When I was at school, I did some drama exams, and for one of them I did a scene from a play called Candy & Shelley go to the Desert. Over the past few weeks as we’ve been in the final countdown to Rio, I’ve been constantly reminded of this play as we enact our own script: Pippa and Alice go to the Olympics.
You see, in the play Candy and Shelley break down in the desert. Candy is unconcerned and keen to work on her tan. Shelley has a lot of allergies, sneezes constantly and worries about being attacked.
In our play, my colleague Alice is Candy — unworried by travelling to South America, not bothered about getting injections, unconcerned by advice about mosquitos, Zika and security.
I, meanwhile, am Shelley. I’m naturally a cautious person. I have a lot of bug repellent with me, plus long-sleeved tops and light trousers. I even have socks which are impregnated with something to repel the little flying critters. I’ve read all the security advice. I plan to keep all my possessions near me at all times, only travel by recommended means and avoid walking anywhere, certainly after dark.
So Candy and Shelley/Alice and Pippa have now made it to Rio. And what’s it like?
It’s hot. Really hot. Walking the cross-country course this afternoon, I felt pinned down by the heat, scorched flat to that funny unreal grass you get in countries with this sort of climate.
I haven’t seen a mosquito yet.
Our accommodation is fine. A clean flat with a bathroom each. Sure there are some wrinkles to iron out — three cold showers later, I’d love the hot water to start working. But I’m pretty happy to have this as my home from home for 17 days.
Best of all, the three of us — myself, Alice and our photographer, Peter Nixon, are together. The apartments have three rooms and we’d requested to all be put in the same one, but told nothing could be guaranteed. Finding out we’d all been put in one flat, making things like filming our “Today at Rio” shows (check out the first one here — it’s the video with Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz as the still at the front) massively easier, was a huge plus yesterday.
Another great moment was seeing Peter standing on his trolley at the airport to meet us, waving a copy of H&H. We’re all here, we all have our luggage. Other international journalists have been less lucky — New Zealand’s Jane Thompson was bag-less for some days.
The shop at our base is like something out of one of those history books where things go a bit nuts with currency and there’s nothing on the shelves or different things every day. They sell various food items you could piece together to make meals, but we have no pots and pans in our kitchen, so we can’t cook. They sell cereal, but no milk.
Tonight, big excitement, they had honey and Nutella! And bread! Yes! We can have Nutella sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. It’s amazing how enticing that sounds when your food intake for 26 hours has been 1.5 cereal bars. We missed supper last night as we were exhausted after a night flight and a long day out and about. If there is food at Deodoro — apart from a stand with dodgy looking pasties — I haven’t found it yet.
Transport is mixed. Media buses to the main press centre and to the equestrian venue at Deodoro have worked fine. But the return buses from Deodoro stopped at lunchtime today, when the press room still had plenty of people working in it. On the plus side, taxis are cheap — the media centre official helped us into a local one today and Uber works well from the other Olympic clusters.
The main arena at the venue looks great and the press centre is much like you would find at any championship anywhere in the world, with Olympic branding, of course. There’s a bit of a lack of signs and obvious routes from place to place. I’m struggling to get my bearings and Peter and I managed to end up somewhere we weren’t meant to be on the way to walk the cross-country. But find it we did — and as a bonus, we soon stumbled across Kitty King walking the course with sage advice from British reserve Tina Cook.
- Alice Collins’ Rio blog: strong looks, Pokemon, hashtags and mango man
- Road to Rio blog: the weird Olympic team announcement
- Road to Rio blog: ‘I’ve been selected!’
Tina can still be substituted into the team until 8am tomorrow morning and today’s trot-up was followed by a rush of breaking news as both the Germans and the New Zealanders had to make late changes to their squads. The heartbreak involved in getting all the way here and through the trot-up but not being able to run is unimaginable.
Both teams have strong replacements and I don’t think these changes affect my assessment of the team standings from our preview in 28 July issue — the Germans are favourites for gold; the French, Kiwis and Brits will battle it out for silver and bronze, but other nations could get in the game if any of this quartet falter. Dressage starts at 10am local time tomorrow (follow live here from 2pm British time) and I can’t wait to see how this unfolds.
Goodbye until then, my friends — I’m off to make a Nutella sandwich.