Aug 21, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Photographers gather for the medals ceremony following the men’s cross country mountain bike competition during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Mountain Bike Centre.
As with my first Olympics blog from Rio, I’m penning my final one from an aircraft 38,000 feet somewhere over the Caribbean. Admittedly, I’m not returning from Rio on this flight, however, but from a lighting design gig with Anthony Hamilton in Curaçao. You may have heard that I was exhausted following the Olympics, which was true. You may have also heard I have a hard time turning down jobs immediately following the Olympics in exotic locales, which would also be true. Hey, sleep when you’re dead, right?
I’ve had just under two weeks to digest my Olympics experience, and to reflect upon how the trip affected me both professionally and personally. I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to field questions from my friends back home, with most of them being the same ones! Since there’s so much interest in these topics, I figured I’d center this wrap-up on a little Guy Rhodes Rio FAQ.
Q: What did you eat down there? A: There were two buffet-style cafeterias that I dined at exclusively. One was at the main press center, while the other was in my village in Deodoro. Both locations served a predicable rice and beans, some sort of pasta, vegetables, and a meat (typically chicken or pork). Salad was also offered, but I steered clear of this for fear of it being washed in the local water, which I was also avoiding. The main press center location, additionally, offered a few more junk food options (pizza, these things approximating corn dogs, and some sort of meat-filled bread loaf creation). This section came in handy especially while waiting out those 12:45am missed shuttle busses!
Q: Was the food any good? A: Much like the weather in Rio, it depended on the day. There were a couple of days where I wanted to go back for thirds, while other days had me questioning whether the rice was actually gravel from the BMX track.
Q: Where did you stay? Was it nice? A: Myself and fellow USA Today Sports Images photographers Geoff Burke and Matt Kryger shared a three bedroom apartment on the Deodoro military base! While sparsely furnished and quite vanilla in its appearance, each of us had our own bathroom and enjoyed a nice balcony along with a decently-equipped kitchen (if you’re into microwaving noodles, which we were). Hot water came at a premium, even after two visits from Mr. Estrella, the complex superintendent. There’s nothing like 58 deg. F water to motivate an expedited shower!
Q: Was it really as crazy down there as they said? A: Yes. See my first blog about the deceased motorcyclist in the road that greeted me, or Google the multiple instances of photographers getting their equipment stolen. As long as you were smart, however, and looked out for yourself, you were likely fine.
Q: What was your favorite event that you covered? A: While I enjoyed everything save for canoe sprint, I’d have to say BMX was my favorite event. The different features of the course provided a lot of opportunities for artsy compositions and unique frames.
Q: What was your most memorable experience in Rio? A: This is a tough one to make singular. I’d have to say there were two events that bookended the trip that stood out the most for me. The first would have to be traveling to the favela of Santa Maria to photograph the fireworks with the city skyline during the opening ceremonies.
The second would have to be surviving a ride on the Brazilian subway alone with all my gear in order to make it to closing ceremonies after a scheduling snafu! With media bus service suspended several hours prior to the ceremony, the subway was my only option at the point that I began my transition from the mountain biking assignment I shot earlier that afternoon. I only discovered this when I arrived to the main press center expecting a dedicated media shuttle, as there was for 100% of the other events I covered.
As I sat on the subway seat, my 400mm lens and two professional cameras hanging off my body became dripping honey for the bees nest of thieves I was sure was going to burst open at any moment. I remember thinking to myself, “This is the exact scenario they told you not to be in while here – alone in public with all your gear visible.” And yet, on the final night of the trip, there I was! I also remember being so incensed at the fact that I was running late that, in some deep twisted way, I almost welcomed an attacker — if only to serve as a funnel for all the rage I was suppressing at that moment (I knew that was simply the East Chicago surfacing from within my subconscious).
I quickly pal’ed it up with two broadcast employees from Belarus and another photographer from Mongolia who were also heading to the closing ceremonies on the subway with me. They spoke enough English to understand my declaration that we were now friends, and that we’d be walking together for the remainder of the trip! I’m happy to say we made it unscathed, and the closing ceremonies ended up being extremely enjoyable for this lighting designer and theatre tech to photograph!
Performers during the closing ceremonies.
Fireworks are launched during the final minutes of the closing ceremonies for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Maracana.
With the images now cleared and archived from the laptop, the suitcases and gear unpacked (for the most part), and the shower water temperatures now pleasingly steamy, I’ve had a lot of idle moments to consider what I really took from my experience in Rio. Sure, there’s the images — thousands to my name. And, of course, there’s a Rio itself — beautiful natural landscapes arm wrestling with the most impoverished living conditions I’ve witnessed yet.
Overall, what I will remember the most about this trip were the locals from Brazil who helped make my experience as pleasant as they could. The freckled girl who walked me all the way to my apartment with an umbrella over my head during hour one. Dara, my guide on opening night, who made my favela fireworks shoot safe and seamless. Taisa, an attendant in the cafeteria in my village, whose radiant smile and spunky sarcasm were always welcomed after a tiring day. Photo manager Duda (along with his co-worker Raquel), whom I worked with nearly every day of the games. Duda and Raquel are both very talented photographers on their own, and made it a point to help us achieve our visions however they could (aside from just being pleasant to be around, which can be a stretch for some in our industry).
I’d be remiss if I also didn’t acknowledge the entire team of editors who were on the other end of my camera for each event I covered, especially my good friend Shanna Lockwood. She always took the time to make sure my abstract, artsy photos saw the light of day, which isn’t always easy when you’re editing two other events at the same time! Bob Rosato, our senior editor and leader at the games (who’s been shooting sports just about as long as I’ve been alive — and someone I consider a mentor on my photography journey) was also a trusted source of knowledge and experience at the games. This came not only with help on deciding what angle to shoot something from, but equally for advice on the logistics of navigating such a huge event.
Finally, I’ve always been a huge fan of statistics, so I thought it would be fun to leave you with some numbers from my entire trip!
GUY’S RIO 2016 STATISTICS
• Miles Walked: 84.66
Guy’s Portuguese Word of the Day is, “Casa,” pronounced, “Kah-Sah,” meaning, “House,” as in, “I’ve been at the casa for over two weeks, but I’m just posting my Olympics wrap-up blog. Don’t judge me.”