Canadian Olympian and HemmsFemme Alexandra Orlando is in Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Alex is the Team Canada Facebook LIVE host, and has given us a glimpse into the feelings, emotions, and atmosphere at this years Olympics from inside the Canada Olympic House. She will be taking over our Instagram (@hemmfit) soon, so be sure to follow along and get even closer to the vibe in Rio.
The buzz of the air conditioner in my hotel room, steps away from Copacabana Beach, gently woke me from my first deep sleep since I arrived in Rio over a week ago. I rolled over and smiled - the red and white explosion of Canadian pride still fresh in my mind from last night’s sport celebration here at Canada Olympic House.
Silver medallists in the lightweight double skulls, Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee, were hoisted up on their boyfriend’s shoulders and carried into a crowd of a hundred cheering Canadians. While golden girl Rosie MacLennan made a late night appearance, her hardware shining around her neck, to see her family for the first time after standing so proudly on top of that podium.
And that’s just a normal night here at Canada Olympic House. A Canadian oasis - a home away from home created exclusively for Team Canada and all their friends and family. Tucked away on a busy street just opposite the picturesque Lagoa, where rowing and canoe/kayak will take place, we are just a few minutes away from Ipanema beach. This is our house. Behind these walls are rooms filled with Canadians, many whom are Olympians from every generation turned spectator or parent. The Molson Canadian is flowing and TV screens of every size fill the entire building with sport after sport after sport. It is the Olympics after all.
I hit snooze on my alarm again. Then it hit me - Canadians were already out on the water, the pitch, the court, the field and the arenas bright and early ready to compete. All the years and months and hours of preparation were all coming down to this moment. Right here, right now. I jump out of bed - there’s no time to waste here in one of the most magical cities in the world, in the middle of the first Olympic Games ever held in South America.
Back home, everyone is either reading something negative in the media (yet again) or seeing the glitz and the glam of the sport facilities, but it’s the little things that make this Olympics so special.
Every morning I grab an espresso at a tiny local shop on our bustling street. I’m slowly learning enough Portuguese to get by, mainly because the woman behind the counter helps me with my pronunciation each time. I’m a wannabe Brazilian with a Spanish accent, she jokes with me. If she only knew I was Italian.
"Bikinis and sport wear is the norm. Finally - I fit in perfectly here."
I typically wander down to Copacabana Beach and walk along the iconic black and white sidewalk tiles. It’s the middle of winter, but Brazilian fashion is all about showing some skin. I grab a fresh (and I mean fresh) pineapple juice from one of the many stands on the beach and take a layer off. Bikinis and sport wear is the norm. Finally - I fit in perfectly here.
Flags from every country of the world line the sand. Locals and tourists alike wait their turn to take selfies with the Olympic Rings. Scantily clad, muscle men take turns doing chin ups nearby. Music is already bumping from street vendors and booming from the Olympic Beach Volleyball venue just down the street. The military stationed on the corner smile at us as we walk by - machine guns pointed down but always with a finger on the trigger. I’m so tempted to buy an all sequinned Brazilian flag tank top, but I control myself. It’s so festive here you can’t help but join in.
It’s a week day, but little kids skipping school run past me towards the beach with surfboards. The waves are calling them - I’ve promised myself I’d get out on a board soon. I’m feeling ready to get my butt kicked by the Ocean.
My phone buzzes and it brings me back to the Olympics. For a second I had gotten lost in the warm sand of Copacabana. An alert from my Team Canada Rio 2016 app flashes across the screen - our women’s soccer team is about to play their quarterfinal match. Time to go to work.
I run into Canada Olympic House and pass our Olympians hanging with their families on muskoka chairs having a private moment to relax and celebrate some normalcy. The pressure can be so overwhelming at an Olympics with the whole world watching, every chance you can get to stay grounded is an advantage. The Athlete Village is this incredibly fun place in theory, but being surrounded by thousands of athletes and bombarded by activations, languages and social media - the distractions are at on all time high.
I spoke with our Women’s Rugby 7s team a few days ago and I asked them how they stayed focused under the intense scrutiny and pressure they faced entering this historic tournament. If you didn’t know - it is the first time rugby 7s is in the Olympic Games and our team won a BRONZE medal. Freakin’ amazing.
They answered me so effortlessly. They took each game as if it was just another tournament, one they’ve played a million times before. “You have to go out and find a way to play your game no matter what” they said. Just dig deep.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, it’s that our Team is the epitome of confidence. We may not have the biggest attitudes or even the most medals, but we know who we are and we believe in ourselves. Win or lose, personal best or not - we stand tall and we stand together with class. That’s easier to do than it may seem.
"I’ve never been more proud to be Canadian."
Emotions are definitely on overload here for everyone. I’ve seen families crying out of joy in the streets and athletes breaking down in front of the cameras after suffering defeat. It pulls on your heart. We all cheer for our countries and we do so proudly, but sitting in the stands amongst thousands of screaming fans, we’re one. Each one of us are inspired by the ability of these incredible human beings to do what they do, to work harder than ever thought possible. To be the best of the best.
It makes us all want to be better.
I’ve seen Canadian fans giving their mouse antlers (yes we have those!) and flags away to Brazilian locals at restaurants. A samba band following a Chilean delegation down the street following a big win. A European family with 3 young daughters playing futbol as they waited for a bus. Hundreds of people on their feet watching an athlete from the first ever refugee team at an Olympic Games complete their race.
Wherever you are in the world right now, stop what you’re doing and tune in.
These athletes have dedicated their entire lives to represent their country at the highest level in the world. This is it.
Let’s stand behind them.
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