It’s official – we’re finally here in Brazil! The weather’s gorgeous, and despite our extreme jet lag, as soon as we arrived at the hotel we dropped our stuff and hit the beach. Our flight was pretty easy, too. Left at 10pm, watched a highly-censored, “plane appropriate” (???) version of It’s Something About Mary, and by the time we woke up we had a cup of freshly-brewed cup of airplane coffee sitting in front of us anxiously awaiting our touch down to Sao Paulo.
After taking Operations Strategy and studying business cases such as Southwest Airlines and Baltimore Airport, I do have a newfound respect for airports and airlines. And fortunately for me, I didn’t experience nearly the same “operational challenges” that some members of the Serbia group did. I did have one small blip in my schedule, where for some reason Alex, the student I am traveling with, and I got put on different connecting flights (he had a ticket that went straight through to Rio, whereas I had a ticket on a different, partner airline of United accompanied by a 4.5 hour layover). But we were able to resolve the issue with minimal effort, and lucky for me the resolution didn’t even come with a lost bag!
I was, however, able to observe first-hand some of the challenges that Rio will face in prepping for the upcoming World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016. One of the primary concerns that the IOC had when selecting a host city for the 2016 Games (the final round of bidding came down to Rio and our very own Chicago, IL) was if Rio would be able to get the necessary infrastructure in place required to host the number of tourists the Games typically attract. Of most concern was their airport and ground transportation system, both of which are not even close to being suited to support the expected uptick in foot traffic 2014 and 2016 will bring. For example, during our layover in Sao Paulo, we noticed that, instead of announcing flights and changes on the loudspeaker like they do at most US airports, there was a guy walking through the airport to each terminal announcing that the flight to Buenos Aires was about to depart (at least I think that’s what he was saying). Rio definitely has a lot of work cut out for them over the next few years. Additionally, although Rio is drastically improving its image, one of the first things you see as you drive away from the International Airport is miles of run down favelas (“shanty towns” in Brazil) before you actually arrive at the main road that runs alongside the beaches. This is the first impression travelers will have upon arriving in Brazil, so this is another issue the city will have to address prior to the Games.
But enough about boring airplanes and airports… because Rio is nothing short of amazing! As soon as we picked up our luggage, we caught a bus toward Ipanema (the beach we are staying at) – Alex and I opted for the 9R bus ride as opposed to the 100R cab ride, which I was initially a bit nervous about, but it was fine. People in Rio are actually shockingly friendly, so we had a lot of help in getting to our final destination. We arrived at our hotel, The Ipanema Plaza, safe and sound, grabbed a quick bit to eat at a nearby restaurant (yes, I did try a bit of Ben and Alex’s steak, although I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it), then hit the beach! The weather is gorgeous (almost as much as the Brazilian men 😉 ) and the water was incredibly warm. After the beach I went on a long run, and now I’m just relaxing in our room before we head off to dinner. Apparently 9pm is “dining early.” Man, this schedule might take some getting used to…