We just wrapped up Day 6 here at the Olympics and it’s hard to believe just how quickly it is going by! We were very excited to get to head to to mini-Marcana Stadium (actually named Ginasio do Maracanazinho). This is one of a few permanent venues that was in place prior to the Games. It also happens to be the closest venue to our apartment, meaning our shortest day on transit so far – amazing!
Today was special because it was the first time we were going to be able to cheer on a full Canadian Team. We’ve cheered on Canadian individual athletes and our doubles teams in Tennis, but today was the first full team we have watched. Before we get to that though, we arrived to an absolutely packed Gym (we’ll call it an arena). This was the biggest venue we’ve been to thus far (even bigger than men’s basketball). South Americans LOVE volleyball and when you have two undefeated teams playing each other, there is a lot of interest. When one of those team is from South America, things go bananas! Poland vs. Argentina could not have been more exciting if it was a made for TV movie. The crowds by the thousands (especially the Argentinians) chanted, cheered and sang their team through one of the longest sets of volleyball in Olympic history. Poland won the first two sets, but the third was back and forth. Argentina had 7 set point opportunities in the third game. Not to be outdone, Poland won the entire match on their 8th match point attempt. The final score was 37-35 for Poland (not bad for a game that is supposed to end at 25 points). Being among the crowd from Europe and South America, there was no question that we as a Country could learn a lot about cheering from these people. You can stand and watch, try to soak in their energy, passion and enthusiasm, you can try to take a video to do it justice, but at the end of the day, you just grin and smile from ear to ear…you know this is what sport is all about.
We’d love to spend a whole bunch of time talking about our Canadians guys vs. France, but there isn’t too much to say. We just didn’t have it today. No luck, no breaks and unfortunately not a lot of made serve attempts (we had a baker’s dozen of service faults). We lost 3-0. We did however get to sit among a really great group of proud Canadian men’s volleyball parents, siblings and significant others. Getting to chat with them about their Olympic experience as family members prior to the game was really special. Every Canadian athlete knows that in our Country without strong support at home, no Olympic dream comes true. Its nothing less than remarkable the many scarifies parents make in the name of their kid’s sports. One important observation though, for those at the very top, despite bad luck and a scoreboard that wouldn’t cooperate, not once did one of these parents yell at an official. Not once did we hear parents talk among themselves about which kid should come off the bench. Not once did we here that so and so has been playing too much. A lesson in there for many parents to be sure.
Back to the apartment for some couch potato time tuning into our many Olympic channels. A quick side story and connection to home. As you sit and watch the Olympics on TV, many of you likely don’t realize that you are watching the exact same images as fans in living rooms all around the globe. The International Olympic Committee owns and oversees the OBS or Olympic Broadcast Service. You may see the people on TV, but likely not (they wear golden/brown pants and blue shirts). The OBS is responsible for producing each and every second of TV coverage you watch including the graphics, replays, aerial shots and all images. They oversee everyone from the camera operators, to the control room, to the riggers, etc. It is common practice for the OBS to select an official host broadcaster (during Vancouver this was a partnership between CTV, CBC and TSN), here in Rio it is SportTV. This partnership occurs mostly because it gives the OBS access to skilled people in the trade. Everyone from directors to sound technicians. It also gives them access to tons of equipment. The broadcasts that are created cover every single moment of Olympic action, from every court, gym and field. If there are eight tennis matches going on at once, they are covering each and every court. These feeds of TV then go out to each country’s official Olympic broadcaster (in the US for example, it is NBC). These networks pay a TON of money to the IOC to have the exclusive rights to the TV feeds, which is turn helps pay for the Olympics and fund the majority of the IOC’s annual operations. The feed goes out with live sound only (the noises of the crowd, the ball, etc.) and then the broadcasters in various languages commentate the event as they see it on the live feed from the venue. It also explains why sometimes when they talk about a Canadian in a race, the camera doesn’t cut to that athlete (the cameramen aren’t listening to the Canadian broadcasters) like it might when your watching a Jays game. The Canadian connection is that they never have enough skilled people from the host network and always call on the world-renowed Dome Productions based out of the RogersCentre in downtown Toronto. Dome Productions actually drove production trucks (semi-trucks) all the way to Brazil in order to help with the broadcasts. Chances are any Canadian sporting event you’ve ever watched on TV has a connection to Dome Productions. They are the best at what they do and it isn’t the first time the IOC and OBS has come calling. The very cool end to this story for us is that we have cable TV in our apartment and because we are in Brazil and because our apartment owner subscribes to Sport TV, we not only get the main broadcasts, but we also have access to about 100 other channels of every venue, court, gym, field at the entire Olympics. Sometimes we just get the same feed as official broadcast network around the world, no commentary, just the live sound. We are very fortunate that no mater what Canadian is competing, at any time, at any place here in Rio, we can tune in live…and the best part…commercial free!
What a historic night of TV watching it was. Michael Phelps won another Gold Medal and then another semi-final just for good measure. Penny (we can just use her first name now – which is crazy because she was unknown 8 days ago) just put her official stamp in the history books as the only Canadian Summer Games athlete to win four medals at the same games. It’s always nice to have a full set of something and now she has a full set of medals. Canada’s first gold here in Rio, a silver and two bronze. We also might be the most fitting nation to share a Gold Medal, after all, who shares better than Canadians? Crazy to think that Penny just turned 16 and has a lot more swimming left to do. Something tells us this is just the beginning. It’s also hard to believe she gets one more kick at the can in the final relay event. Its not very often you get to watch history made and know it, but tonight was one of those nights. We’ll always remember where we were and that we likely woke up the entire building we were staying in when Penny came back in the final 25m of the 100m Freestyle to tie for a Gold Medal at the Rio Olympic Games…what a night!
A quick shout out to the volunteers here in Rio. We’ll write more about them another night, but there is a really cool tribute wall to them at the Volleyball Arena. Winding up the ramp to the various levels of the arena, the side of the ramp is wrapped in their images. Not their formal picture for their security badge, but a fun picture that shows off their individual spirit and personality. A really wonderful reminder of the true heroes behind any successful event, be it a local fundraiser or the Olympic Games.
Tomorrow we head back to the Olympic Park for Swimming in the afternoon and then back to watch Women’s Indoor Volleyball in the evening. The last match of the day includes the home team Brazil and we already know from our experience today that they might just blow the roof right off of that arena — we can’t wait.