Paralympic Games – Ronan Rooney Blog 7

What a fantastic city Rio is!  We finally got to see around and we were really impressed after an underwhelming start.  We got out to some other events that were held remote from the Village and Riocentro and we got a genuine flavour of the city and the people.  

Rio is built mainly on the flat areas around numerous low hills that appear to be pure rock.  It appears to be a real blend of the old and the new…shanty towns (or favelas) mixed in with modern commercial areas like Barra.  And then all along the coast there are these fantastic famous beaches like Copa Cabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches.  It’s got loads of famous landmarks like Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain and others.

Around the middle of the week we went to see Pat O’Leary do the sprint canoeing at the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon just north of Ipanema beach.  The journey there takes us through a lot of Barra and then the coast before cutting inland to the lagoon.  I love Barra because it is such a modern part of Rio.  The buildings are mostly newish and it is like any modern large city with residential tower blocks and commercial blocks spaced out nicely to leave room for landscaping and roads and the BRT (their rapid transport network.)  And it is huge.  It really is a major area within Rio with a very large population.  It’s got great beaches all along the coast.  Pat had reached the final and it was a beautiful day for it.  He finished 6th which he was fairly happy with since he went into the final in 7th position.  We got our first sight of Christ the Redeemer from there.

It looks like Barra keeps getting extended westwards (such as the Olympic Park and the Village) by eating into the surrounding rain forest.  To the west of the Village there are certainly large hills and scrub land that appear to be totally overgrown with palm trees, bushes, weeds, etc.

On Friday Jimmy and Catherine took us by courtesy bus to Corcovago mountain and the Tijuca National Park to see Christ the Redeemer.  We took the scenic route, taking in all the beaches and other tourist spots.  Their guide Lily and driver Danilo were fantastic, explaining all about the sites and going out of their way to ensure that we had an enjoyable day.  Enjoyable is an understatement.  Christ the Redeemer is absolutely stunning.  The roads up the mountain are almost perpendicular and they zig-zagged continuously until we reached half-way at which point we paid the charge (about 7euros a head) and then continued almost to the top.  At that stage we got out of our bus and the rest of the way was negotiated by escalators.  The statue is fabulous, towering above us and surrounded by a natural platform of rock.  At the base of the statue is a tiny church with a single doorway.  The views over Rio are fantastic but unfortunately it was partially foggy so that curtailed our views (and photos.)  I got a few good photos that give a good indication of how stunning the views are.

We went from there to the sailing competition at Gloria.  The race is held quite a long way from the shore and is very hard to see.  The Irish sailors were racing their penultimate race and the organisers laid on a fine boat for us to be able to get out close to the racing.  Our lads finished down the field but we really enjoyed it. 

The racing took place very close to Sugar Loaf so we got a few nice close-up photos.  We didn’t have time to spend time there although Jimmy had been there the day before and highly recommended it.  You get to the top of the Sugar Loaf by cable car which you can see in the photos if you look closely enough.

Last night we had the Closing Ceremony in the Maracana.  I was looking forward to seeing the Maracana since we had missed the Opening Ceremony.  What a stadium!  It really is enormous.  It took about an hour or 90 minutes to get over there from the Village, and we saw the other side of Rio on the way over.  Once we left Barra we travelled through the older Rio, the one with the favelas and the Graffiti.  I love the graffiti in Rio.  It seems to be everywhere, certainly in the older parts and it seems to be used instead of painting the walls.  The artwork is brilliant and it brings great colour to those older neighbourhoods.

It really was a mammoth logistical project getting 10,000 people bussed from the Village to the Maracana.  They must have used a thousand buses and it went off like clockwork.  The ceremony itself was very enjoyable even though it started raining heavily towards the end and we left early.  The music was fab.  We were seated next to Laos and behind Mongolia.  It obviously wasn’t ordered alphabetically which makes a change.  Usually we are stuck between Israel and Iraq which can be interesting to say the least!  The music was great and the fireworks and colour were up to the usual standard.  I think my phone succumbed to the Rio rain!  It’s knackered and I brought it into the Samsung shop in the Village but they couldn’t help me.  Samsung are one of the major sponsors of the Olympics and Paralympics so have a big store down in the Plaza area of the Village.  They couldn’t restore my phone though.  So I have almost no photos from the Closing Ceremony.

This morning the airline we are travelling home with set up an office in the Village and started the checking-in process.  We pre-checked most of our luggage and kit, which should make it easier when we leave tomorrow. 

So, tonight is our last night here.  The packing is done and we are, at this stage, looking forward to getting on the road.

I might do one final blog within a few days of getting home.