Rio marks 18th Olympics for Arizona man

RIO DE JANEIRO — Olympians spend their entire lives preparing for the Games; Chuck Brandt has spent a lifetime attending them.

The 76-year-old Tucsonan went to his first in 1964 in Tokyo, and hopes to come full circle in four years by going to his 20th Olympic Games in Japan.
“Most people think it’s a great idea,” Brandt said. “There are a lot of people that talk about doing things, then they just wait and they can’t do it. We’ve found that people are excited for us because we are doing what we like to do and are not waiting.”

Chuck’s son and daughter-in-law announced at the 2000 Games in Sydney that they were pregnant. A few short months later, their daughter Sydney arrived to add to the Brandt family story.

It began in 1964 when Chuck won tickets to a track and field event while stationed in Okinawa with the U.S. Marines. Ever since he and his wife Judi met in 1966, they have traveled to the Games, both winter and summer, exploring the world and slowly making their family a band of world travelers.

Chuck and Judi brought their sons Eric and Martin, their daughter-in-law Jessica and their four grandchildren to Rio, making their traveling party to the first Olympics in South America nine-people strong.

“They made [going to the Olympics] normal,” Eric said. “It’s the way I grew up and now my daughter is a part of the same story.”

Sydney gets to miss school and travel around the world with her dad collecting pins and memories as part of the Brandt tradition.

“Whenever school starts and they ask you to say a fun fact about yourself, I always say I was named after the Olympics,” Sydney said. “It’s a nice conversation starter.”

Rio marks 15-year-old Sydney’s third Olympics.

Eric Brandt, of Gilbert, went to his first Olympics as a 1-year-old in 1972 at the Sapporo Games in Japan. Ever since, he has relished the time spent carrying on the family legacy celebrating the world’s biggest sporting event in new cities.

“It’s the atmosphere, the awesome competition along with people from all walks of life and people from all over the globe,” he said. “Everyone sets aside their negativity for those three weeks, and that is the awesome Olympics spirit.”

Eric said he was looking forward to the men’s road cycling race because his friend Michael Sayers is a director for Team USA. The family also made sure to check out volleyball on Copacabana Beach, but were able to skip the long lines and enter in the preferred section thanks to Chuck and Judi’s age.

As Chuck and Judi celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, they are setting their sights on reaching Chuck’s 20th Olympics in 2020, which would land him back in Tokyo.

Eric is nine Olympics shy of his father’s record, but continues to make plans to visit as many as he can.

“I don’t know if I can break that record; it’s an incredible legacy,” he said. “I think he will be the standing record holder for a long time, but I would be happy to end up with a bronze medal within our family.”