Arriving in Rio around 5 weeks ago, I could have been forgiven for thinking that the Olympic games had been put on hold. There were a few metal structures abandoned on the Copacabana beach and if you looked very hard you might see a shop selling some official merchandise, but that was about it. There was no Olympic buzz, no excitement, it all felt a bit gloomy – just like the weather. Fast forward to a week ago and it’s as if someone has turned on a switch and the city has jumped into action. There are workmen everywhere, trimming trees, replacing street lights, repairing roads, completing grandstands; the sun is shining on Rio and the games are about to begin.
If you’re going to be in Rio for the Olympics, or indeed at any time, you will of course want to visit the famous attractions such as Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer and the Copacabana beach. Once you’ve done all of that, here are my top 5 tips of things you really should do before you leave.
After a bit of a grey week, wall to wall sunshine on a Sunday can mean only one thing: a day at the beach. It’s great how quickly I’ve become a regular at my particular part of the Copacabana. My chair guy waves to me as I stand waiting to cross the road and my lounger is waiting for me by the time the lights turn red. At around £1 for a days rental, plus £1 for my chilled fresh coconut, a day at the beach is very inexpensive. No sooner am I comfortable in my spot, than the beach vendors approach. I am constantly amazed at the selection of items for sale. All of the usual beach paraphernalia – glasses, hats, sarongs, jewellery, swimwear – plus selfie sticks, paintings, whistles, T-shirts, bags and even rugs. Even more amazing is the vast selection of food and drink – pies, pasties, trays of watermelon, crisps, nuts, prawn skewers, beer, cocktails, sandwiches, ice cream, acai – and even guys dragging around small charcoal BBQs to grill cheese kebabs. Everyone approaches and everyone moves along if you are not interested. It’s very polite and very friendly and that’s because people do buy and the vendors make sales and it all just works without being pushy.