Rio Reports – The Spectator Experience (Part 2)

Olympic Park Food Area

By Michael Stafford-Jones

You have now heard all about the atmosphere at Rio 2016, but what of the logistics behind the operation?


Public transport to and from the Olympic venues is well-organised and those responsible should be praised for their efforts.

Directions to key metro stations, such as General Osorio in the Copacabana area, are clearly indicated in English and Portuguese on big green signs attached to lampposts and placed at eye level. The same signs are used to direct fans to the venues themselves from the nearest bus or train station.

There are also plenty of Rio 2016 travel information boards at the stations used most by travelling fans which explain exactly which train or bus to get, where to get off it, and how far it is to the venue once you get to the final stop. Specially-produced pocket maps are also being given out by volunteers in some locations, but it would be much more helpful if they were handing them out in all locations as very few people seem to have got hold of one.

20160815_215747Whilst transport is well-organised, it is far from quick. No matter where you are staying in Rio, you will always be a long way from at least three of the four main zones because they are so far apart. I am staying in Copacabana, so I have easy access to rowing, canoe sprint, beach volleyball, sailing, triathlon, road cycling and marathon swimming. However, to watch any other sport I have to travel for over an hour. The Olympic Park in Barra takes around 70 minutes to get to, the Olympic Stadium about 80 minutes, the Maracana about 60 minutes and Deodoro, which hosts eight sports, takes at least 90 minutes to get to. Anyone staying near to any of the venues will face similarly long journeys to get to any of the other venues.

One way to improve the situation would have been to make the Barra Olympic Park bigger and host more of the sports within it. That would at least eliminate the need for some fans to travel from one zone to another to watch one sport in the morning and another in the evening.


I was lucky to get some good tickets through UK provider CoSport well in advance of coming to Brazil. However, once here, it quickly became apparent that I should be able to get more tickets as there were lots of empty seats at several of the venues, including the Olympic Stadium itself.

Olympic Stadium empty seatsAfter asking another British fan if he knew the best way to go about doing this, he told me it was easy: just go to the official Rio 2016 website, follow the link to tickets and, because you are here in Brazil, you will be able to get them. I was required to input my passport number and could only pay by Visa Credit Card, but otherwise the registration ticket buying process was very similar to how it would be on other websites. I got additional tickets for hockey and athletics.

It is good that it is possible to do this, as clearly the Brazilians either do not want or cannot afford to buy all the tickets available to them. In that case, why not make them available to travelling fans from other countries? Thankfully, that is exactly what the organisers have done, and there are still plenty of tickets available for the remaining days even now.


This is definitely one of Rio 2016’s weakest areas. Thankfully, there are plenty of toilets, so no worries there, although soap, toilet paper and paper towels sometimes run out. The range of drinks on offer is also decent, with water, coke, orange juice, ice tea and beer available at most places.

However, the official food options are terrible, aside from the good-quality ice cream available in lots of places. At every venue you can choose between a decent double cheeseburger, a lacklustre hot dog, a chicken sandwich and a sausage sandwich. Some places also offer small slices of pizza. There do not appear to be any fries. You can also buy snacks such as crisps, cheese bread, peanuts and savoury biscuits. It is a particularly awful selection if you are trying to eat healthily.

Rio Centre CourtIn two locations, the Olympic Tennis Centre and the Deodoro fan zone, there are unofficial outlets, and their food is better quality. They also offer one or two vegetarian options – something which the official outlets seem to have ignored altogether. More of these unofficial outlets would be a major improvement, but the real problem is with the official outlets as the variety of options is minuscule.

Also missing from Rio 2016’s outdoor venues is any shelter whatsoever from rain or fierce sunshine. I have got absolutely soaked twice, once at the Tennis and once at the Hockey, because there is nowhere, except under the spectator stands themselves, to take cover when it rains. Furthermore, when it rains heavily, as it typically does in Rio, water soon starts to drip through the stands so you cannot stay dry even when huddled underneath them. This led to the ludicrous situation at the Hockey of spectators sheltering from the rain in the toilet blocks.

Equestrian-themed Play AreaThe lack of shelter also means a lack of shade, and on two consecutive boiling hot days – the middle Sunday and Monday – this meant an increased risk of sunburn, heat exhaustion and even fainting for spectators. An under-cover Equestrian-themed children’s play area at Deodoro provided a welcome place to get out of the sun, but it seems unlikely that it was designed with this function in mind.


There is a lot of tension between rich and poor in Rio, and there have been reports of violence in the favelas during the Olympics, but the venues and the routes to the venues appear to be very safe due to an eye-watering amount of security. Armed soldiers are everywhere, and there are enough of them to respond to any kind of troubling incident. There was also a tank stationed on the way to Deodoro emblazoned with a Portuguese message that declared the army was ensuring peace during the Olympics. I have not seen even the merest suggestion of trouble during my stay in Rio, but I suspect that is because any disturbances are taking place far from the Games themselves.


Despite its troubled build-up and some disappointing ticket sales, Rio 2016 is largely a success. The Olympics here are mostly well-organised (with a few notable exceptions such as food and shelter) and take place in impressive venues with good atmospheres. They have also demonstrated Rio’s party spirit and welcoming nature to the world, which is exactly what the IOC and the Brazilian organisers were hoping for.