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Sep 7

Paralympics Opening Ceremony Rio 2016!

The Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Brazil kicked off at 6:15 on September 7, 2016 and I WAS THERE!!!

As soon as I established my volunteer schedule and found that I could take time off for the opening ceremony, I tried to purchase tickets. Unfortunately, the first two tiers were already sold out, and the prices were getting a bit expensive. A few volunteers said to hold off on the purchase because they all received tickets for the Olympic Opening Ceremony and there was a good chance that we would get them for the Paralympics as well. The risk was that you had to wait until a few hours before the event, but it was worth the risk because they would be very good seats.

I took the risk. I waited. At 3:00 that day, my dream of getting a ticket came true! Our team as well as the other volunteers in our area received VIP tickets, which included access to the Paralympic Family Lounge with complimentary food and beverages. Travel to the Maracana for us should have been by the metro (subway). However, we were lucky enough to board a very comfortable bus for the 45 minute ride to the stadium. We could not wear our work uniforms, so I ran home to change and grabbed a Keating pirate shirt for Helena. We jumped on the bus and were on our way to the ceremony to join all of our clients.

My VIP ticket for the Opening Ceremony!

My VIP ticket for the Opening Ceremony!

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Helena and Nancy happy to be on the bus!

The show kicked off with an incredible stunt when extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham raced down a six-story high ramp, jumped through a giant hoop and landed on an inflatable mattress.  At that same moment, fireworks exploded from the top ring of the Maracana stadium and the party began.

 

 

There were many great performances and the crowd was alive with energy. As each country paraded through the stadium, they carried a puzzle piece. My heart was filled with pride when TEAM USA entered the Maracana carrying our flag. For their entrance, I made my way down to the front row. When the last puzzle piece was place, the puzzle turned into a beating heart, with the entire place feeling the vibrations from head to toe with only red lights pulsing and filling the air.

Amy Purdy, an American athlete who won bronze in the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics snowboarding and grew to fame from Dancing with the Stars, performed a samba dance with an unusally graceful robot. At one point, the robot even lifted her four feet off the ground. Amy lost both legs below her knees and performed her dance wearing her prosthetic running blades. (It is still my goal to meet her while I am here. We have posters of her from Dancing with the Stars in both of our offices.)

 

 

There was also an amazing video of fathers with their paraplegic children wearing special suits with boots to enable their kids to walk with them, and even play soccer (football). Chills ran through the crowd when children with their fathers from the video carried in the Brazilian flag.

More emotion filled the air when the Paralympic Torch entered the stadium. It was passed through several athletes. While carrying the torch, Marcia Malsar, a 1984 gold medalist – who was the first Brazilian ever to win gold at the Paralympic Games stumbled, fell, and dropped the flame. She was helped up by the assistants on the field and picked the torch back up. The crowd exploded to their feet with applause as she overcame the fall. The last person to take the flame to its home for the game waited at the foot of the stairs while they transformed into an accessible ramp for his chair. He made it up the ramps, lit the flame and the games were officially opened.

I can’t even explain to you the excitement I felt to be a part of this world event, and to be of the team that is making it happen. Along with the performances, speeches and athletes, we had access to the Paralympic Family Hospitality lounge. Since I have been working with my team and with the clients for over a week, I knew many people in the lounge. It was a great meeting place, and I even exchanged a few pins.

 

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A panoramic shot of inside the Maracana. We sat in the section of seat in the middle of this picture.

 

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Here’s my team in our great seats! Nancy, Helena (Brasil, Volunteer), Julia (Russia, Volunteer) and Renan (Brasil, Manager)

 

My team met in the lounge! Renan, Nancy, Giulia, and Marina

My team met in the lounge! Renan, Nancy, Giulia, and Marina. We are in the International Relations & Protocol Operations

 

The lounge that we had access to!

We had access to The Paralympic Family Lounge!

Rain was in the forecast, but held off until the end. Fortunately it didn’t put out any of the torch flames! Helena and I headed out with the crowd and made our way back to our comforatable bus for the ride home.

The games have officially begun!!!!

 

You can stream the games live from http://www.teamusa.org/

 

Sep 7

Paralympic Opening Ceremony Highlight Video!

Sep 1

My new job came through! I am now an International Relations Assistant!

Thanks to my manger Nathan, I was able to transfer to the International Relations & Protocol Operations Department. I still work in the hotel next door, but now it is in the lobby where all of the International Clients check in. They are the IPC, NPC and IF Presidents, Secretary Generals and Committee members. Now I will meet people from all over the world. Most of them, or at least their assistants speak English. So, it’s a better role for me all around!

