Rio 2016: 4 Inspiring Observations at the Olympics

From Olympic firsts to marriage proposals, here are 4 inspiring observations from a Guideposts staffer at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

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- Posted on Aug 19, 2016

fiji in rio 2016 olympics

Allison Churchill is Guideposts' editorial assistant and is volunteering in Rio at the 2016 Summer Olympics.  She's  got an insider's perspective on the most inspiring moments at the Olympics.

1) Brazilian fans

Before the Games started, we heard rumors that the tickets might be too expensive for locals to attend events. I've been to four events so far and worked at the Maracanãzinho Olympic arena every night, and the crowd is usually a sea of yellow and green--representing the Brazilian flag. Brazilians are the most passionate fans I've ever seen; if Brazil itself isn't playing in an event, the fans pick the underdog to root on. It's absolutely exhilarating. I often find myself swept up in the spirit (as long as they aren't directly competing against Team USA, of course!). 

2) All of the firsts

Rio 2016 is the first Olympic Games in South America, but that's not the only time "first" has been used in a games-related headline. After looking up to Michael Phelps his whole life, Joseph Schooling of Singapore beat him in the 100 meter butterfly, earning his country its first gold medal. Stanford swimmer Simone Manuel became the first African American woman to win gold in an individual swimming event. Michelle Carter is the first U.S. Olympic shot put gold medalist. Kim Rhode, a shooter for Team USA, became the first woman to medal at six straight Olympics when she won the bronze in women's skeet. Powerhouse Simone Biles made history by becoming the most decorated American gymnast after her four gold medals and one bronze, totaling 19 Olympic and World Championship medals throughout her career. Tennis player Monica Puig won Puerto Rico's first gold. And even though my family backgound led me to cheer for Great Britain at the men's rugby finals, when I saw the players from Fiji singing their national anthem while near tears after they won their country's first gold, I couldn't help but be happy for them. 

3) The Athletes

Swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky of Team USA just demolished records left and right, often looking like they were the only ones in the pool. Great Britain's men's rugby team may have taken silver, but they showed incredible sportmanship consoling Argentina after beating them to move on to the semi-finals. Forty-one-year-old Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina of Uzebekistan is competing in her seventh Olympics, simply because she enjoys it. And there have been four marriage proposals so far! I wonder if the couples will come back to Rio for their honeymoons? 

4) My fellow volunteers

More than 240,000 people applied to volunteer at these games. The 50,000 of us chosen had to pay for our own airfare and accomodations, and for volunteers from some countries, to get a visa processed. In the lead up to the games I got to meet at least 30 volunteers in the New York area and chatted on Facebook for months with a group of women around the United States. I work every day with a team of volunteers from France, Italy, China, Russia, Poland and Brazil. One of my roommates, Nina, a teacher, has always loved the Olympics, to the extent that during the Atlanta games she organized a school-wide Olympics program, using the games to teach students about everything from geography to math. My fellow Maracanãzinho volunteer João played volleyball until he had to choose between the sport and going to university. He won't have a chance to compete for a medal, but volunteering lets him be close to the action. We're all here for different reasons, but we've come together, made new friends and have had some enlightening conversations. 

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