Macedonia — Macedonia Firefighter Matt Harman took the trip of a lifetime in August when he traveled to Rio de Janeiro to volunteer as a medic for the Summer Olympics.
Harman, a 25-year-old Twinsburg resident, told the News Leader before he journeyed overseas he thought it would be a “pretty cool adventure.”
He has worked part-time as a paramedic for the Macedonia Fire Department for three and a half years and for Hudson for seven years. Upon his return home he was sworn in as a full-time firefighter in Macedonia as the city hired several full-timers to staff new substations in Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills.
He served as a medic on the mountain biking course at Deodoro X-Park, but said he didn’t have to tend to any injuries. He said he was stationed at high risk points along the trail and while he rotated between spots along the trail, he was pretty much in the same area.
“I worked mostly with the doctors,” Harman said. “For the whole X-Park I was the only paramedic, there was one other EMT who worked the BMX track; everybody else were doctors.”
He said as far as injuries the games were “uneventful” and only a couple of injuries happened during the whole mountain biking event.
He said at the mountain biking event there were always three ambulances present, each one staffed with a doctor, a nurse and a driver.
The Olympics set Harman up in an accommodation village with other volunteers and media. He shared an apartment with three men from the British media.
“All our schedules were different so I didn’t get to see them a whole lot, but it was really neat hearing everyone’s stories and where they were from,” Harman said.
The village included a small grocery store, a dining hall, laundry facility, work-out room and a bar.
“It was set-up pretty nice. It was about 20 buildings, six stories each, with three bedroom apartments that had a family room and kitchen and things like that,” he said. “They were built for the military games a few years back in Rio.”
During a standby for a flight at Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport on his way to Rio, Harman met Dewayne Williams, of California, and John Cannizzaro, of Australia who would turn out to be his travel companions while he was in Rio.
He traveled with his new friends to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue which overlooks Rio, and the Copacabana and Impanema neighborhoods. Despite rumors of high crime, Harman said he never felt unsafe at any time and he took mostly public transportation and used Uber to get around.
“Pretty much everything people heard in the media wasn’t true as far as safety, and the concern of the Zika virus was amazing there,” Harman said. “There wasn’t any time I felt unsafe. There was always military, police or security everywhere you went whether it be at the events or traveling around town.”
He added he never even saw a mosquito but the Olympics supplied sunscreen with mosquito repellent in it just in case.
After sightseeing around Rio, Harman attended some track and field events. He said all the events were sold out, even though spectators watching on television could see there were many empty seats. He said there were a lot of people selling tickets outside the events.
Harman said track and field competition was interesting.
“They had people running, people doing hurdles, after that they had people doing the pole vaulting and the javelin throwing — all at the same time,” he said.
Since the mountain biking events were near the end of the games, Harman was in Rio for the closing ceremonies and got to attend those events.
He said his favorite part of the trip was just traveling around the city and meeting new people. Volunteering to work the Olympic Games is something he said he would definitely do again and said some of the people he met there were already talking about the Tokyo 2020 games.
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432