Rio 2016 Diary: The winding road to Rio

Off The Ball's Richie McCormack is our man on the ground in Rio...

olympics, WHO, zika, virus,

Image: John Giles / PA Archive/PA Images

As Rio 2016 gets underway tonight following years of preparation and controversy, Off The Ball's Richie McCormack will be keeping us informed of what it's like to be on the ground at the Games... 

Day One - Travelling to Rio

As was naturally going to be the way of these things, I got chatting with other folk taking the same long and winding route to Rio. I flew via Madrid and the plane really was a real league of nations. 

The first person I got chatting to was a dentist called John Haughey, who will be working at the boxing here in Rio. He had also worked at the London Games in 2012 and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.  

Our own marathon runner Lizzie Lee was even sat a couple of rows in front of me. Travelling down the aisles there were hulking masses in Croatia and Finland tracksuits. There were also plenty of Brazilians heading back home, and a couple of nuns to round out the 'Airplane!' movie aesthetic. 

When we landed in Sao Paulo, we got our first introduction to the army of yellow-jacketed stewards helping tend to the Games. Because they saw Lizzie's tracksuit and we were all chatting, we got ushered down a special quick channel reserved for athletes. The glamour of all that was tempered somewhat with having to spend the next six hours in Sao Paulo's cavernous Guarulhos Airport.

Lizzie Lee and myself en route to Rio 

Thankfully, Lizzie and I kept the chats going and were able to trade sob stories about leaving small ones behind us at home. She couldn't have been more friendly - the definition of a down-to-earth athlete and probably not what you'd assume an Olympian to be like. At 36, this will be her first Olympic Games. 

The shortest leg of the journey was the internal flight from Sao Paulo to Rio, which took less than an hour. Once I was out of the airport - suitcase still thankfully by my side - I took a cab to my apartment, which will be home for the next couple of weeks. 

The view from my balcony in Rio... Home for the next few weeks

As you exit Galeão airport you have the long white wall of the airforce base to your right, and the distinct whiff of gas coming in from the direction of Guanabara Bay. You can see ramshackle favelas stretch up on the right hand side of the road, while on the left are signs for Copacabana and all of the idyllic notions that go with it. 

The broad Avendida Embaixador Abelardo Bueno, which fronts the Olympic Park, and was once home to 800 families in the Vilo Autodromo favela

As I check my phone en route, the Michael O'Reilly story is breaking. It's the first news of an Irish boxer allegedly failing a test. Then, as expected, the misguided guessing games and the calls for the revealing of names from Paddy Barnes begin before we finally receive confirmation. 

To keep up to date with Richie in Rio, follow him on Twitter: @RichieMcCormack

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