WITNESS: Hitting the wall in Rio's Sambadrome
Stuart Grudgings has worked as a correspondent and editor for Reuters for 11 years, reporting from Japan, Afghanistan, the Philippines and the United States. He has been based in Rio de Janeiro as Senior Correspondent, Brazil, since last April. In the following story, he describes the experience of parading in the legendary Sambadrome during the annual Carnival celebrations he covered last week.
By Stuart Grudgings
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - In any endurance event, an unprepared athlete is in danger of hitting "the wall" -- a point when the muscles weaken, the spirit droops, and the distant finish line seems to be playing a cruel joke.
For me, under the harsh glare of TV cameras and thousands of spectators, that point came about halfway along Rio de Janeiro's hallowed Sambadrome strip on my debut Carnival parade.
Sweat was pouring from under my pink peacock of a hat, which felt like it had a death grip on my head. My initially lively jig had deteriorated into a kind of lumbering two-step that owed more to my clubbing days than to the handful of Samba lessons I have taken since arriving in Brazil 10 months ago.
Ahead, the sweeping double arch at the end of the 700-meter (2,300-foot) course was obscured by the backside of a giant golden Buddha on the float ahead of me. Turning back was not an option.
I was simultaneously regretting the several beers I had consumed after a hot day's work reporting on neighborhood Carnival parties and wishing I had had more.
Suddenly, wardrobe disaster strikes.
One of the enormous wings slotted into the back of my costume snags that of a woman dancing on my left and for a moment we are locked together like a giant bird of paradise. After some anxious untangling, we are free again and I pray the judges who will decide the fate of my Samba school weren't looking. Continued...