Man Attempting To Dribble Soccer Ball To Brazil Killed In Accident

SoccerIt sounded like one of those crazy ideas that should have led to fun and adventure and ended in triumph. Instead it ended in tragedy.

Richard Swanson, pictured here, of Seattle, decided to raise money for charity by dribbling a soccer ball 10,000 miles to Brazil in time for the 2014 World Cup. Sadly, The Guardian reports that he only made it as far as Oregon. While walking down US Highway 101 near Lincoln City he was hit by a pickup truck on Tuesday and killed. The police have ruled it an accident and the driver has not been charged.

Swanson was only two weeks and about 260 miles into his trip. He had been posting updates about his journey on his Facebook page, including a photo of the last meal he ate, a hearty breakfast in Lincoln City just hours before being killed.

His project, called Breakaway Brazil, was meant to raise money for the One World Futbol Project, which distributes durable soccer balls to needy children in developing areas.

Rio Carnival 2012: what’s new this year

rio carnival 2012

Rio Carnival 2012 is being looked upon as the Brazilian city’s “coming of age”. Not only are experts predicting a record number of revelers, but the world’s eyes will also be trained on Rio de Janeiro to see how it manages the crowds and festivities, particularly as the city prepares to host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Organizers are pulling out all the stops to make this year’s Carnival celebration not only safe and smooth, but also an experience to remember. Here’s a rundown of what’s new about 2012’s festivities.

Shiny new Sambódromo
The world-famous Sambódromo stadium, home to Carnival’s renowned samba parades, just underwent a $20 million facelift in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games. Unveiled Sunday, the renovations include new elevators, hospitality boxes, and sound equipment; improved access for people with disabilities; and improvements to the track where the samba dancers march. The new stadium will also be able to accommodate 12,500 additional spectators, which will make this year’s samba parades the biggest yet.

Hot celebrities
Rio Carnival 2012 will have plenty to offer celebrity-spotters. Jennifer Lopez, who recently recorded a sexy Carnival-themed commercial for Brahma beer, “was invited” to the Brazilian brewer’s private box at the Sambódromo for the samba parades. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner will be enjoying the parades from rival brewer Devassa’s box, reports the AFP. Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has also confirmed her attendance on Twitter.

Pricier hotels
A recent survey released by SindRio, the city’s Syndicate of Hotels, Bars, and Restaurants, revealed that room rates in Rio’s main tourist areas have risen by an average of 17.6 percent from last year. The syndicate’s director told the Wall Street Journal that the price raise was due to sector-wide facility and service upgrades in preparation for the World Cup and Olympic Games.

More Brazilians
According to the SindRio report, domestic tourism is also on the rise. As of January 30, 68 percent of all hotel reservations in Rio’s main tourist areas during Carnival weekend had been placed by Brazilians.

Less rich foreigners
At the same time, the number of international reservations in the city’s top luxury properties is down, from 70 percent of bookings to a paltry 50 percent, reports the Brazilian Hotel Industry Association. The economic crisis in North America and Europe is the likely culprit, said the Journal.


Additional street security
Last week, Carnival organizers feared chaos after police officers and fire fighters announced they were going on strike just before festivities were due to kick off. Thankfully, the strike was poorly attended and fizzled until it was officially called off on Monday. For extra assurance, city officials have announced that they will dispatch 50,000 police officers to the streets of Rio, as well as send up a remote-control camera blimp to keep watch over the festivities.

Gadling coverage from day one!

Today, I’ll be heading down to Rio to provide up-to-the-minute dispatches on the good, the bad, and the outrageous aspects of Rio Carnival 2012. Stay tuned; this is a party you won’t want to miss.

Check out Gadling’s full range of Rio Carnival 2012 coverage here.

[Flickr image via Luciano Guelfi]

Pillow Fight World Cup kicks off in Brooklyn

pillow fightEurovision chose a winner this weekend and the Olympics aren’t for another year, so what sporting event will next unite countries and provide entertainment for the world? Tonight is the first-ever Pillow Fight World Cup and participants from Sweden, Japan, Austria, and, of course, the United States are expected to compete. Did we mention the pillow fight entrants are all female? Rest assured, this will be no fluff match. Austria is sending their entire league (yup, they have one) and the Americans have been training with the creator of Punk Rock Pillow Fight.

Get acquainted with the firm but supportive (like a good pillow) contenders on the official PFWC website and go cheer on Team USA tonight. Events kick off at 7pm at Brooklyn’s Polish National Home. Tickets are $20 at the door but a select number are available free if you RSVP fast.

Qatar’s 2022 World Cup stadium concepts

On Thursday, FIFA announced that Qatar defeated South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States in the race to host the 2022 World Cup. This historic decision marks the first time a Middle Eastern country will welcome a major sporting event.

