The bus pulled in at 5.55AM. We had arrived in Sao Paulo, a massive city south of Rio de Janeiro. Kick off was in 9 hours time. Fellow colleagues have mocked our chosen way of transport but I could get used to these comfortable means. Overall quicker than flying, the bus hub was like a mini underground city – we only had one destination – the stadium.
The hullabaloo of media ticketing started in 7 hours. Sao Paulo traffic is like most other Brazilian cities, horrendous so a taxi to just get us to the place which was the reason we were here was the only option. If we went to a hotel, we would have to be up in next to no time to battle with the traffic. Staying in a hotel was pointless.
At 6.30AM we were greeted with smiles as we got to the stadium. We left the taxi and those on the security night watch shift gestured for us to go into the stadium. Before we knew it we were roaming around the executive lounges, un-challenged, un-noticed.
The place was a disgrace. Talk about last minute. Lifts and corridors were a shambles. I know of some newspaper editors who would have paid quite handsomely for these kind of images knocking the show before it had already started.
Where was the Media Centre?
It was obvious no one knew where it was. There were no signs to it. This was the day of the first day of the tournament – 66,000 fans yes but also about 3,000 media – where would they all go? Over an hour was were spent faffing, walking around and trying to find the entrance.
The most pointless security check which meant going through an x-ray machine at 9am and then a walk along a metal fenced corridor finally presented us with the sign to the media centre.
After getting my orange Sony sponsored photo bib – number 92… the time flew by as we booked more transport, checked and re-checked our schedules and decided not attend Germany v Portugal as quite frankly we did not think we could make it to the coastal city of Salvador in time – let alone get out for the game the following day.
It was time to get out and do some work. The light was lovely. My cameras were not used to these settings, the sun was a bit brighter than Europe!
Today I was in the tribune – the front row of the main stand. This was the first game. My mission was to get nice pictures of the opening ceremony. It’s an important part and the opening part to the FIFA 2014 World Cup story.
I wish that there was more time to shoot the fans walking into the stadium by the lovely black background. It was the ultimate mobile studio. I could have done a 100 fan feature, young to old, it could have been quite good. But I had to get my seat.
The stadium, as I found out earlier in the day the stadium was a labyrinth. Thankfully as in France 98, coloured tape lead lost media folk to their required destinations. For me, I had to follow the orange line.
Now photographers have a lot of equipment. Sometimes 30-40KG to carry, but the lazy journalists took hostage of the elevator resulting in a 40 minute queue to the 9th floor. Time was not on my side. The opening ceremony was starting in less than 15 minutes. It was every man for himself. This was the reason people were here. Others were not going to be too kind. I had no option but to forget the option of the lift.
Dripping with sweat, 180 steps later and I am only allowed one small bottle of water by the media helpers as I take my seat. Madness. Total madness.
Armed with mega wide-angle lenses, a great view against a great back drop of a pretty nice stadium, I anticipated greatness head of me.
The show was slow.
I was awaiting the big spectacle.
But there was no “WELCOME TO THE BRAZIL 2014” – nothing visual to show the start of the world cup.
It was colourful but I was expecting and needing pictorially something else. Sadly it did not happen. I let the disappointment of witnessing an awful Opening Ceremony go over my head.
It was game time!
And so the FIFA World Cup 2014 kicked off.
The Guardian using a picture within seconds of me sending it out. I’m not bragging, just saying how reassuring it is with the knowledge that everything back home in computer land was working OK.
Another stadium view to add to the collection. From the experience gained at the Confederations Cup last year, there are some gorgeous sunset images to be had. There was no excuse from the position I was in.
Because of the Opening Ceremony, I had to spend the rest of the game in the stands. No pitchside photography for me today.
No award winners, just record shots really for me from this game, though recording is what we do. Hopefully Naymar will celebrate down my lens in other Brazil games I do during the weeks ahead.
At the end of the game we congregated in the media centre. The Brazilian photographer who promised a lift to the airport was nowhere to be seen.
