Two of the University of Tulsa’s own witnessed the Olympics live this summer. Renan Kuntz, Brazilian native and University of Tulsa junior, and Professor Rosie Khan, Portuguese teacher and Brazil Club advisor, shared their experiences with the Collegian.
Kuntz volunteered at the 2016 summer Olympics. He applied in June of 2015 and heard back from the volunteer coordinators at the beginning of this year. Kuntz submitted a profile and a preference for volleyball, a lifelong love of his. The volunteer committee assigned him to beach volleyball, where he would see famous players like Kerri Walsh Jennings and witness the final Brazil-Germany match.
After a lengthy commute from his home and, later in the games, a hotel in Copa Cabana, Kuntz arrived at the Olympic arena at 8:30 a.m. every morning, where he received provisions and his assignment for the day. More than watching the matches, Kuntz directed politicians and celebrities, such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, to their seats and kept fans from swarming the athletes. Another highlight of his time at the games came when Matthew McConaughey and his wife’s ticketless entrance into the arena, where they were invited to sit with NBC’s broadcasting crew without anywhere else to go.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t all work. After the final match, volunteers attended a giant part in the Olympic Family Lounge. They threw together ice cream, food, and drinks in a party that made it’s way onto the Brazilian branch of ESPN.
Kuntz was in awe. “Is this really real? Am I really here?” he asked throughout his two weeks working at the arena.
Coordinators and officials worked tirelessly to make reactions like Kuntz’s possible. Brazil poured money and manpower into ensuring a safe place for athletes and attendees. Professor Khan returned to Brazil to attend the games and reported massive amounts local and federal law enforcement, as well as heavy navy and air force presence. Brazil was so safe, Kuntz laughingly recounted, “people were just catching Pokémon on the street.”
Both Khan and Kuntz emphasized that the Olympics were a chance to change the way the world views Brazil. “Can you believe Brazilians were against it?” Khan asked, referring to the widespread dissatisfaction with the use of money for Olympic preparations instead of channeling funds towards education or similar social programs. Benefits included an economic boost, a sustained uptick in tourism and what professor Khan was most excited about, “an opportunity for our culture to be seen all over the world.”
The Olympics were also a chance for Brazilians to come together. Kuntz recounted a boxing match between two men from out of the country, overseen by a Brazilian judge; the crowd cheered for the judge the entire time, focusing little on the match itself.
Chinese weightlifter Long Qingquan broke the world and Olympic record, and Khan caught it on film. Her video was featured on Instagram and has nearly three and a half million views. Just another day in what Kuntz described as a “mesmerizing” Olympics.
To see the video or talk to Khan or Kuntz, visit the Brazil Club or its social media. Brazil Club is giving away three items from the Olympic games at their free lunch in LaFortune’s lobby at noon on September 9th. Brazil Club can be found on Instagram at @tubrazilclub and on Facebook at TU Brazil Club.