Getting the call-up to go to an Olympics is as exciting for a journalist as it is for the athletes themselves.
H&H has three accredited journalists — two writers and a photographer — more than any other British media outlet. Pippa Roome and I were The Chosen Two this time round, bringing along 19 years of reporting experience between us.
It took Pippa — who is more dogged than Lassie — many many months and about 1359 emails to get us here. The Olympics is an unwieldy megalith but my god I’m grateful that she unpicked the logistical spaghetti.
If your face doesn’t fit the Olympic mould, you don’t get in. Another TimeInc journalist, a baby-faced 20-something who works on the cycling titles, had his application rejected as they didn’t believe he looked over 18. Poor lamb.
Neither Pippa nor I had that problem, sadly, but it was her determination and perseverance over the past 22 months that have greased our path thus far. Pippa and I are diametrically opposed characters. She is organised and risk-averse. I am more relaxed and more chaotic. In fact, she told me yesterday that I “positively court danger”. I wouldn’t go that far, but I’m definitely a defiant small-scale rule-breaker.
We’re different in just about every way, which is probably why we rub along so well. Without her I’d be kamakaze and without me she’d always play it safe. She always makes her bed, I never make mine. She arrived at the airport three hours early, I cut it ultra-fine, etc. You get the picture, and there’ll be more on that in her blog later.
And it was in matching blue Team GBR polo shirts that Pippa and I met at Heathrow for the overnight flight to Rio via Lisbon. We thought it would be a strong look for selfies (it was). It was incredible how many people spoke to me on the tube. It felt like wearing my London 2012 Paralympic accreditation all over again. It might as well say “talk to me” on it.
Once united, we decided we’d tell people we were a badminton pair if anyone asked. (Nobody asked.)
Pikachu The Redeemer
There have of course been scare stories ahead of the Olympics: the water can kill you, the mosquitoes are demonic and, worst of all, there’s no Pokemon Go in Brazil. I’m delighted to report that although there’s a grain of truth in the first two, POKEMON IS GO.
Yesterday, straight from our all-night journey, we went up to the famous Christ The Redeemer statue which looks down over the whole stunning, rugged, mountainous city and I caught some excellent Pokemon. One of them, Tangela, looked like the love-child of Medusa and a blackberry.
I also got a very high-scoring fat pink puffed-up fairy thing, which The Youth tell me is good. There have been other Brazilian delights, too: a Gloom, a Nidoran (both male and female) and an Ekans (no, I didn’t realise that was snake backwards).
The lurid yellow of the beloved Pikachu reminds me of the volunteers and officials’ uniform. British commentator Steven Wilde, who is here as an announcer, has an appropriately Wilde outfit; it’s so yellow and orange and garish that he looks like a massive, moving, mortal mango.
My touristy photos were almost ruined by a huge spot on my chin that had decided, to my disgust, to take the #RoadtoRio with me. It almost ruined one of the other hashtags too, as it was so big it needed its own postcode and #TwoHearts took on a whole new meaning as it pulsed away.
But it’s really important that all us horse fans use the hashtags during these Games. Equestrian’s continued inclusion on the Olympic roster depends upon it. Now for the real work to begin. All the British eventing horses are safely through the trot-up and I must go and walk the cross-country, while keeping half an eye out for Pokemon.