A trip to Olympic Park is sure to be a life-changing lesson on how to drain a day away standing behind hundreds of other people. After the commute to the park (which includes an already hefty mix of metros, buses and trains), visitors can expect hour-long lines to get through security and hours-long – yes, that’s an s – waits just to get a hamburger or bottle of water.
Fans have few options for finding food once they enter the park. The most popular is the sunny, outdoor food plaza which hosts an untamed sea of hot-headed visitors, most of whom seem to baking at a faster rate than the hotdogs on the grills.
“We are standing in this line, standing in the hot sun with no shade. I am hungry, and I’m offering them my money for food. What in God’s name is the hold up here?” visiting Canadian Alisa Shickler said. “This is awful. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
In Kubler-Ross’s never-before-seen 10 stages of Olympic Park grief, Shickler and several other visitors to Olympic Park shared their thoughts and feelings while waiting in the 97-minute-long journey through the line.
1. Observing the lines
At high noon, the lines were only at the first stage of “outrageous,” Shickler said.
“This doesn’t look too bad right now,” she said. “I’m just in line to get a bag of chips and a couple bottles of water before I go to the swimming event.”
Shickler had 44 customers in front of her – the shortest of the 18 other lines she could have been standing in for food. Further up the line, Luiz Samuel gave forewarning to those behind him.
“It’s gonna be long, long wait,” Samuel said. “Good luck.”
2. Trying to build optimism and hope
Natalia Ramamro, a volunteer at Olympic Park, is sometimes tasked with “customer calmness,” she said. When lines get long, Ramamro takes to her megaphone to answer questions from those waiting in lines, offering bits of encouragement in both English and Portuguese in the process.
“You can do it! You guys are all so awesome!” the Brazilian native said into the crowd.
During the chant, Swedish visitor Rachel Ludham smiled, but she quickly dropped her head back down into her hands.
“I came here to see the Olympics — not wait in line,” she said. “I’m thinking this is going to be the worst part of my experience here.”
3. The slow reality starts setting in
Three steps later into the line, Shickler began to comprehend the decision she made to wait for food.
“It feels like an amusement park that’s a lot less amusing and a lot more hot and miserable,” she said. “But what else can we really do? We can’t bring food or water in here, so I’m basically forced to buy this stuff like this.”
Shickler’s dad, Randy Hendricks, chimed in.
“You expect lines when you go places. I mean, it’s the Olympics. Of course there are going to be lines,” Hendricks said. “But this seems like a really big, really unnecessary mess. Who knows how long we’re going to have to wait.”
4. Silent frustration begins taking over
Caden Adams, an American gymnastics fan and Massachusetts native, started getting “hangry” after the line went stagnant. After five minutes of no movement at all, he started groaning and mumbling to himself.
“Honestly, how badly do I want this food,” he said. “How much are a hamburger and a beer really worth? I don’t know — not this much time out of my life.”
The line didn’t move for another five minutes.
5. Realizing Olympic events are starting, forcing some to utter complaints
After 45 minutes, Shickler started to get worried.
“I have 15 minutes before I’m supposed to be seated, like, what in the world is this hold up?” she asked.
Shickler had only moved up about two yards in the line, and more than 20 customers were still before her.
At the front of the line, Hilton Basant grabbed his things and ran after getting his receipt.
“(My event) is starting right now!” Bassant yelled as he ran toward the Olympic stadium.
6. Ditching the line turns into a preferred option
After spending nearly an hour in line at Olympic Park, Martin Santos decided his hunger wasn’t worth the line.
“I waited 30 minutes just to go through security to get inside the (Olympic) Park,” Santos said. “I’ve waited an hour here, but I think I would rather be hungry than miss seeing anything I paid for.”
Adams, who still had a ways to go in the line he was in, left to try another line a few rows over for the same food counter.
“If the other lines are just as slow, I’m ditching them altogether,” he said as he left.
7. Brazilians try stepping in
With tensions high, those waiting in line started stepping aside to approach the cashiers, which quickly turned into a barrage of questions.
“Okay, what’s going on here? What are you guys even doing up here?” Shickler asked.
“You all need to get this figured out. This is ridiculous,” Adams added as he leaned over the cashier’s counter.
But Samuel, whose forward position in line depended on the cashier’s attention to the customer in front of him, turned around to those behind him to offer support.
“Hey, guys, (the workers) are doing their best. Get your order and money ready, and it will really help things,” he said.
8. Anxious customers start trying their own tactics
Hot, hungry and annoyed, most of those in line weren’t thrilled with the advice, and some tried to take matters in their own hands.
“Hey, how can I help you guys up here?” Adams said, approaching the counter. “Is this a language barrier? Because we have people back here in line who can help with that.”
But Anita Carvalho, now the sole cashier at the front of the line, could barely handle the combination of paying customers and those angrily waiting their turn.
“I just need one moment, please,” she said. “I’m very sorry. We are very busy, and I’m the only one here right now. I’m doing my best.”
9. Realizing the line was just for a food voucher — not the food itself
It took an hour and a half and 142 steps for Shickler to get to the front of the line.
The best part, she said, was that the line wasn’t even to get the food.
“You wait forever in this line just to get handed a ticket and told to go somewhere else and actually pick up your food,” Shickler said. “So now I get to go wait in another line. I could not be more frustrated by this.”
10. Taking the first bite
Adams and Shickler made it to the food-voucher-redemption counter at nearly the same time.
“I’m so disappointed that it took so long,” Shickler said. “We’re just out here baking in the sun, frustrated, unable to fully understand what’s going on, and at the end of it all, it’s like you don’t even have energy to go sit down and watch the event anymore.”
The Olympic Park cashiers couldn’t give a solid answer as to why the lines were moving so slowly nor could they offer advice to future customers visiting the park.
After his time in line was complete, Adams said he wouldn’t be repeating the experience.
“There is absolutely no way in the world I’ll ever wait in a line like that for food here again,” Adams said. “I’m just not buying food in Olympic Park at all after today. I guess this is what I’ll always remember, though. It’ll be that time I traveled all the way to Olympics, waited over an hour in line, missed part of my event and realized that wanting a hotdog ruined my whole day.”
Casey Smith is a Ball State University student and writer for BSU at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Indiana, to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and BSU at the Games on Facebook.