Media ‘helpers’ were not that helpful when it came to offering helpful advice on how and where to get to the airport. Some said there was a bus, others said it was lies and nothing like that existed.
We must have walked 4 miles in and around the 3km cordoned off area in search of transport. No taxis were allowed in. No one could help. It looked like 30,000 people were going to the Metro. To me it was pointless to join them at that time. Some security officials said that if we strayed out of the cordon then it would be dangerous. Trapped!
Time was ticking by. If we did not get to the airport our schedule was in severe doubt. There was no Plan B on this one. We HAD to get to the airport. Normally I would be in a right flap but from my experience in Brazil was that we always found a solution.
We just needed one now and quick.
An angelic transport helper who spoke fantastic English assured us that there was a bus near the Metro but she did not know precisely where. Angelic as she spoke English and was the first person who had helped up with substance all day.
Time was ticking. Back the way we came, we headed for the Metro stop. Past the same set of security officials, the must have thought that we were on some kind of mad sponsored walk.
We reached the Metro Station. No bus in sight. Again everyone was clueless and could not assist us. However once again the Police were oh so friendly. I think if you are a World Cup protestor then they are no so kind, but as taught at school when you are 7, if you need help, go and see a Policeman and again this philosophy was the way forward.
One Policeman in particular who didn’t speak English but did very well gave us hope until a angel was delivered from heaven. No not Jennifer Lopez in a football kit but a rather over weight 20 yr old local chap doing his bit for the World Cup in Sao Paolo as a volunteer in a blue Adidas World Cup jacket.
He took us under his wing and lead us through the thousands of fans still in the Metro Station. Down an escalator we went. We would NEVER had of found it and how refreshing it was not to walk down more steps with heavy and awkward bags!
And there is was – AIRPORT BUS SERVICE. We sincerely wanted to express our up most gratitude to this guy but before we knew it he had returned up to help another lost soul in the hullabaloo of the Metro Station.
I love Brazilian busses me!
Paying R32 (£8.42) and we were on board. Filled with three English, a bunch of Brazilians and some mad Mexicans, the bus departed.
Still no airport in sight though as the roads however were jammed packed with locals wanting to see the Brazil team coach leave the stadium. Finger pointing to the driver and saying “Ayrton Senna” and “Rapido” we made it after about four other minor disasters like being held up by the Police on the way to the airport terminal for the Brazil National Team and check-in desk hell – normally worth a rant but nothing in the grand scheme of things.
It was at this point that I realised I had not eaten a thing for about 24 hours at least. We emptied our pockets and tried to purchase healthy things from the airport kiosk after one of the most lax security sections that I have encountered.
Far far cheaper than the R6 bottle of water we encountered in the stadium.
There was no room anywhere. The airport was very busy indeed. I was just glad that I was there. I could stand up for anyone.
One of the mad Mexicans we were on the bus with was waiting at the gate next to us singing Spanish songs about Chicharito playing for Manchester Untied wearing a Minion hat.
Finally a sight two hours ago I really did not think would happen. My seat for the flight to Manaus – 10F.
No issues with airport bags, no issues with carry on luggage – like always, not being able to communicate in Portuguese, the most difficult and most challenging aspect of this FIFA World Cup will be travel – and there are lots of it.
I shut my eyes.
Apparently the view as we entered Manaus was great, but I was fast asleep! What you never see you never miss.
No one around in the official tourist help-desk at this hour, there was only one place we were heading – our hotel.
The Opening Ceremony for the World Cup had been a bit of a let down. My first 48 hours had been one big adventure.
England awaits. The problem is, until I actually see England on the pitch I won’t believe that they are taking part in this World Cup. Again, the emphasis is on Germany, Italy, Spain and Argentina. No England to be seen at all!
Wifi in the hotel works too. Great! I can continue my editing tomorrow. Upon going to sleep I am notified of a picture in the Metro newspaper from England training the day earlier. It seemed like a long long time I ago I did this!