RIO DE JANEIRO – With the Olympics in this beach-obsessed city, you probably figured you were going to hear the word “boob” a lot during this fortnight.
No one said anything about “haboob”. It turns out there’s no “boob” like a “haboob”.
It swept in Sunday morning shortly before 10 a.m. and coated everything – including exposed body parts – with a layer of gravel, sand, and whatever else is lying around on the roads of Rio.
It knocked over big umbrellas meant to protect people from the sun and caused a few rips and tears in a lot of places. And in a place that is part new buildings and predominantly temporary tent city, it was a serious thing.
What’s a haboob? It’s not a Brazilian specialty. It’s a dust storm, basically. It’s a scirocco in Africa, a Calima in the Canary Islands, a Khamsin in Egypt.
The winds in Rio might not quite have qualified for haboob status. But that’s what they were calling it on NBC all morning, and so, they made it so.
Above all the smirking and giggling over the name of it, the haboob had an impact on the events Sunday.
At the tennis venue, other than in the more sheltered stadium centre court, matches were delayed everywhere else.
In some cases, such as Court 1 and Court 2, there may have been safety issues. Both are extremely temporary structures. Basically, they’re a mass of pipes hopefully attached securely – that’s going to get a serious test this week if Rafael Nadal keeps playing in there – that sway and creak with the crowds even under calm conditions.
On the tennis field courts, the signage banners were flying off and chairs were blowing all over the place.
The rowing events at Lagoa Stadium were called off entirely, and there also was some damage to the Aquatics centre and at the main souvenir store at Olympic Park.
German tennis player Dustin Brown, whose trademark is his luxuriously long set of dreadlocks, was unable to put them on full display in his Olympic debut.
He had to make them haboob-proof. (Brown had bigger problems; ahead in the match against Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil, he was forced to retire after turning his ankle).
Check out this video of a team of British coxless fours (“Coulees Hit by Haboob” is quite the headline) draining out their boat after being nailed by a rogue wave.
U.S. swimming coach Dave Marsh told USA Today that the dining hall at the athletes’ village was closed. And yet, beach volleyball went on as planned although obviously the calibre of the competition was haboob-affected.
Insert your own headline there.