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We have ice, Rio has sand

The wait is over, I have finally landed in Rio after a 10+ hours night flight. Luckily, there is very little jet lag involved with only one hour difference from Toronto. So after unpacking, it’s time to find a place for lunch and a quick briefing from the CPC staff.

Barra (pronounced Ba-Ha) is pretty much a long boulevard along the beach, and a busy one at that. Between the cars, truck and buses, motorbikes zip between lanes and crossing the street is a challenge that cannot be underestimated. Then there’s the bike path (a wonderful addition to any beachfront), so there is no “relaxing” until we make it to the sidewalk on the far side.

What is immediately striking is the activity on the beach – and by that I mean real physical activity, not just lounging. Brazilians have a passion for football (I really can’t say the word soccer while in Brazil – that just wouldn’t be right) and for beach volleyball as well – and gosh are they ever good at both…

One of my colleagues, who came to Canada as a teenager, tells me she is pretty good at any sport that involves water, and pretty bad at any that involves frozen water. I remark that it’s well known that sports one starts in childhood never quite “leave” us, no matter how little we practice it, and conversely that those we start in adulthood will forever be somewhat frustrating and constantly re-learned.

That’s when we come across a group of people – some young, some my age – playing beach volleyball using football rules – no hands!!! And they control the ball with their heads, feet and chests with exquisite control. Long rallies ensue with drop shots, corner placements, and even serves using a kick (I have posted the video on Twitter @DrTardif)

. This is to me simply mesmerizing. I cannot comprehend how one can achieve this, and yet I’m pretty sure that Brazilians looking at hockey players or downhill skiers must be thinking exactly the same thing. The world is a wonderful collection of skills that’s for sure.

And by the way, people are smiling, the beachside cafes are hopping on this Sunday, I have not seen a single mosquito, and Rio looks great. Let the Games begin!

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