Rio 2016 Olympic Games: Dedicated to the Olympic Volunteers

The hardest working people in the Games

When I boarded my flight to Rio de Janeiro in August of 2016, I was aware it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park; first a 3-hour flight to Miami, then a 7.5-hour flight to Brasilia and finally a 2-hour flight to Rio de Janeiro. So I was pretty chill, I had my front leaning inflatable pillow (order one, you will thank me for the rest of your life! My back is so much better since I’ve been using one on planes), my emergency snacks in case the food was horrible (almonds, cashews, 2 waters, yogurt), my hyaluronic moisturizing essence (click on it and get it on ebay…your skin will thank me) and my movies in my iPad. I prefer not to mention the airline…

A few minutes before we were supposed to board, they announced the flight was delayed because they didn’t have a co-pilot (scared emoji). A couple of hours later, after they found a co-pilot, we were told there was a problem and they were trying to find a mechanic. This airline seems to be losing a lot of people! Once they found a mechanic and he fixed the problem, we took off with a 4.5-hour delay. That was really bad news to those of us who only had a 1-hour connecting time for our next flight (sad face).

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I finally land in Brasilia and, of course, my connecting flight to Rio de Janeiro left 3 hours ago so some 30 passengers and I look for an airline rep to help us find alternative flights. No one from the airline is there to meet the plane, knowing full well more than two dozen passengers would need help on landing (poop emoji). Employees of the airport spoke little English or Spanish, precisely when we needed an interpreter the most.

Angry, tired and frustrated, all of us wait for our luggage for an hour and finally must face the truth: no more bags are coming. At baggage claim I am told my bag was not loaded onto the plane so I must stand in line with the other 30 people and file a claim, each claim procedure takes around half an hour. My head explodes and the angry Latina blood defeats the prudent Korean inside me and I start taking photos and video with my phone (fire emoji)! Thus begins the social media war I am only recommeding you undertake in an extreme emergency, World Traveler Tip: if things get ugly and no one is cooperating, use social media to make sure someone pays attention.

After traveling for 16 hours on very little sleep and some almonds, my adrenaline kicks up and I turn into a tweeting machine. I post photos of all the people waiting in line to file a lost baggage claim, of people carrying crying babies, and of A SINGLE employee at a window, looking confused and angry. He starts shouting at me to stop taking photos because it’s against the law! I shout back that I demand to speak to an airline rep, people shout their support, he keeps approaching to get me to stop taking pictures…but it’s too late! By then, I have posted photos and complaints to Twitter and Facebook and others are doing the same. I swear I thought the employee was going to punch me in the face.

But here’s the kicker: IT WORKED! In a few minutes I get tweets from the airline asking for my luggage claim number, my flight number, my name, begging me to calm down. I learned an important lesson that day: airlines are nothing when faced with a woman who’s angry, hungry, tired and whose makeup bag is missing.

Sadly, I make my way to the Olympic accreditation booth, but this is where everything takes a right turn. My accreditation is immediately found! I ask one of the Olympic volunteers at the welcome booth where I can find the Olympic transportation (AKA bus). She says there are no more buses but quickly starts walking towards a parking garage where I see the most beautiful sight my eyes have seen in two days (aside from the Starbucks in Miami): my own Olympic car!

This volunteer was the first of many in Rio who helped me when I was lost, when my Uber was stopped at a military checkpoint and I had to walk 4 miles to the Shooting Range, when they wouldn’t let me into the ISSF President’s office because my accreditation was missing a sticker and countless other times. At least 6 volunteers welcomed me to the Olympic Venue every morning with a smile and ready to talk, laugh, exchange pins and act as interpreters or translators.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games were great, but the Volunteers were SPECTACULAR!!

And I got to see my dear friend shoot at the Games once again!