Today is our last full day at the Rio Olympics, the final day of equestrian action. We fly home tomorrow, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to round up the things I’ll miss about the Games.
1. Watching amazing horses and riders compete. It’s a huge privilege to have had a front row seat (or rather, a spot in the mixed zone) for all the equestrian action.
2. Other sports — yesterday we had a day off, so after some work in the morning we managed to get tickets for some of the fencing action of the modern pentathlon (confusing — it was some sort of qualification round and with about 10 fights happening simultaneously it was baffling to know where to look) and for the gold medal men’s hockey match, which had a great atmosphere as Argentina beat Belgium.
3. Pace of life — there’s been a huge amount of breaking news at this Games, from bullets flying into the press office to disqualifications in the showjumping and whacking out web story after web story after web story certainly keeps you on your toes.
4. Talking to top riders — every athlete who competes at the Olympics comes through the mixed zone (in theory, although it doesn’t always happen…) and while they don’t have to do interviews, nearly all of them are willing to do so, so you can speak to pretty much anyone you like and ask them about their performance, their background, their horse, their Olympic experience and anything else you fancy.
5. Walking courses — we’ve had the chance to check out the track every day of the showjumping and getting up close gives you an awe-inspiring feel for the size of the fences, as well as the spectacular designs. Today we were also guided round the course by designer Guilherm Jorge and heard his insight on the lines and challenges the riders face.
6. Tales from Rio — this was an idea we had before the Games to round up some fun stories about competitors and it’s proved to be the gift that keeps on giving, with a huge number of wonderful tales. Some of them we knew about in advance — I gave my colleague Alice a hit list of people to talk to during the eventing, but some of them we simply stumbled across by standing around and listening. I think my favourite of the 10 or so I wrote was Danish dressage rider Anna Kasprzak.
7. Secret Games crushes — every championship has to come with a secret crush, doesn’t it? Mine is Anders Dahl, Danish dressage rider and husband of British rider Fiona Bigwood. Ooops, did I just say that? Not so secret now…
8. Warmth. I’m going to Blair Castle Horse Trials next week and while I love Blair for many, many reasons, wall to wall sunshine is never one of them.
There are also a few things I won’t miss so much about Rio…
1. Having to assess what risks to take on a daily basis. I’m naturally cautious and it’s slightly exhausting remembering not to drink the water, not to eat salad because it’s probably been washed in the water, wondering whether to get in a taxi on the street or if you’re likely to be scammed/murdered. In fairness, I’ve been having ice in drinks (alcohol kills bugs, right?) and I haven’t been sick (yet) and I haven’t heard of anyone being murdered in a taxi, but it’s slightly wearing continually thinking it might happen. Of course all life involves risks, but I’ve sort of already come to terms with the ones I’m willing to take in Britain (riding a horse, taking London night buses) and I don’t have to constantly reassess them.
2. Having to spend 10 minutes covering myself in suncream and bug repellent every day.
3. Eating a lot of rice and beans.
4. Eating the same thing for lunch every single day (a ham and cheese roll made at breakfast as there is nothing for sale on this venue I’m willing to eat — see point one above).
5. Having to go through bag search and scanner security every day on the way to work.
6. Wondering whether the shower is going to be hot or cold every morning. Actually it’s been warm every day for the past week, so I think we’ve cracked that one.