The Rio Olympics began on 5th with a spectacular rendition of Brazil's past and ended today with a carnival-inspired Closing ceremony that celebrated the same. Marked for disaster, the Games have not done badly at all and have made a difference to the world, even if small, in very difficult times.
After 16 days of action that featured 11,303 athletes from 206 nations and a refugee team, the Olympics drew to a close in the late hours of 21st at the Maracana, where it all began. The evening threatened to be a damp squib as rain and heavy winds forced most athletes to run for cover. However, the ceremony, which lasted three hours, displayed a breath-taking carnival parade, impressive firework and confetti shows, and Tokyo's harbinger for the 2020 Games.
"These were a marvelous Olympics, in a marvelous city," said International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach.
"Over the last 16 days a united Brazil inspired the world, in difficult times for all of us, with its irresistible joy for life."
Team USA topped the medal charts in an overwhelming fashion as they led on the total, Golds, silver and bronze medal counts - only the seventh time in Olympic history, and the first since 1948. The US team finished with a total of 121 medals, including 46 golds, 37 silvers, and 38 bronzes. Great Britain finished at the second place with 27 golds (67 medals), while China finished third with 26 golds (70 medals), to rank third among all nations.
Almost one-third of team USA's medal came from the aquatics arena. The team won 16 Golds from the pool on the back of 'Phenom' Phelps and Katie Ledecky's performances. In his fifth and final Olympic appearance, Michael Phelps took his tally to 23 gold medals, and 28 overall, sparking comparisons to nations that have won less in the Olympics' history. With five golds and one silver, Phelps led the medal count across all sports dating for the fourth straight time, marking his name as the greatest Olympian of all-time.
The greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt, also signed off in style from the Olympics winning both the 100m and the 200m events by a margin, along with the 4X100m relay gold. Bolt was disappointed not to have broken his 200m record, but his legacy is already cast in stone and appears unbeatable at least for decades.
India came into the Olympics with high medal hopes bolstered by predictions of double-digit medals after an unexpected bounty of 6 medals in the 2012 London Olympics. But, things were back to square 1 as the nation went through day after day without a medal. Hopes were raised when Abhinav Bindra went into the final of the 10m air rifle event, but the legend slipped up in the final shot to finish at fourth place. Other near-misses followed as the mixed doubles tennis pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna ended fourth after promising much, Dipa Karmakar ended her historic vault in the same position, and Vinesh Phogat suffered a grievous injury after leading in her bout against eventual bronze-medalist in the 48kg freestyle wrestling category.
But, Sakshi Malik finally brought India its first medal by winning bronze in the women's 58kg bronze freestyle event through repechage in dramatic fashion. After being down by a massive margin with less than a minute to go, Sakshi came back from the brink and stunned her opponent to end up with the bronze. That was No. 1.
No. 2 came from the lesser-expected of the Indian shuttlers – PV Sindhu. After Saina Nehwal's exit in the event, hopes fell on 21-year old Sindhu's shoulders. But Sindhu carried them with aplomb defeating higher-ranked opponents in the pre-quarters, quarters, and semis to confirm a medal. In the final, she held on to win the first set but was outdone by a superior rival, World No. 1 Carolina Marin, to bring India's second medal – a Silver. Sindhu also became the first Indian woman to win a silver at the Olympics in the going. The Silver made it a grand total of 2 medals for India as the campaign that promised much ran into Sports minister's shenanigans, official blunders and questions on the management of sports in the nation – rightly so. However, questions remain if anything will pan out from this debacle before the next edition or even later.
The Olympic carnival will now move to Tokyo for the 2020 edition, but Rio will be remembered for the times in which it happened – as the World undergoes an ultra—right wing shift and widespread opposition to the underprivileged and disinherited. For the first time, the Olympics featured a refugee team of 10 athletes who participated under the Olympic flag.
"We are equal now," said marathon runner Yonas Kinde, who is originally from Ethiopia. "We compete like human beings, like the others."
And that would be the long-lasting legacy of this Rio Olympics of 2016. Difficult times, catastrophic predictions, but Brazil have managed to pull off a grand spectacle, send out a message, although it was not without its lows. Now, on to Tokyo! Arigato.
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