My wife, Ashley, joined me in Rio the morning of the opening ceremony. Her flight arrived in time for us to first meet up with a group we met on social media as we all organised our Olympic planning. It was great to meet everyone in person, and we anticipate that the shared memories over the next three weeks will be the beginning of a life-long friendship.
We left three hours early on our journey to Maracana Stadium for the opening ceremony. We took the metro line one and were told by a local to take the Sao Francisco Xavier stop as a less crowded and more accessible location to get into the stadium. When we arrived, there were scores of police and Olympic volunteers to guide us on our 1km walk towards the the arena.
At every corner we saw police or military, along with many Olympic volunteers answering questions and leading the way. Upon reaching Avenida Maracana, there was a massive security presence, with all spectators needing to walk through a gauntlet of several rows of security personnel who inspected us, patting us down and looking in bags with closed off access several blocks from the stadium. It was clear Rio was focusing on a secure opening ceremony.
At the entrance to the stadium, a second security line with metal detectors and x-ray machines were relatively short, approximately 15 minutes to get into the stadium and we quickly began to feel the excitement and energy.
An opening ceremony, in person, is like no other. The closing ceremony in London was perhaps our favourite event there – but the anticipation, excitement, and hope represented by an opening ceremony cannot be matched. Where else in the world can you see over 200 countries and in excess of 10,000 athletes together at the pinnacle of sport? It is the Super Bowl of super bowls.
It was as expected – spectacular, exciting, upbeat and filled with Brazilian passion and energy. An hour of great entertainment focused on local culture before the parade of athletes began. Sharing their pieces of culture was a wonderful way to introduce the world to Brazil taking a break from the economy, political challenges the have faced.
After the parade of nations - as Michael Phelps carried the flag for Team USA - it was the moment we all had waited for as the Olympic Flame came into the stadium and the cauldron was finally lit, signalling the start of the Games. Now the Olympics have truly begun and we are ready to take in 27 events over the next 17 days.
But before that, there has been something of frustrating situation with the tickets. CoSport, the authorised reseller of Olympic ticket for Canada, Great Britain and the USA, have re-seated me for several events. The lines for ticket collections have forced people to wait up to seven hours, in a repeat of what occurred in London.
The lines continued on our way for the table tennis event on day one, with the metro line four significantly overcrowded. When we reached the end of the line, we were funneled into a long line to take the buse to the Barra Olympic Park. From there we needed to either transfer or take the foot bridge and path of over 1km over to the Rio Centro area where we finally, a little after two hours and three transfers, made it to the table tennis preliminary matches. Security lines at Rio Centro were short, about 10 minutes.
After having the joy of watching America's youngest Olympic athlete born an first born after the year 2000, Kanak Jha's match we face a whirlwind of activity to accomplish before heading back to the Olympic Park for the swimming finals.
The journey back, with four transfers this time only took one hour 15 minutes. After a great lunch, I made the run out to CoSport to exchange my reseated tickets. While others had been waiting several hours for their first tickets, fortunately, they split the lines to separately accommodate those returning to collect tickets and I was in-and-out in 15 minutes.
Arrival back in the evening to Olympic Park for the night's swimming finals went well. The journey took 90 minutes, with partially full metros and buses as more people were leaving the Olympic Park than heading in.
It is outside the main concession area is where Rio 2016 is starting to show some rough edges. At 7pm, McDonald's - which is only serving sweets like ice cream - was already closed. Other concession stands had run out of money to make change and in other cases, food had run out, from an already limited set of choices. No international options similar to London 2012 can be found – meaning eating outside of the park is the best option.
After getting what little refreshment we could find, we headed into the Olympic aquatics venue. During the event, we had the opportunity see three world records set, including Great Britain's Adam Peaty in the 100m breaststroke. Afterwards, the journey back took nearly two hours, as a flood of fans exited the park at the same time to load onto the BRT buses. While the lines were very disorganised, they moved quickly despite moments of danger as crowds surged and pushed to pack themselves in like sardines. We were completely exhausted after arriving back to our apartment, having logged over 19 miles of walking during our travels.
From our experience, Rio's first day of competition was overall very successful. However, there are rough edges that still need to be smoothed. From my perspective, the worst of which is the lack of any inspiring options for concessions. That unfortunately, is unlikely to change.
Ken Hanscom is a leading authority on corporate sports ticket programs. He serves as Chief Product Officer at InviteManager, which makes it easy for companies to share events, sports tickets and experiences with their customers while proving the ROI. He can be reached at Kenh@InviteManager.com and @KenHanscom on Twitter.