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All clients receive a cell phone with a Brazilian number to use while they are here. Our job is to have them sign the contracts and to distribute the phones. Depending on their credentials, they will also receive tickets for the opening and closing events. We also distribute those tickets. We are actually labeled as the “Help Desk” for the Paralympic events. SO MUCH MORE FUN FOR ME!!!

My first day in this area was September 1. I was also able to change to the afternoon shift so that I could go to the volleyball classes.

When I arrived to work on Thursday, we had to fill out the cell phone contracts in advance. We had to transpose numbers from two lists and write a few times on the front and back of the contract. I knew I could do this easier and faster on the computer, but they only had 150 of 500 left, so I worked the day by hand. It took longer than I thought and it was really a good mind exercise for remembering numbers. When I left work that day, all of the contracts were completed.

The next day when I arrived at work, the team gave me the bad news that the contracts we used were from the Olympics and they all had to be redone on the Paralympic contract. This work had taken at least 3 full days with four people a day. The team was so stressed about having to re-do it all.

Now it was time for me to do it on the computer instead. I was able to run back to my apartment and get my own computer. They provided the data files in Excel and the contract in Word. I used Microsoft Access to combine the two data files and used Word-Merge to update all of the contracts. I gave a few lessons to the staff while doing it, they were very interested to learn.

It was a great success! No one had to rewrite the contracts by hand. We did give the printer a work-out though. Woo Hoo! I got a point on my second day!

I work with Marina and Gustavo who are both managers/paid employees. I also work along side a volunteer, Helena, from Brazil. They are all so intelligent, speak several languages and have also worked in the Olympics so really know the job. They are a lot of fun to work with!

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This is the selfie we took when we realized the Microsoft Word-Merge worked and no one had to redo the contracts by hand! Woo Hoo!

 

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This is the evening shift manager/employee Marina. She is great to work with. Very organized and flexible with my schedule as I want to attend the opening ceremonies, How lucky I am to work with her! She is also showing off her Keating pin!

 

 

 

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Gustavo – morning manager. He was instrumental in helping me work in his department. He is wearing his new Keating pin!

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Helena is a volunteer and works next to me. I absolutely love her! She is also a lawyer, speaks several languages and worked for the Olympics as well.

 

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Here is the Help Desk where I work. It is in the Lobby of the Windsor. Very nice work environment, although there is not enough coffee 🙂

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This is Helena’s daughter, Thayna. She was in a recent accident so I wanted to cheer her up with a Keating shirt. She looks happy, so I hope it worked!

 

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Here is the Paralympic Log o in the lobby. It also vibrates slightly and may make a slight sound for those who are visually impaired.

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This is the hotel where I work everyday. It is a 3 minute walk from my apartment!

Aug 31

Brazilian Birthday Party

My friend Claudia invited me to her colleague’s birthday party in Copacabana Wednesday night. The party was at a typical restaurant/bar here. They are usually outdoor restaurants along the sidewalk with a counter to order your food and tables set up under an awning. Everyone is very friendly. People who are originally from the city of Rio de Janeiro are called “Cariocas”.  I am greeted by Claudia’s friends with a kiss on each cheek. (It’s more of a cheek-to-cheek embrace with air kisses.) The group of people at the party were mostly from her office at SporTV. I also met Flavio Canto, who is another famous Olympic athlete. He won the gold in a previous Olympics for Judo. Now he coaches kids in a lower income neighborhood. He is also on TV and is an ambassador for the Paralympics.

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Claudia shows off Keating’s pirate picture more than I do!

 

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Big crowd at the birthday party at a typical bar/restaurant in Copacabana.

 

 

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Claudia, Nancy, Micheli Siqueira (very happy birthday boy, and Flavio Canto (famous Olympic Athlete for Judo, TV personality and Ambassador for the Paralympics)

 

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They had big bottles of beer on the tables with small glass beer mugs. A bit different from our large beer mugs.

Aug 31

Statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)

On my day off, after my first volleyball lesson, I met up with my new friend Curry from China. Together we went to visit one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the Christ the Redeemer statue.

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Curry got to Rio a few days before I did, and is not scheduled to work until September 7th. He has been traveling all over Brazil in his time before work, and gained a lot of experience on the busses and metro (subway). He made traveling to the statue via public transportation much easier since I just had to follow him.

After the metro, we took a van to the top of the mountain Corcovado. The statue is incredible. The view is beautiful as well. Fortunately we got there right before the clouds (and rain) moved in and got a few pictures. We also met Kaitlyn from Canada on the van ride up who had been back-packing for 4 months in South America. Curry also had another friend meet us there, so the four of us took pictures of each other until we fled the rain.

There was also a very nice shop and exposition on the rain forest that we were in. It was very well done, and a good place to be in the rain!

