Every four years, proud citizens from hundreds of different countries crowd their TVs to watch the most coveted event in sports: the Olympics. Much like it is every athlete’s dream to secure a spot on an Olympic team, it is every person’s dream to secure a ticket for the Olympic games and experience the event of a lifetime.
For the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil I had this opportunity exactly.
Going into the Olympics, I had no idea what to expect. Not only had I never left the country before, but I also couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I would actually be attending the Olympics. I couldn’t help but wonder, what would the events be like? Which ones would be the most exciting? And how much would these tickets costs?
After attending my three Olympic events, I was able to compare and contrast between the sports for the breakdown on what Olympic games are really like.
Event 1: Men’s Gymnastics – Day 1
My first-ever Olympic event was Men’s Gymnastics, something that I thought I could have only dreamed of attending prior to this event. Not only was gymnastics my favorite Olympic sport, but also tickets to this event are a little harder to get your hands on than others (we’ll get to that later).
First Impression: My first impression of men’s gymnastics was that the line to get into the gymnastics arena was incredibly disorganized. Not only could we not find where the line began, but also the line consisted of moving in multiple circle lines, and finally into the arena. There were no markers, no ropes, nothing. No one understood why the line wasn’t just a normal line, and instead a circle.
Event Impression: Once I finally got inside of the gymnastics arena, I was completely in awe. The building was constructed well, and there were thousands of people rushing to their seats like I was. Although I did not have the closest seats, the view was still incredible.
A little while into the event, I decided to grab food inside of the venue. To my dismay, I stood in line for over an hour, only to get to the front of the line and find that there was no food left. This was very disappointing, as I would have previously assumed Olympic food venues would be able to compensate for the number of spectators in attendance.
Once I got back, however, I enjoyed the rest of the event. Gymnastics truly is one of the most beautiful and exciting events the Olympics have to offer.
One thing I really enjoyed about attending men’s gymnastics was having the opportunity to go into the Olympic Park. This was by far my favorite part. The park was filled with tons of food, shopping and pin trading opportunities. We spent time both before and after the event exploring the Olympic Park, something that I was unable to do at the other two events I attended.
Biggest takeaway: Unbeknownst to me, at Olympic gymnastics events, most, if not all, events are happening at once. Although the TVs in the arena only focus in one on athlete/event at a time, as a spectator, your eyes are constantly moving around. Sometimes, it was hard to focus and you couldn’t always tell which country was participating and which one wasn’t.
Overall Experience: A
Event 2: Beach volleyball – Day 5
Attending an Olympic beach volleyball match was a last minute decision for me. After hearing about all of the excitement at the stadium, I decided that I couldn’t miss seeing beach volleyball.
Tickets were relatively easy to get for this event and only cost $30 USD. Not to mention, the beach volleyball stadium was on Copacabana beach – only one subway stop over from where I was staying. It was perfect.
First Impression: Unfortunately, the day I attended beach volleyball it happened to be a rainy, overcast morning. Still, that didn’t stop my group and I from experiencing the excitement that was beach volleyball.
One thing that I immediately noticed was the simplicity of the lines to get into the arena. Additionally, the food and bathroom lines were much shorter than the ones had been at the gymnastics arena. I also loved how the beach volleyball arena was actually on the beach, something previous summer Olympics could not do. It was beautiful situated on Copacabana Beach.
Event Impression: My overall impression of the event was a pleasant one. I believe if the weather had been better, the event would have been even more enjoyable. With beach volleyball, you typically get a ticket to several different matches, as each one only lasts about one hour. Out of the four tickets I had tickets to, I only attended the first two, as it was raining and not very warm.
Nevertheless, the excitement and enthusiasm from the crowd was still one of the best parts. So many fans were decked out in their country’s colors and holding flags. The stadium had dancers come out in between plays, as well as played a variety of songs and volleyball chants. It was much like a big party, and I can’t even imagine what a match during good weather would have been like.
Biggest takeaway: What I was most surprised with was how much like a high school game the beach volleyball match was, in terms of “spirit” and enthusiasm. The chants didn’t hurt either. Unlike the other events I attended, country pride was at an all-time high at this event. I loved seeing everyone celebrate their countries with fervor.
Overall Experience: B+
Event 3: Men’s Golf – Day 1
For the first time in 112 years, golf was an Olympic sport. This tournament happened to be the first event I bought tickets for, as they were also extremely affordable. Although not a golf fan, I thought this would be a great opportunity to experience a new sport and be a part of history.
First Impression: To be quite honest, my first impression was how dead the venue was. We arrived two hours after the start of the event, and there weren’t too many people there. The line to take a picture with the Olympic rings was very short, and the food and bathroom lines were empty.
Event Impression: My overall impression of the event was very favorable. As previously mentioned, I am not a golf fan. However, the course was absolutely beautiful, and so was the weather that day. One thing I enjoyed about golf is that you have the option to move around throughout the day, versus being cooped up in one single seat.
Additionally, we had the opportunity to follow golfers as we so chose. We chose to follow Bubba Watson for most of the event, and had the opportunity to get very close to him and take part in all of the action. Furthermore, we waited for some of the United States players after they had finished the 18th hole and had the opportunity to meet them. Both of the players I met, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar, were so kind and stopped to sign autographs and take selfies with every person. This was very unique and unlike the other events I had attended.
Overall, it was a great day. I couldn’t have asked for better weather, and honestly enjoyed the fact that the crowds were smaller than the other events I had attended, despite the fact that I am not a golfer.
Biggest takeaway: My biggest takeaway from this event was the fact that Olympic events aren’t always a huge, chaotic mess. Prior to my trip, I imagined each Olympic event as being full of huge crowds and chaos. Surprisingly, some are pretty laid back and relaxed. Also, I learned that not all Olympic events are very expensive, like this one. I think this is something that so often deters people from traveling and attending the Olympics – the assumption that the events are very costly.
Overall Experience: A-