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Michael Lewis

MICHAEL LEWIS

June 13, 2014
DON'T BLAME IT ON RIO, DAY 2
A nightmare day from hell in Sao Paulo


SAO PAULO, Brazil -- It's incredible what a good night's sleep, a hot shower and a breakfast will do for one's spirits.

I needed all three after my day from hell on Thursday.

I knew it was going to be rough just because I was flying into Brazil on the first day of the World Cup.

Our flight left two hours late, but that did not bother me because I know they add time to the actual flight time so planes would be "on time." We got into Sao Paulo 15 minutes after schedule, so no sweat there.

It was an overnight flight, so you're supposed to sleep. Unless you are in business or first class with those incredible seats that turn into beds, it is difficult to sleep, especially with a neighbor to my left who
accidentally nudged me several times (hey, I thought elbows aren't allowed to cross over to another person's seat).

After disembarking, we wound up stopping in the walkway to customs and waited a good 45 minutes before we were allowed -- in groups -- to enter the customs hall. And for good reason: there were several hundred people in a seemingly endless line, snaking ever so slowly toward the
front. I had never seen anything like this. It was a human cattle call. I wound up seeing North American Soccer League commissioner Bill Peterson on the line.

Finally, I got to the front of the line, got my passport processed and when the immigration official found out I was a sportswriter, he wanted to talk about the World Cup. Now, I love talking about the beautiful game as much as anyone, but I really didn't want to hold up the hordes behind me. Of course, no one knew what the questions were
about and he was trying to be friendly.

Still, it took two hours from getting off the plane to picking up my bags.

The car that took photographer Perry McIntyre and me to the Tryp Higienopolis hotel took only 45 minutes; the driver said it was the fastest he had gone from the airport to the hotel since the World Cup madness began. It certainly didn't hurt that Thursday was some sort of Brazilian holiday, which kept down the traffic.

I got there close to 10 a.m.

Since the media bus, operated by U.S. Soccer, was going to leave for the Brazil-Croatia game at 11 a.m., I did not have time to eat or do much. I got online to let my wife Joy and family know that I got here in one piece and read e-mails. Then it was off to the stadium.

Because there was a perimeter of no public traffic around the stadium for something like three kilometers, the bus could not get close to the Arena Corinthians. So, we were dropped off and took public transportation to
the stadium with Brazilian and Croatian fans.

We still had a hike to the stadium still had to get credentialed.

Ives Galarcep and Franco Panzio somehow got separated from the group and somehow after several minutes of trying to negotiate with security people to allow us past the ticketing point -- every one needed a ticket or a
credential -- we managed to convince someone that we were actual journalists who needed a press credential.

After a long walk in the sun, we were processed in no time at all.

The media center, which was in the basement of the stadium, was packed with journalists and finding a seat was next to impossible. And the wireless was so heavy that many of us were getting bumped offline. Since there were ethernet cables there, I used them instead without a problem.

Eating was a luxury you didn't get. My last meal was breakfast on the plane, although I had an apple and carrot sticks just before we landed.

At the stadium, food was a long wait line or scarce. The media cafe took too long to wait.

Some U.S. writers said there was nothing decent for sale at the regular food stalls, some workers claiming that the food had not arrived yet.

Not arrived yet?

This is the World Cup!

Your team Brazil is playing!

Jeez!

So, after eating breakfast on the plane, I went the rest of the day without food and only water.

The trip back to the hotel was two bus trips -- the FIFA media shuttle took us to a spot close to the hotel. So we disembarked and got on the official U.S. Soccer media bus. Because it was so tall, it had to go
several miles out of its way to avoid low bridges. While turning onto a street, it hit a car, more like a bump. Don't worry. No one was hurt.

We got back to the hotel at 11 p.m. That was a 12-hour journey in the same city to see one game.

Welcome to the World Cup.

   
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