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Fan Rui (Curry’s friend), Curry (Paralympic Volunteer) and Kaitlyn (Backpacker from Canada)


Here’s a bit about Cristo from Viator.com

Keeping a watchful eye over the people of Rio de Janeiro, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer (or Cristo Redentor) sits atop Corcovado 2,300 feet (700 meters) above the city. It was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

The largest art deco statue in the world, it is 130 ft (39 m) tall and the arms measure 98 ft (30 m) across. Made of reinforced concrete and sandstone the statue was unveiled in 1931.

On a clear day the views from the base of the statue are fantastic. At night the statue is lit up and seemingly hovers over the city as the mountain it stands on is dark. If it is cloudy the clouds light up and the effect can be quite spectacular and ethereal.

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View from the top that was quickly hidden by clouds.

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Aug 31

My first Beach Volleyball lesson!

Originally I was scheduled for the 6 am – 3 pm shift all month at the check-in area for the work force. At the end of the day Tuesday, I was given the good news that I could transfer to another department.  One of my new managers, Marina, took me across the street to the Lobby of the Windsor Oceanico to show me my new work location.  She asked me if I preferred the morning or afternoon shift.  I quickly jumped at the afternoon shift so that I could take the beach volleyball classes across the street. (A dream for me.)  She scheduled me to begin that job on September 1, so I had a free day today.  That means I could go to the Wednesday Volleyball class at 9 am.

I was super excited for my first class. It was FANTASTIC! Then company is called VoieiBom and owned by an amazing woman named Cynthia Bernstorff. She has won medals in Masters beach volleyball all over the world, and she is also taking lessons in the advanced class to keep her skills up.  Her next stop is a tournament in New Zealand and she invited me to join her.  Little does she know I take invitations quite seriously! 🙂

They call the instructor “Professor” and he gives the lesson in Portuguese. So now my lessons are not only for volleyball, but also Portuguese.  It’s a bit tough to follow directions when he calls out quickly in Portuguese, but as long as I am not the first one to do the drill, I can follow the others.  So far there has been at least one person who speaks English and helps me.  I am getting better at the numbers to 1-21, and terms like go, serve, block, pass, etc. Volleyball is truly international though, especially high fives for a good play and the camaraderie you feel on the court!

I was put in the intermediate class, and it is perfect for me. On the first day I even had a block! woo hoo!!

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My new volleyball classmates!

 

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Here is the class with the “Professor” holding the ball. His name is Sobel.

Aug 30

Monday and Tuesday at work – and not so much fun with the bus and shopping.

My early shift in the work force area began at 6 am. I was prepared to take a lunch break at 9 am to run over to the volleyball class across the street. Even though we were not busy at all, my suggestion at an early lunch for beach volleyball was not embraced.

At this job we distribute meal tickets and water. Volunteers who usually work 9 hours get one meal. Paid employees who work 11 hours get two meals. Because the games do not start until Sept 7, there are not a lot of workers yet, and not much to do. Both Monday and Tuesday I came in at 6 am but left around 2.

Monday night I explored the beach a bit and looked into renting a bike. Tuesday after work I went shopping in search of roller blades.

All volunteers receive a card to ride the public transportation for free. That includes the bus and a small subway line. Claudia told me to go the Centauro to buy the blades, but I ended up on the wrong bus and went to the wrong shopping center. I ended up at a huge mall called Barra Shopping. It’s on a street called Avenue of the Americas. When I tried to catch the bus going in the other direction, the street was too busy for me to cross, and the bus area wasn’t as populated as the one near the shopping. There were many cabs, so I took one to the correct store. By this time, I was exhausted. They only had one pair of roller blades on sale and fortunately they were my size so I bought them.

Next door to Centauro was a grocery store, so I went there to pick up some things. It is SO DIFFICULT to shop with everything in Portuguese. I couldn’t even find the black pepper, I couldn’t read the labels and I was pretty tired. Plus, I had to carry everything home. My dear friend Claudia, aka “hero”, met me at the grocery store and helped me replace a few items.

From the store she invited me over to her apartment. This was the place I almost stayed, so I was happy to go. I met her other son Daniel and her cross-eyed cat Zen. I was exhausted from the shopping struggles, so I caught a ride home with Uber and went to bed early.

Sand Castle near the Kite Beach on my way in search of bike rentals.

Sand Castle near the Kite Beach on my way in search of bike rentals.

 

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Claudi and her cross-eyed cat, “Zen”.

 

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Zen would make a great friend with Keating!

Aug 28

More beach fun with Claudia on Sunday, my day off.

Claudia picked me up and we drove about 20 minutes to Ipanema Beach. This is the famous beach from the song “Girl from Ipanema”. Her son and a bunch of her volleyball friends go to that beach, so we wanted to join them. Her volleyball friends weren’t exactly like our Thursday Night crew. One was an international coach, another a player for Italy. Crazy talent. When they took a break, we jumped on the court and played.

