I had one of those “Only in Brazil” moments Monday night, sitting in a bar in Copacabana with the Olympics on TV in the background.
We had a table of about 12 Americans. We were all eating a very late dinner around 11 p.m and sampling the national cocktail, called a caipirinha (if you like limes, you’ll like it). There was another cluster of about 20 Brazilians keeping a much closer eye on the Olympics than we were, and after awhile I realized what they were watching with such intense interest was the men’s pole vault.
This was unusual. I have seen large groups of Brazilians glued to soccer and volleyball many times at these Olympics, but not to the pole vault. In fact, I have never seen any group ever watching the pole vault so intently, and these are my sixth Olympic Games.
You have probably guessed by now that a Brazilian athlete was doing well in this pole vault. Every time Thiago Braz da Silva cleared another bar, the place erupted. He was in direct competition with France’s Renaud Lavillenie, who had won the gold medal in 2012.
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Finally, Lavillenie missed, bringing the biggest cheer of all. It was a rare gold medal for Brazil, and there seemed to be no happier place than this bar off the beach in Copacabana. The patrons chanted in Portugese and threw up their hands in delight. It was all very cool.
THE FALL: Sometimes you just feel bad for an athlete. Chinese male gymnast You Hao was finishing a great routine on the parallel bars Tuesday. And then, on his dismount, he made a mistake that drew gasps from the crowd – briefly landing on his feet but then falling backward, onto his back.
Instead of quickly getting up, he just lay there. He knew the fall meant it was over for him, and indeed he would finish dead last in the final. When he finally arose, the crowd cheered sympathetically.
BOLT’S NEXT RUN: If you are a fan of Usain Bolt – and really, who isn’t? – he runs again in the 200-meter semifinal Wednesday at 9:08 p.m. Unless Bolt falls down, he should easily qualify for the final, which is Thursday at 9:30 p.m.