FIFA’s choice has brought a significant backlash in the American media, with critics claiming that the summer heat (as high as 120 degrees Farenheit) will be unbearable and that a country the size of Delaware (with 1.6 million residents) will not be able to handle an estimated influx of 400,000 spectators.

Nonetheless, Qatar has outlined a complex plan to renovate three stadiums and build nine brand new complexes across seven host cities. Bid organizers claim that they are developing revolutionary methods to keep each of the stadiums climate-controlled and carbon neutral, at an estimated construction cost of about $6.2 billion.

Check out the designs in the gallery below:

%Gallery-109210%

German architects AS&P have produced 12 conceptual designs that incorporate retractable roofs and solar power for cooling systems as well as modular designs that allow some of the stadiums to be dismantled at the end of the tournament and rebuilt in other countries.

Whether or not you agree with FIFA’s decision, it’s hard to deny that Qatar made an impressive pitch. Watch the video below to see the entire presentation, or just skip to 3:18 to see a live action rendering of Qatar’s vision for the 2022 World Cup.

Weekending: Bodrum/Greece


As an expat in Istanbul, I am very fortunate to have awesome opportunities for short trips around Europe and the Middle East. My previous weekend jaunt was to Beirut, Lebanon. Though the current 90+ degree weather is ruling out a lot of domestic travel for now, for my next getaway, I made like the locals and headed south to the beach.

The place: Bodrum, Turkey

The Bodrum peninsula fancies itself the Turkish Riviera, though the town proper feels a bit more like the Jersey Shore, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Bodrum coast (like the Jersey Shore) has great beaches and fun nightlife, though it lacks the sophistication of other European beach towns and the coastline is getting more developed each season. Still, there’s charm left in Bodrum town, beautiful castle and harbor views, and easy boat access to more secluded spots in Turkey and even Greece. Big and boutique resorts with private beaches (many of them jetties) line the sea though you may have to rent a car or rely on taxis and dolmuses (minibuses) to get around. As we wanted to stay in a walkable area with restaurants nearby, we chose the Su Hotel in town, on a quiet street close to the harbor, with a good-sized pool and friendly service.
%Gallery-99196%Upgrades

  • Water is the big draw to Bodrum, though the town itself has only a few small strips of beach, with most of the beach clubs and resorts in neighboring towns like Bitez and Gümbet. The few town beaches are small but serviceable, as well as convenient and most often free, though you may be obliged to buy a drink from one of the adjoining cafes. If you’re after the wide, sandy beach experience, you’re better off in a resort outside of town or taking day trips.
  • Hop on a boat and be in Greece in an hour. From the ferry, you can walk to a beach where 5 euro will get you two chairs, some bottled water, and an umbrella. Pleasant Kos Town doesn’t have a wealth of tourist attractions, but does remind you how NOT European Turkey is, if only for the good wine, availability of pork, and sensible city planning. Alternatively, boat trips are offered all over town to nearby islands and coves in Turkey.

Downgrades

  • While sometimes it’s pleasant to visit a foreigner-friendly city where English is widely spoken and familiar foods are available, after seeing the third cafe in a row serving a full English breakfast, Bodrum’s popularity with Brits and Australians becomes overwhelming and almost demoralizing. I happened to be in town during the England-Germany World Cup match, and the English loss could be heard up and down the streets. On the plus side, a nice book market on Cumhuriyet Caddesi towards the east end sells English books for as little as 5 TL.
  • You don’t come to Bodrum for sightseeing, but the main attractions can still be a little disappointing. The Castle of St. Peter holds the Museum of Underwater Archaeology (admittedly, I hoped it would actually BE underwater) and while the views from the castle are spectacular and several of the exhibits are interesting, the highlights (the cool-sounding Glass Shipwreck and remains of a Carian princess) are only open Tuesday – Friday. Imagine if New York’s Met Museum closed the Temple of Dendur on weekends or the Louvre limited days to see the Mona Lisa?! Likewise, the Mausoleum might have once been one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but not much of it remains.

Getting there

Bodrum is an hour flight from Istanbul, with sporadic direct flights from continental Europe in season. The airport is 60 kilometers from town and a pricey 90 TL taxi ride, but a shuttle bus connects with domestic flights for 17 TL. If you have early or late flights, be sure to factor in the round-trip taxi fare to the cost of your travel. Ferries depart for Kos (also Rhodes) in the morning and return late afternoon for around 55 TL.

Make it a week

Get your bearings in Bodrum town and then sail a gulet yacht for a cruise along the Aegean. Booking a cabin will cost from 400 euro per person including meals (but not alcohol), crew, fuel, and taxes for a week, chartering the whole yacht can run thousands of euro but can work for a group of friends or family. Do your homework and shop around; Turkey Travel Planner is a good primer.