There are many new bars and restaurants that popped up from the Olympics/Paralympics. After our day on the beach, we met up with another friend, Helena, and had some sushi at a restaurant by ASICS brand. On our way back to the car, Helene invited us up to her home where we met her husband and son, and enjoyed coffee and an interesting fruit.

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Ipanemo Beach – Beautiful!

 

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Claudia’s volleyball friends!

 

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Evidently this is an internationally famous sidewalk – the sidewalk pattern of Ipanema Beach.

 

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Helena is a sculptor and this baby is one of her works. Amazing! Thanks Helena for your hospitality.

Aug 27

The Kite-Surf beach and more new friends!

After my first day of work I walked down to the Kite Surfing part of the beach because my new friends Roger and Domitila said they would be surfing. Although I don’t think I stand out here, I definitely do. (And that was before I put on my bright green shirt). Roger had just finished surfing and spotted me. I ended up hanging out with them and their friend Gabby for a while. It was a club for kite surfers with live music. Definitely my kind of place!

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These are all kites with surfers at the other end!

 

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Roger and his surf board

 

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Nancy, Gabby, Domitila, Friend & Roger. I ended up talking to Gabby for a while that night. She is very young (early 20’s), but has traveled the world backpacking and is one of the few female kite-surfers. She is a rock star!

 

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Aug 27

My first day on the job – “Work Force Ops” at the Paralympic Family Hotel.

Today was my first day at work and I was trained by Luciana. She was the first to get a pirate dog pin and she loved it! My job was checking in employees and volunteers at the Paralympic family hotel to distribute meal tickets, water and to help keep the staff motivated.

When I heard “Paralympic Family Hotel”, I thought this was where the moms, dads and siblings of the athletes stay. I found out that the “Paralympic Family” means all of the world delegations of the organizing committees.  It is comprised of the International Paralympic Committee “IPC” and the National Paralympic Committees “NPC” and the International Federations “IF” for each sport.  This is the “business/organizing” side of the Paralympics, and they all stay in the same hotel.  They have a variety of privileges depending on their credentials.  The paid employees and volunteers in my area are taking care of this group of organizers.

The check-in area is in the lower floor of the hotel.  I work primarily with local employees and volunteers, and they all primarily speak Portuguese.  One of the managers, Nathan, thought I would be better suited to a different area where my English would be more of a benefit to the clients.  Nathan was working with another group to see if they could use my help.  Although I enjoyed working with everyone, and really working on my Portuguese, I didn’t get to meet people from all over the world.  I was hoping for the change so I could get a better sense of this amazing event.

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This is where I worked for the first 3 days. It’s the check-in area in the basement of the hotel.

 

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I was trained by Luciana. She was the first to get a pirate dog pin and she loved it!

 

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Meet Nathan. He is the manager that tried, and succeeded in transferring me to a department he thought would be more interesting for me. He is also helping to get Mark assigned to a roster.

 

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This is Vanessa, another manager. She also loved the Keating pin!

 

Here’s a quick lesson taken out of the Paralympic Family Guide.

The History of the Paralympic Movement and the Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games are the most prestigious international sports competition for athletes with an impairment. They help
break down stereotypes and promote change in the way that society views people with an impairment.

The History of the Paralympic Games
The origins of the Paralympic Movement are associated with the name of the distinguished neurosurgeon Ludwig Guttmann,
who actively used sports as a means of treatment for patients with motor system injuries. In 1948 he organized the first sports
competitions for people with impairment at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, United Kingdom. Participants in the
competitions included veterans who had been injured during the Second World War. These Games began to be known as the Stoke Mandeville Games, named after the village in which they were held. They gained international status as early as 1952, when Dutch military personnel took part in the competitions. The IX Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games were held
in Rome in 1960, a few weeks after the XVII Olympic Games. They are considered to be the first Paralympic Games.

The Term “Paralympic“
The name Paralympic Games originally referred to the term “paraplegia“, as the first regular competitions were among people
with spinal cord injuries. When athletes with different impairments began participating in the Games, the term “Paralympic Games“ took on the meaning of “alongside the Olympics“, from the Greek preposition para (“beside“ or “alongside“). The new interpretation was meant to declare the competition among people with an impairment to be equal to the Olympic Games.

The International Paralympic Committee The first General Assembly of International Sports Organizations for People with Disabilities was a pivotal event in the development of the Paralympic Movement. On 21 September 1989, in Düsseldorf, it founded the International Paralympic Committee, an international non-profit organization that promotes the Paralympic Movement around the world. The IPC’s goal is “to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world“.