Summer Olympics 2016

A dove from the Olympic Opening Ceremonies 

Former Malibu Mayor and local resident Pamela Conley Ulich will be reporting on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a special correspondent to The Malibu Times, reporting on events Malibu-based athletes will be competing in, which may include men’s water polo, men’s swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, open water swim, athletics and women’s indoor volleyball. 

She has attended the last three summer Olympic games: 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing, 2012 in London and now the Rio Olympics. She also reported as a correspondent to The Malibu Times in 2012.

Ulich served on Malibu City Council for eight years, from 2004-2012, including one term as mayor.


The loud crowd

When we arrived at the airport to check in for our flight, we were greeted by a woman who introduced herself as Monica. She smiled as she told us she was from Sao Paolo, and asked if we had ever been to Brazil before. I said, “No,” then she looked at my 15- and 16-year-old children and said, “Be careful — kids have guns there, and if they see you taking a selfie or looking at [your phone], they may rob, or worse yet, even kill you for it, because it is worth about a thousand dollars.”

My kids and I looked back at her. Our smiles had turned into frowns. 

About 12 or so hours later, we arrived in Rio. The customs line was quick. As we walked through customs, I noticed a sign with a man in military uniform and machine gun that said, “Brazilian Army. The Force at the Olympic games.” 

As we walked out of the terminal, I had to walk past protestors in blue shirts shouting at us and about six or seven Brazilian Army men with their guns out and hands on the triggers of their automatic weapons who were keeping the doors cleared of the protestors. 

A man who smiled and greeted us said, “Welcome to Brazil!” 

That night, we left for the opening ceremony, and were surprised that there was not that much traffic going into the stadium. We walked about 30 minutes to the stadium parameter and once again passed protestors and police who seemed to be interacting peacefully in the streets. 

The Olympics Opening Ceremony was filled to the brim with bright colors, smiles and many surprises. The program for the Opening Ceremony explained it eloquently: “Our ceremony is not an exaltation of power and achievement. We will honor our spirit and focus on the future — not only ours but of the whole world. Let’s celebrate Pindorama — the huge garden that the planet may become once again. Let’s sow the seeds of peace! Celebrate togetherness. Praise beauty. Stir our imagination. Spread joy.  Dance until we drop.” 

The program stated: “Science shows us maps that are like x-rays of our illness. Oil and coal use is increasing the greenhouse effect. The planet is warming up faster than expected … Re-thinking our way of life and adapting ourselves to climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity now.” 

The solution? “Trees capture the main gas that traps heat in the atmosphere — carbon — and reduces its concentration. Replanting forests is the fastest, most efficient and cheapest way to reverse global warming.”  

Brazil then announced its efforts to plant a tree in honor of each Olympic athlete and urged us all to plant a tree and do our part when possible. 

After nearly all of the athletes from around the world had entered the stadium, the first-ever Olympic Refugee team was introduced and the crowd went wild. Everybody stood and cheered on these refugees and welcomed them with open arms and hearts. It was beautiful to witness not only acceptance, but celebration, for refugees by the Olympic family. 

Next came the flight of doves. Small white pieces of paper in the shape of doves came floating down from the stadium’s roof. These doves flew beautifully and a few of the doves even had notes on them. A dove that flew over to us had the inscription: “How to have peace in the world if we don’t have it in our home?”

Finally, the ceremony ended with a bang — as fireworks exploded and people all over started to Samba. 

It was a magical way to start the Olympics filled with love, acceptance and lots of spirit. 


Day 1 and 2 highlights

The military and the crowds continued to play a role in Rio. The Olympic cyclists roared through the streets and were escorted by military boats and planes. 

The spirited and loud crowds may have actually changed the fate of two tennis matches. On day one, during Venus Williams’ match, it appeared that the crowd got very upset when some people started chanting “USA” — the crowd began to boo.  Venus, who looked a little distracted by the loud crowd, ended up losing to Belarus’ Kirsten Flipkens. On day two, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Novak Djokovic, ended up losing to Argentinian Del Potro. It felt more like a soccer match than a tennis match, as Argentinean fans went crazy and sang “Oleo lee.” Two armed red beret military men started to come out onto the court during the tennis switchovers about half way through the second set.