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2016 Olympics: Adeus Rio, konnichiwa Tokyo

And that's all for another three years and 11 months, folks. Photo Reuters

Rio farewells its Olympics, Tokyo picks up the Games baton in sometimes bizarre, sometimes spectacular closing ceremony

2016 Olympics: Adeus Rio, konnichiwa Tokyo

 

In drenching rain, with fireworks, mischievous athletes and speeches full of the usual platitudes, Rio signed off the 2016 Olympic Games and handed the flag to Tokyo 2020.

The closing ceremony was a summing-up of the past two weeks – it ran well over time, there were thousands of empty seats in the stadium (most noticeably in the area reserved for athletes) and many of the Games’ stars were no-shows. Not surprisingly, one of those was US swimmer Ryan Lochte.

The athletes laughed, dances and selfied their way into the stadium, many wearing clear plastic ponchos to keep out the storm. For some bizarre reasons the Canadians – who seemed to have deployed many more of their team than other nations – wore red and white snow mittens in the hot Rio night.

As various highlights of the Games were shown from the big screens around the stadium, the biggest cheer predictably arose for Neymar, captain of the gold-medal winning hometown soccer team, closely followed by Usain Bolt.

A spectacular fireworks display followed, and a bounce around Brazilian history from prehistoric times (honouring Capivara national park, which has the largest collection of prehistoric art in Latin America, and has just had its funding cut by the government); clay-dancers (yes, dancers covered in clay); the invention of techno and lacemaking.

For those who did not know, lacemaking was very big in Brazil in the 19th century but its potential as a stadium sport has not been fully realised until 2016, when it became possible to project its geometric shapes on to an arena, to the accompaniment of a hypnotic light show and a traditional choir.

Super Brother and plumber Mario turned up and then into Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, for the handover moment. Scenes of Tokyo followed, as well as another light, song and dance show.

In his closing speech, IOC president Thomas Bach said these were “a marvellous Games in a marvellous city”, which is not quite up to the usual “the best Olympics ever” that crops up in this speech.

He said the Games will make Rio better after the Games, which has to be put on the “Let’s wait and see, huh?” list.

Rio organising chief Carlos Arthur Guzman described the Games as a “victory of sport”. He added that he is “proud of his city and his people … our diversity makes us special … we will win together”, and thanked the volunteers, without whom, etc etc.

Shortly before the ceremony, 5000m runners Nikki Hamblin and Abbey d’Agostino receieved the Pierre de Coubertin medal, awarded only 17 times in Olympic history, and reserved for athletes, volunteers or officials who are deemed to have demonstrated the Olympic spirit.

It followed their outstanding display of sporting spirit, when Hamblin tripped d’Agostino in their heat, and both picked each other up and ran to the finish together, before sharing embraces and tears.

“Winning this award is overwhelming,” Kiwi Hamblin said. “I am proud that what we did and truly believe that you can be both a competitor and kind and responsive at the same time.

“Everyone comes here to compete but there are a lot of people who don’t achieve that and the journey is really important too. That was one of those journeys and it has gone on to be one of the most important moments of my life.

“I think it’s very special for both Abbey and myself. I don’t think either of us woke up and thought that that was going to be our day, or our race, or our Olympic Games. Both of us are strong competitors and we wanted to go out there and do our best on the track.

“I was on the ground for too long to get back up and catch on to the pack. So then it becomes about finishing the race, and finishing the race well. I am so grateful to Abbey for picking me up, and I think many people would have returned the favour. Once you are on the track, there is a mutual understanding of what it takes to get there.”

And that’s it for another three years and 11 months, folks.

 

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