travel

MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Every entry from the Rio Summer Games

I’m back!

I’m back in Atlanta, I’m back to my normal routine, and I’m back to work at 11Alive.

The Olympics suddenly seem so long ago.

But the 2016 Summer Games remained a remarkable event, both for viewers at home and for those of us who got to experience it on the ground in Rio. I’m taking the week off from blogging, but in the meantime, here’s a look back at every entry of mine from these past Olympics:

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: 16 odd observations from covering the ’16 Summer Games

This assignment is not normal.

I’ve said that before, right?

In fact, I have probably detailed it quite a bit in this space over the past few weeks. I have discussed how this three-week Olympic experience affects my diet, sleep, and health.

But I probably have not described much of the minutiae.

Here, then, is this list. As my assignment winds down (I leave Monday following the closing ceremonies), I bring you 16 odd observations from covering the 2016 Olympics:

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: The Olympics barely hint at the real Rio

I did something very important yesterday.

I took a field trip.

And it was very necessary.

I have spent the past two weeks covering the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But, I have found, unless I make an effort to do so, I wind up exploring very little of the host city. I spend the majority of most days in our workspace, a windowless room inside the International Broadcast Centre. I otherwise find myself in various parts of Barra Olympic Park, covering stories and events.

This means I spend little time in the real Rio.

And let me be clear: Olympic Park is not the real Rio.

This is not a slam on the Olympics. It’s a simple fact. The Summer and Winter Games provide the best in pageantry and competition but provide an in-person experience that is sanitized and corporate. If one spends two weeks in Rio without venturing outside of the park, one will not experience the city’s diversity of culture, cuisine, and aesthetics.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: I tried a coxinha, and Brazilian Twitter went wild

I can barely believe it, but I have already been in Brazil for nearly a week. In that time, I have done multiple reports and made numerous posts to Facebook and Twitter, cataloging some of Rio de Janeiro’s most iconic sights and elaborate Olympic venues.

But nothing has gained as much attention as a seemingly innocuous Tweet about a Brazilian culinary staple.

On Wednesday, a large group of us went on a day-long tour of the city, and midway through we stopped at the famous Selaron Steps. As we wrapped up and awaited our buses, one of my colleagues began talking with a Rio resident and pointed at an item in her hand from a street vendor.

It was a coxinha.

I had no idea what a coxinha was, but my colleague described it as a chicken hush puppy. Then she started passing it around.

I had to try … and I’m glad it did, because it was delicious. Within minutes, I posted the proof of my culinary victory to Twitter. It received a few likes and re-Tweets but quickly sank into the ether, like nearly every other Tweet, never to surface again.

Except it did.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Getting up-close and in the clouds in Rio

“It is what it is.”

That’s the sentence I heard from several of my colleagues as we stood among the clouds, barely able to see ten feet in front of us.

The site? Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. It’s most famous for the landmark that stands atop it: the Christ the Redeemer statue, which stands 124 feet tall and in 2007 was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Hundreds of visitors flock daily to the statue, but they equally admire the views that extend from it.

Not on this day.

We found ourselves awash in a mixture of fog, mist, and full-on rain. We had seen peeks of the vistas as we rode a cable car to the top, but by the time we arrived, we could hardly see the statue.

It is what it is.

And, in this case, “what it is” was pretty freaking surreal.

The statue of Christ the Redeemer seemed like a silhouette in the distance, even as it towered over us. I could not help but be impressed and awed.

We visited the statue as part of a day-long tour arranged by NBC. We hit a number of Rio’s most iconic spots and came upon a barrage of beautiful views and eclectic sights.  I plan to put together a full video report about the day, but in the meantime I figured I could provide a photo gallery so you can see what I saw.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Life out here is just … different

This is me.

This is me, above, on the bus home after a 14-hour workday, writing this blog entry.

This is me, below, working so late that I missed the cafeteria dinner and had to settle for a cup of yogurt.

(And they had no spoons or forks left, so I drank it out of the cup.)

IMG_1557

This is me on a relatively light day covering the Olympics.

And it’s only Day 1.

I have received this assignment twice before, at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. As a result, I know quite well how I will likely, over the next few weeks in Rio de Janeiro, redefine a “normal workday”.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Rio is stunning, on the surface

There’s a feeling that hits me every time I travel that reminds me why I travel.

It happens early in the trip, usually within a few hours of landing at the airport.

You see, I love the jolt I receive when I first click “BOOK” on a flight to an uncharted destination. I swell with anticipation and wish I could pack my bags and depart that minute. But then I return to real life, focus on my many responsibilities at home, and struggle to regenerate that jolt of excitement. During the days leading up to a vacation, I rarely get the chance to think about it because I must complete a bunch of last-minute errands. Even when I get on the plane and land in a new city, I feel eager but also sluggish from the long flight.

Then I escape the airport and head to wherever I’m going, and soon I arrive upon some spot — a vista, building, monument, or special site – that freezes me with its power and beauty. I stop mid-conversation or mid-thought to savor the moment, and I instantly think (sometimes out loud): “Wow … this is cool. This is why I wanted to come here.”

It happened again Sunday, roughly two hours into my current travel experience: a three-week trip to cover the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring three favorite storytellers

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

A sweet surprise awaits you (9/22/15, 99% Invisible): The pieces in this week’s edition of “3 Great Stories” have a common strength: they all lead the audience on a journey.

Roman Mars and his team at 99% Invisible have practically perfected this structure, at least in podcast form. I have written about 99% Invisible so many times I have little left to say, but as long as Mars keeps producing exquisite episodes like this, I will continue to shout him out.

I don’t want to spoil this journey, but as you listen, appreciate the narrative build: from an innocuous story about Powerball to the rise of the fortune cookie to its surprising, serious, and historic background. Every few minutes brings a new twist, constantly rewarding and informing the attentive listener.

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A storyteller’s trip to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni

My journey to one of the world’s most stunning sights began with an innocent click.

Really, it began because of this web site.

I launched the Telling The Story blog in February 2013 to inspire journalists and storytellers, using not just my work but that of others around the world. I included a weekly series called “3 Great Stories” to spotlight the best pieces I watched, heard, or read that week.

I began to relish my regular quest to unearth such gems, and I regularly scanned different outlets to expand my reach.

In January 2014 I discovered Medium.

Advertised initially as a long-form version of Twitter, the site had become — at its best — a beacon of creativity where both young and established writers posted their work. I started scouring its headlines until I stumbled upon this one:

Salar de Uyuni: my trip to see the world’s largest mirror

It was accompanied by this photo:

Salar post photo

My eyes widened, and my index finger raced to the mouse to click on the link.

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How I spent my summer vacation (and used it in a story)

My older friends in broadcasting like to tell me of a time when traveling was a natural part — nay, a benefit! — of the job.

Apparently, a time once existed when one could wrangle a trip to a foreign country to do “slice-of-life” stories. I do not totally believe this, but I don’t totally *not* believe it.

These days, traveling for a story — if you work for a local news department — is a much rarer sight. I got an enormous opportunity this past February when I went to Sochi to cover the 2014 Winter Olympics, but I can count on one hand, in my five years in Atlanta, how many times anyone at my station flew internationally for the job.

I love to travel, especially to foreign countries. And when I do, I try as hard as possible to separate myself from work. I set my Outlook away message; I rarely use my phone because of the lack of wi-fi abroad; and I take comfort in the fact that I can do very little for our nightly newscast while I am out of the country.

But those trips, ultimately, always affect my work. They open my eyes to other cultures, enhance my perspective as a whole, and even give me added photography practice.

Last month, for the first time, one of my trips directly paid dividends on the air. (more…)