Editor’s note: Tom Ecker of Cedar Rapids is an Olympic historian.
RIO DE JANEIRO — This is my ninth trip to the Olympic Games, my eighth as a tour escort.
Some people think I am a tour guide, but I am an escort, not a guide. The difference? A guide has to know something.
Presently, I am working for a specialized magazine, Track and Field News, which has offered tours to all of the Olympic Games since 1952 — even to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which the U.S. boycotted.
My duties are pretty simple. I lead pre-Olympic tours to nearby destinations, and then manage one of the Olympic hotels during the Games.
My first Olympic experience with Track and Field News was in Montreal in 1976. I was asked to be in charge of hospitality for the entire tour group — almost 3,000 people. Since 1976, the escorting assignments have taken me to Olympic Games on five different continents.
This year, the pre-Olympic tour began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we enjoyed watching the tango and eating big, juicy steaks. Then it was on to Iguazu for three days. Little-known Iguazu Falls — on the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay — is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. From the Argentina side, you see the falls from above. From the Brazil side you see them from below. A mile-and-a-half wide, with a 240-foot drop, Iguazu is too big and beautiful to describe adequately.
It is said that Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguazu Falls in the 1930s and commented, “Poor Niagara.”