Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rio Scenarium blows our minds

The lack of a Day 1b came as something of a shock in Rio. Obviously I did know that we weren't having a Day 1b - and so presumably did the players. Nevertheless almost everyone at the welcome party acted as if they were taking Day 1a off. And my plans to ease myself gently into Day 1a - and then really take things by storm on Day 1b - were similarly skuppered.

The numbers also took us by surprise. More than 150 Brazilians shelling out $2,500 (or three gazillion reales) thus bringing the total to 314 - a sell-out event. So Day 1 went in a blur, but ended in a spectacular visit to Rio Scenarium. This was the place that Hass and Rury had said was the best they'd ever been to in their lives apart from Dortmund. This set the bar fairly high and I was prepared for disappointment. Sooooo wrong.

Rio Scenarium is a stunning colonial-style three-storey building, beautifully-lit which reminded us of New Orleans. Crowds thronged the streets. Couples on the first floor balcony were swaying and snogging like a Southern Comfort ad. Hedonism and headiness filled the air.

There were a lot of us but, once our VIP-ness had got us past the massive queue, Sarne led the charge to the bar. We lost the French early on (they've surrendered, said Sarne) but otherwise the group stayed/clung together and partied en masse. Sarne managed to bypass the samba-ing snoggers and slung 15 caiparinhanas over so we could start getting drunk. This took approximately three seconds and then we were so totally and utterly smashed all we could do was grin at each other and try to avoid getting snogged.

In Rio Scenarium, and possibly everywhere in Brazil but not the Intercontinental Hotel, snogging is a way of saying hello. It also appears to be the way to say "do you want to dance?", "do you want another caiparinha?" or anything else that needs saying. Couples were snogging everywhere, coming together and parting like waves lapping, skinny tanned backs dipping and diving and blowing our tiny little European minds in a tidal wash of sexiness and samba.

"Let's go this way" shouted Sarne (using actual speech rather trying to snog all of us) and we headed off to another room where the samba was faster and the bodies pressed even more tightly together.

I was starving so my next task was to be-friend a birthday group which was celebrating with a giant cake. Not hard to make friends at Rio Scenarium. In fact, hard to avoid making them. "Target the birthday girl" said my new friend Jenny. Jenny was with her fiancee Micah, who had bust out of the tournament early in the day. "You could do better" I told her, eyeing up Micah's ear jewellery. "I know," laughed Jenny (who looked like Nicole Kidman but better), "but I've already bought the dress and it was $5,000."

At one point, Tori and I got stuck in a queue in the bathroom and easily had as much fun there as anywhere else. Stunning Brazilian girls practised their English on us for hours. "Very good", we said "you can go in next". Well, it felt like hours, or days, or even weeks. The whole Rio Scenarium experience was totally trippy.

Eventually the French reappeared (pretty sure they had lost us deliberately) and we decided to call it a night. This was surprisingly tricky as Rio has a bizarre system of making you queue to get out as well as in.

Once back in the armoured truck, we headed for home. It was 5.30am but this didn't stop most of the group decanting at "Discoteca Help" on Copacabana Beach. Help's unique selling point is that every single girl in there is a prostitute. Obviously this was incredibly tempting and if I hadn't decided to get at least some sleep before Day 2, I'd have jumped off with everyone else. But something just has to give.