The Olympics Logo


The Olympics

Rachel Blount and Jim Souhan provide updates on the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Souhan: Ten things to know about being in Rio

Rio de Janeiro

It's been an interesting first 10 days in Rio.

1. The first American journalist we saw in Rio told us nightmares about backed up toilets and sewage. We have not been so unfortunate.

2. An Olympic official today told reporters of the slime-green water in the diving venue that ``Chemistry is not an exact science.''

3. A bullet flew hit and landed in a press tent early in the Games. More bullets apparently hit a media bus the other day, although Olympic officlals are saying rocks broke the window. Which seems highly unlikely.

4. Other than bullets, things have gone better than expected. There aren't many mosquitos so Zika is not the overwhelming threat it was made out to be. I don't know anyone who has gotten sick from drinking the Rio water. The rowers said the water quality in the lagoon where they competed was just fine. Moral of the story: Avoid the bullets and you'll be fine.

5. My experiences with Brazilians is that they are quite nice and helpful, but they're not exactly watching the clock. You want to eat a meal in a restuarant? Better cut out a couple of hours.

6. Perhaps more important than food and lodging to people covering the Olympics is bus efficiency. The buses have run on time and have been driven very fast. There are always glitches in transportation during an Olympics but Rio has done well with this so far.

7. Had an American fan just tell me that a security guard told him that security has been lacking of late. I haven't noticed any problems but that doesn't sound good.

8. Rio is beautiful. A friend who vacationed here told me that visiting Christ The Redeemer is the obvious thing to do but that the ski lifts that take you to one of the mountaintops near the beach is the best tourist attraction in the city.

9. I"ve seen stories, including one in the Star Tribune, about the efficacy of holding the Olympics in one (or several) standing sites to save money and ensure efficiency. That makes a lot of financial sense. I'm not sure it's in keeping with what is good about the Olympics - that the Games are supposed to be inclusive. Selfishly I would love it if the Games were held in one of the world's great cities every year. Paris, anyone? That might cut down on the corruption that plagues the Olympics and the IOC, but would that be what the Olympics should be? I'd like to believe that someday the Olympics could be profitable, corruption-free and mobile. Maybe I'm naive.

10. Sports journalists don't have the hardest jobs in the world. I learned while working in a factory and at a smelter's and in retail that I preferred a career in journalism, and I've been rewarded many times by my choice. Just because the job doesn't require breaking rocks doesn't mean journalists don't work hard in their own way and I'm heartened at events like this to see so many great writers and relentless workers gathered in one place. The Washington Post produces a phenomenal sports section. Some of the best people from ESPN and USA Today are here. And the reporters and columnists representing papers across the country work ridiculous hours and produce remarkably high-quality material under less than perfect conditions. I always find covering the Olympics to be challenging. I'm out of my comfort zone, and I'm amazed by the work some of my peers produce from the Games.


Blount: Rio: the marvelous (and dangerous) city

As of Sunday, Team Star Tribune has been in Rio for six days, and none of us has gotten sick yet. None of us has been robbed. Our housing at Barra Media Village 1 is basic, but it’s clean and comfortable, and the only issue was not having any hot water the first day.

I’d love to say I’m breathing a sigh of relief, thinking all the concerns about the Rio Games were greatly exaggerated. Instead, I’m just feeling lucky. Since we arrived Tuesday, we’ve learned many of Rio’s dangers are very real, and they’re not taking a break during the Olympics.

Saturday, some Australian rowing coaches were robbed at knifepoint and roughed up at Ipanema beach. Other athletes, media and tourists have been victimized at Copacabana beach, and even in the stands during the opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium.

Our photographer, Brian Peterson, said a colleague had equipment stolen out of his backpack--by someone who was behind him--at Maracana. Brian also heard a tale of a photographer who had $40,000 of  gear stolen in a scheme run by three guys who worked together to distract him, take the stuff and escape. And another photographer saw a man shot to death outside Maracana; the victim lay in the street, bleeding from his head, in an area swarming with people who had just attended the ceremony.

Reporters have to leave our computers and gear bags in media workrooms or seating areas while we're getting interviews. Many of us are really concerned about that, even though the media areas are supposed to be secure.

We’re being vigilant, of course, but that doesn’t always matter. Saturday, a stray bullet pierced the roof of the media tent at the equestrian venue. The communications director for Rio 2016 expressed little concern, saying the venue wasn’t a target and calling it “an unfortunate incident.’’ Sunday, he said the bullet—which landed near the press conference room—was fired from a slum, by someone targeting a police blimp.

There also was an explosion near the finish line of the men’s cycling road race Saturday, which rattled the media viewing area. Officials said it was “a controlled explosion of an unattended backpack.’’ This occurred during the race, in an area flooded with people.

Remember, all this is happening with 85,000 police and military swarming the city.

There are some other safety concerns, too. In Barra Olympic Park on Saturday, the sun was beating down mercilessly on a 90-degree day, yet people were left standing in the heat for hours because there weren’t enough workers. It took two hours to get into some venues, and the few stands selling water or other beverages had lines that ran more than a hundred deep. The park also has very little shade.

This is about the only patch of green in the place, unless you count the painted concrete.



I’ve heard from some people who are questioning whether the water really is as bad as advertised, because it looks so nice on TV. The answer: Yes. NBC and its global counterparts paid billions to televise an Olympics surrounded by Rio’s natural beauty, and organizers have made sure areas that will be in their shots look clean.

But the Associated Press—which has commissioned periodic testing of the water at venues—reported that the latest samples showed 248 million adenoviruses per liter in Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where Olympic rowing is taking place. The AP said that level “would have authorities in the U.S. closing down beaches and lakes and taking emergency measures to protect public health.’’

So for the next 15 days, we'll keep our heads low, we won't drink the water and we'll hope for the best.