How the Rio Olympics could be surprisingly affordable for American fans

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RIO DE JANEIRO – This year’s Olympics comes with excess baggage from a tourist perspective, with many potential visitors being put off by a constant stream of negative publicity.

The number of traveling fans is well below initial expectations for Rio’s summer spectacular, mainly due to the troubling Zika virus trio, political turmoil and security concerns.

“There are fewer people than expected, yes,” said Joao Dematos, president of the travel agency BACC Travel, which specializes in Brazilian tourist packages. “But it opened up great opportunities.”

USA TODAY Sports wrote last week that sponsors, athletes and regular tourists have dropped their plans for Rio en masse. However, the apprehension of some has created more favorable conditions for those who wish to make the trip to South America, with these Games promising to be the most affordable in recent memory. Airline tickets, hotels and general vacation spending have fallen to reasonable levels, thanks to a combination of factors.

One of the main ones is the exchange rate. At the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, one US dollar bought just over two Brazilian reals. Despite some fluctuations in recent days as the global effects of Britain’s exit from the European Union boomed, the real / dollar rate hovered around 4/1 for much of 2016.

“It’s a very different situation for Americans when they come here now compared to just a few years ago,” said Adriana Alves de Oliveira, former Miss Brazil winner and now Airbnb host. “You can see it in the approach to visitors. They have a lot more money available and they are having more fun.

Brazil’s economy peaked in 2011 and has experienced a dramatic slowdown in recent years, which will also save enterprising visitors money. Trying to get tickets to events in London in 2012 proved to be a largely futile exercise, so was the demand.

Not so here.

“Brazilians tend to leave it late before buying tickets for events,” said local businessman Jan Willem Zeldenrust, a former journalist from the Netherlands. “And local people certainly have less to spend than they did in the boom years.”

Tickets for hundreds of event sessions are available on the internet, either through official Olympic channels or secondary sites such as StubHub.com.

“There’s no better time to be an Olympic fan,” said Glenn Lehrman, global communications manager for the online ticket market StubHub. “The prices are lower than any Olympic Games we have participated in. Of course, you will still see huge demand and high prices for the ultimate flagship events such as the Gold Medal Basketball Game or the 100 Meter Track Final.

“But there are a lot of other great events that people can access without breaking the bank.”

Andrew Picca, a medical student from Allentown, Pa., Left late to book the trip of his life, but was able to secure tickets to eight events for a combined cost of less than $ 1,000.

“I had planned to pay a lot more across the board,” Picca said. “I found a good flight, my accommodation was reasonable and the ticket situation was a very pleasant surprise. Anything I save can be used to fund my student loans.

However, visitors had to get creative to secure good deals on flights. An economy Delta ticket from Los Angeles to Rio’s Galeao Airport for a trip between August 8 and August 15 had climbed to $ 4,739 by the end of June.

However, flying to Sao Paulo instead saw that price drop to $ 944. Connecting flights from Sao Paulo to Rio last about an hour and were always available for $ 106. Luxury buses also make the trip, taking six hours and costing from $ 50.

The decision of the Rio Organizing Committee to partner with the Airbnb accommodation sharing site ensured that affordable rooms remained available even a month before the start of the Games.

The site offered a variety of two-bedroom apartments within a 15-minute walk of the main Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca for around $ 100 a night.

It is also possible to add an extra touch of glamor in one of the coastal suburbs such as Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon, very trendy.

Alves de Oliveira revealed how she and other owners were ready to go the extra mile to ensure a memorable stay. On the night of her interview with USA TODAY Sports, she hosted two of her visiting tenants to receive instruction from a local samba dance professional.

“As Brazilians we love life and we love to show people all over the world how beautiful it is to have fun,” she said. “It’s an interesting time. Even during the Olympics, you can come here and live like a king, but you don’t have to pay the price of a king.

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