Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 18, 2016 - Five weeks ago, Luisa Xavier got a call about something going array in the Beach Volleyball venue for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“This is such a big project with so many moving parts that you are always preparing yourself to handle problems,” said the São Paulo native that moved to Rio de Janeiro three years ago to work on the design, the development and the construction of the Beach Volleyball facility that is dubbed the “Coliseu on Copacabana” or the “enormous Tinkertoy”.
“When I arrived in the area to discuss the problem,” Luisa added, “I found out that the situation was not a problem, but a surprise party for my 29th birthday. I was really surprised since I have been so focused since mid-April in preparing the Olympic Beach Volleyball compound. In a way, it was good to have a brief break as everyone had been working very hard to get the compound ready to greet the competing teams, the officials and the media.”
Luisa Xavier, the designer of the “Coliseu on Copacabana”
In addition to the 12,000-seat arena where 102 of the 108 matches have been played so far since August 6 and concludes here Thursday mid-night with the men’s medal matches, the Beach Volleyball compound also had a second competition court for the playing of four matches along with two warmup and five training courts.
As for the “Coliseu on Copacabana”, the structure was built by two companies that worked on the construction of the soccer 2014 World Cup stadium in São Paulo. The area was built with over 785 tons of steel and four-to-five stories off the sand on Copacabana. Unlike the Olympic Beach Volleyball competition in Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the main stadium and side courts are on an actual “beach”.
When compared to the other Rio “Summer” venues, it was written on lonelyplanet.com that “Inside a basketball, swimming or track and field arena at the Olympic Games, it wouldn’t be a surprise to lose one’s sense of place - seen one 400-meter track, seen ’em all! But inside Brazil’s vibrant Beach Volleyball Arena on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, there is little doubt you are sitting on privileged Brazilian real estate against one of the most cinematic backdrops on Earth.
“Against a postcard-perfect background of Atlantic rainforest on one of the world’s most picturesque and famous urban beaches, the 21-meter high, 12,000 seat temporary arena called “part enormous Tinkertoy, part world’s largest Ikea-product construction project” by the New York Times, has been the most vibrant and Carioca of all Olympic venues, with boisterous fandom being taken to a level not commonly seen in a natatorium, for example.
“The arena, which sits in more or less the same spot of sand as Copacabana’s annual New Year’s Eve festivities and past mega concerts like the Rolling Stones in 2006 (attended by 1.5 million fans), there was a DJ spinning at the venue’s opening session. Volunteers during matches have been riling up the crowd, encouraging them to yell in unison “Ace!” on uncontested serves and “Paredão!” (“Big Wall”) during blocks throughout play. Crowd-rousing tunes like “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” can be heard over the loudspeakers between sets and samba dancers have performed as well.”
The web article went on to quote Brazilian-American native Sol Estin, who attended some of Brazil’s Beach Volleyball qualifying matches. “It’s easy to get to, offers a great view of the ocean, and is surrounded by key features of the carioca spirit - music, street vendors, beachfront restaurants and sand underneath your feet,” said Estin, “I loved all of the chants and the music in the stadium. That combined with the direct sunlight over the stadium and the view of Copa beach made for an incredible environment.”
As Agatha Bednarczuk, who teamed with Barbara Seixas to claim the women’s silver medal for Brazil early Thursday, said - “It’s beautiful to watch the game. The crowd is filling the arena. It’s a great atmosphere to play here.”
When departing the “Coliseu on Copacabana” or the “enormous Tinkertoy” early Thursday morning after the women’s medal matches, Luisa Xavier had an “enormous” smile on her face when asked about the past 12 days of her life.
“It is everything we expected,” she said, “and a lot more. We are very pleased with everything. After the clock strikes 12 tonight and we are playing the last match, the processes begins to dismantle everything and restore Copacabana to its natural setting. But for now, we’ll enjoy these final moments and realize that we accomplished so much in such a short time. It has been an awesome experience for everyone involved.”