classic crisis headlines.

Additionally they are threatening to impeach the recently elected President Dilma. She has allowed  herself  to be mired by the Petrobras (Lavajato-car wash gate ) scandal, where MP’s were taking kickbacks from construction companies engaged by Petrobras.

However the Rio restaurants seem to be full in most places with the ominous exception of the Copacabana. Also very few shops are for rent compared to the Town centre deserts in the UK.  Rio city is just one huge building site in preparation for the Games, thus the rush hour is even more fearsome. So at least Rio has seemingly avoided the worst of a recession. However this pessimistic economic backdrop leads to the good ole ROI (return on Investment) aka the ($ 64B) legacy question ; as it was in the London Olympics the prognosis is not great.

When I first came here 25 years ago  there were’nt many cars and I was struck by how active the  average Carioca was compared to London; walkers, joggers, beach  footballers , Frescobol, beach volleyball. The beaches literally teemed with games well into the night, when they played under flood lights. In addition Lanchonetes (old style Brazilian eateries) predominated. Now there are cars everywhere, less people on the beach and a plethora of fast food outlets. Obesity has struck though I don’t think it’ s at UK levels as Brazilians have a much more varied diet including fish and consume fresh unrefined food. The gym comparison is interesting where the old guys (like me) and youngsters are pretty slim but once you move into the street, the obesity of the young is remarkable.

Most days the gym is busy especially early on so the body beautiful remains endemic to the Brazilian dream, but the rising affluence has meant the car has often replaced walking or cycling (particularly dangerous in Rio). The legacy of the Games like London seems bleak as for example Deodoro, is at least 45 minutes away …

Vila Militar train station

Vila Militar train station

a bit like putting an Olympic centre in Dunstable. I also tried in vain to buy an all in one tri-althlon suit here (macacinho) only to find they were only available for women online. Similarly the yoga mats here are twice the price of the UK; yoga is a middle class import, hence the pricing . With the schools in the Alemao favela closed for three weeks due to the daily gun battles with UPP, this perhaps says it all about the parallel universes the Cariocas inhabit. 

Sao Cristavao - Maracana panorama

Sao Cristavao – Maracana panorama

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