Oct 21 2015
By Amanda Hunter:
Whatever the SIM students thought they would experience during our week in Rio de Janiero, I think it is safe to say we got so much more. Our time in Rio was not just about our meetings with top level sports executives in high powered companies, but also experiencing sporting events of Brazil, as well as the culture and people.
We were immersed in Brazilian culture from the get-go, sipping local drinks (the coconut waters on the beach were a personal favorite!) and eating at local restaurants; the crowd favorite for our group was a chicken place nearby our hotel, called Galito’s. We also had two fantastic, more formal meals. The first of which was at a Brazilian steakhouse, Porcao, where we filled up on traditional dishes. Another spectacular meal was at a pizza place where we experienced Brazil’s spin on Italian.
Interacting with the locals, or cariocas, was fantastic. Brazilians are a warm and welcoming people, and quite eager to share their beautiful city with the world. However, many of us couldn’t quite get used to their casual nature, often struggling to complete seemingly normal tasks, such as bringing us our checks quickly.
Meeting with so many important sports professionals in Rio was also an obvious highlight for the entire group. Meetings with the Rio Olympic Committee, Octagon Brazil and Fundacao Getuilio Vargas truly helped us to understand the preparations and local opinions on the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Presenters were very open with us and provided us with a wealth of insight into what it takes to put on an Olympic Games, as well as what the games will do for both Rio de Janiero and Brazil afterward.
Our meeting with CBF executives and Manoel Flores was a hit amongst everyone. The entire experience from top to bottom was much more than any of us anticipated. Witnessing a referee selection and meeting top level people within the organization was unreal in itself, but getting to see the depth of history behind football in Brazil in the CBF interactive museum was on another level. I feel as though this was when many of us finally understood the “paixao” (passion) Brazilians have for their beloved sport of football.
We had two fabulous sporting event experiences during our stay. The first of which was an especially unique one in the NBA Global Games event, featuring Brazil’s Flamengo vs. the NBA’s Orlando Magic. We had several NBA-related experiences leading up Saturday’s game. On the night of our arrival, we met with Arnon de Mello, managing director for NBA Brazil. He offered up some great insight into the Brazilian sports business and NBA’s globalization strategies. Friday night, we went to the NBA Fan Fest on Ipanema Beach, just a few blocks from our hotel. The venue was filled with excited locals, eager to get a taste of the NBA fever. Additionally, we met with NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum at the Fan Fest. Mr. Tatum was a warm and genuine individual, excited to spend time with young professionals such as us, even during a particularly busy time for him. For that, we were deeply appreciative.
The next day, we had a fantastic experience sitting courtside at HSBC Arena for the game. While basketball is still a growing sport in Brazil, the locals seemed to really embrace it. There was cheering, clapping and flag waving the entire game. While a majority of the fans in the arena were decked out in Flamengo’s red and black, we spotted a few wearing NBA team jerseys, and lots of people purchasing merchandise. The popularity of the NBA certainly seems to be making strides in Rio.
Our Sunday was a rainy and overcast one. We spent the morning exploring and buying souvenirs at Ipanema Beach’s famous Hippie Fair. We saw breathtaking works of art and crafts being sold by hardworking locals. In the afternoon, it was off to the very famous Maracana Stadium to watch Flamengo take on Internacional. We were all eager to buy jerseys and partake in the traditional atmosphere of Flamengo fans. The spirit was nonstop during the game, even during halftime and after the Flamengo loss. It was an amazing sight to witness. Football is ingrained in Brazilians, and it is evident it is the nation’s sport. I can’t recall meeting anyone that wasn’t a fan of football, although there was plenty of debate as to which team was the best.
We also visited two of the most famous places in Rio, in Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. Sugarloaf was first, and although it was cloudy, we still had a wonderful time and got a pretty impeccable view of the city from Morro de Urca and the cable car rides. On our last day in Rio, we took the Tram up to Christ the Redeemer. While it was once again cloudy, we had a spectacular view of the statue on top of Corcovado. It was the perfect way to end our trip and it truly made me feel especially thankful for the entire experience all week.
It is impossible to say what was the best part of the trip, but I believe that it is safe to say that this experience was truly one-in-a-lifetime, and it made me incredibly proud to be a Georgetown Hoya!