Suspect package found and detonated close to finishing line of men’s cycle road race
A suspect package found on the beach front at Copacabana and a stray bullet flying through the media centre at the Olympic Games equestrian press centre provided evidence of the dangers of attending the Olympic Games.
It would be a positive understatement to say the British “elf ‘n safety” would have a field day in Rio de Janeiro.
After only a few days here, it has become abundantly clear that the standards are incredibly lax compared to back at home.
I witnessed that at first hand on Copacabana when a suspect package was discovered close to the finishing line of the men’s cycle road race.
A bomb disposal unit dealt with the incident, detonating the device with a controlled explosion inside a metal freight container.
However, the fact it was done no more than 15 yards from where I was stood, blissfully unaware of what was going on was deeply concerning.
The sound of the blast will live with me forever, possibly the most terrifying experience of my life as I thought it was a terrorist attack.
I found it incredulous that an evacuation of a wider area was not undertaken, something that would have happened at home.
What would have happened had it not been a harmless, unattended bag with me stood so close?
Stray bullet fires into the media centre
That was nothing compared to another incident that happened at the equestrian venue and was a top of conversation over breakfast in the Deodoro media accommodation village.
The Deodoro complex is situated where much of Brazil’s military and while media were there covering the dressage phase of the three-day event, a stray bullet from a military range found its way into the media centre.
It pierced the canvas cladding to the building, ricocheted off a metal stanchion holding up the building and came to rest on the floor.
But “elf ‘n safety” would be in their element elsewhere.
Leaving the Maracana after the opening ceremony, the walkways inside the stadium were dimly lit, indeed it was like walking in darkness. And that is in a venue that was extensively rebuilt for the 2014 World Cup.
But, in my accommodation block at Deodoro village, there are worrying features such as light switches inside bathrooms.
By the lift, covers are missing exposing bare electric wires while in my apartment there are huge gaps around plug sockets.
These glitches aside, Rio seems to coping well with the magnitude of hosting an Olympics.
Certainly for the media, the transport is working well, a key component here bearing in mind the sporting events are being held at four hubs in different corners of the city so there is extensive travelling.
The horrors of 20 years ago still remain etched in my memory and were relived when chatting to an American journalist wearing an Atlanta shirt as we swopped horror stories.
Lavish opening ceremony for Brazil 2016, and an appearance on Abu Dhabi TV
Rio put on a terrific opening ceremony to showcase itself to the world, and done at a fraction of the cost of the lavish one put on by London four years earlier.
Like London, there was a historical them tracing the history and evolution of the country.
I have been lucky enough to attend opening ceremonies at Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London, and this was on a par with those spectacles.
The opening ceremony also provided a surreal personal moment as I found myself being interviewed live on Abu Dhabi sports channel.
I was sat directly in front of their television gantry and was approached by their presenter saying they were about to go live on air. My initial thought was the flash from my camera would interfere with their transmission.
However, he wanted to interview me live on air which was unusual as it is usually world class athletes being quizzed by the likes of Sue Barker, not an insignificant member of the British press pack compared with some of the newspaper big hitters attending the Olympics.
A number of topics were covered – Rio staging the games, security, world-class athletes taking part including the return of swimming legend Michael Phelps.
It was unscripted and unrehearsed so thinking quickly on your feet was a challenge, especially when the presenter threw in a curved ball and asked me about the medal hopes of Arabic athletes.
That was a naughty one and required playing the return with a straight bat and a reply which would be best described as waffle.
Eventful first day of Olympic sport
My opening day was spent watching the men’s cycle road race, an exciting 237.5km of breakaways, crashes and a thrilling finish.
Pole Rafal Majka, who had made a breakaway, was caught in the final kilometre by Belgium winner Greg van Avermaet and Dane Jakob Fuglsang as he had to be content with bronze.
The backdrop to the finish on the iconic Copacabana beachfront on a gloriously sunny afternoon could not have been more impressive.
It was then off in the evening to see Oldham’s only Olympian Nicola White begin her quest for another medal after her bronze at London 2012.
And the Great Britain women’s hockey team made an impressive start beating arch rivals Australia, who pipped England for gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2-1.