Since the Sydney Games in 2000, Olympic sailing venues have been on the fringe of host cities, and in the past have been far enough removed to even warrant a flight from the Olympic center to the regatta.
In Rio, the sailing venue is a one-hour drive from the Olympic village, but the Marina da Gloria is smack-dab in the middle of the city itself. On the north side of Flamengo Park, a local favorite for biking and beach-walking, Olympic sailing will be impossible to ignore in Rio.
“At this Games, we’re going to get sailing to a larger audience,” says World Sailing Chief Marketing Officer Malcom Page. “We’ll be doing lots of behind the scenes coverage and media outreach.”
For the sailors, the proximity also means that staying in the Olympic village is a logistical reality. US Sailing Team’s Paige Railey, who is rooming with teammates Paris Henken, Helena Scutt and Marion Lepert, has had the opportunity to get to know her neighbor in the village, another Radial sailor, Sara Carmo. Fast friends, Railey and Carmo park their boats next to each other in the boat park, and today Railey invites Carmo and her coach to a friendly practice race.
US Sailing Team’s Briana Provancha and Annie Haeger, who are also living in the village, eagerly share Provancha saw tennis star Rafael Nadal in the village the other day. “Being around all of the athletes is really cool, it makes the whole Olympic experience,” says Haeger as she rigs her 470.
Thomas Barrows, the US Sailing Team’s 49er skipper, sailed in the 2008 Olympics in Bejing when he represented the US Virgin Islands in the Laser, but the sailors had their own village in Qingdao, more than 400 miles from the main venue. In Rio, Barrows is living in the Olympic village in Barra, just steps from the main venue area. “Being with the other athletes is really awesome,” says Barrows. “I’m living with a fencer and three badminton players. It’s exciting to be around people from different sports and different countries that you don’t get to see in sailing.”
The sailors have designated busses that bring them from the village to the sailing venue. For Barrows and crew Joe Morris, the bus ride is valuable downtime. “Besides the bus ride, we get about a half hour before we go to sleep to ourselves,” says Morris, who describes their typical day in Rio as climbing on the bus by 9 am, on the water after any team meetings they have to take care of, and back on land and to the gym in the late afternoon. “On the bus, we get some relief from it all,” says Barrows.
As the Olympic regatta approaches, the attention will only grow, as some of Brazil’s most famous sailors will be making appearances at this Olympic Games and the mainstream media frenzy surrounding the lead-up to the Games has frequently previewed sailing. The Pao de Acucar racecourse, which will host all sailing medal races, was intentionally chosen for it’s spectator-friendly location: Flamengo Beach is just yards from the finish pin. Guanabara Bay, flanked by Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain, is as picturesque of a venue as the broadcast media could ask for. The world, and the visitors and locals, will have a front row seat to Olympic Sailing and the sailors competing in Rio.