A Columbus resident was in the center of the world’s stage when he took a one-week trip to Rio de Janiero to get a first-hand look at the Games of the 31st Olympiad.

Nick Hotz arrived in Brazil on Aug. 2, just days before the opening ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Hotz’s trip came after spending a year on a travel sabbatical through South America in 2015 and 2016, then heading down to Australia for a five-month work stint in early 2016. His work as a business analyst has allowed him to travel the world to work with different business ventures, including the five-month period working as a financial analyst in Sydney right before his trip to Brazil.

Hotz said there were a few places in South America he was not able to see before he left for Australia, so he timed his return to the continent to align his visit to Brazil with the Olympics.

“It was picking up where I left off,” he said.

While in Rio, the Columbus native purchased tickets for Olympic table tennis, weight lifting, boxing and beach volleyball competitions.

While televised Olympic events appear to show bleachers filled to the brim with cheering fans, Hotz said he was surprised to discover that often the stands were only about 75 percent full.

But a less-than-packed house didn’t dampen the sense of patriotism fans felt as they watched their fellow countrymen go for the gold, Hotz said.

Often times, groups of Brazilians would pack the stands and cheer on Brazilian competitors as they reveled in having the home-field advantage, he said, but there were also times when pride for Team USA filled the stadium.

During a late-night beach volleyball competition, Hotz recalls most spectators trickling out and returning home because of the late hour. But for a small group of American fans, there was nothing that could pull them away from supporting their team, and the Columbus native said the connection he felt with his fellow U.S. citizens was something special.

“It was really great being in a crowd with other Americans,” he said.

Hotz even got the chance to meet a member of Team USA when he had an impromptu conversation with Ryan Held, a gold medalist in the men’s 4×100 swim relay.

After Held completed an on-camera interview, Hotz said he was able to approach the athlete and congratulate him on his Olympic victory. Held thanked Hotz for his kind words and said he felt incredibly privileged to represent the United States on the world’s stage, the Columbus native said.

“I was really impressed that someone so accomplished would be so humble,” Hotz said.

Hotz left the games shortly after they opened on Aug. 5. But now that he’s had the opportunity to watch the world’s greatest athletes compete once, Hotz said he’s sure that he’ll find a way to repeat that experience in the future.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.