Rio hangover as Tokyo grabs Olympic baton

August 22, 2016 11:53 pm
Dancers perform during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games © AFP / Luis Acosta

, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 22 – Rio de Janeiro returned to the cold reality of Brazil’s political crisis and recession Monday after bringing a carnivalesque curtain down on its Olympics festival and passing the torch to Tokyo.

After a 16-day extravaganza of sporting heroics from the likes of Olympics legends Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, Brazil woke up to the hangover of suspended president Dilma Rousseff’s looming impeachment trial and the country’s worst recession in more than eight decades.

Brazilians have mixed feelings on hosting the Games, according to a poll released on the final day, which found that 62 percent think the $16 billion Olympics brought more harm than good.

Controversy at the Rio Games © AFP / Kevin Te

At the same time, 57 percent were proud the event boosted Brazil’s image abroad.

“There are doubts on the use of public money for events of this nature when there are other priorities, especially considering the economic crisis,” summed up Marcia Cavallari, the head of the firm that carried out the poll, Ibope Inteligencia.

Security fears, concerns over Zika, off-field scandals and organizational gaffes were relegated to the background as South America’s first Olympics ended in a blaze of color late Sunday with an exuberant closing ceremony.

Smiling and waving athletes danced into the Maracana stadium, defying a tropical rain storm to launch an all-night party after Olympics chief Thomas Bach described the Rio Games as “marvelous.”

The city handed over to 2020 hosts Tokyo and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who arrived for the occasion dressed as Nintendo video game hero Super Mario.

Dancers perform during the Tokyo 2020 presentation at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony at Maracana stadium © AFP / Jim Watson

But even as Olympics highlight reels continued to loop on Brazilian television, the nation’s attention began to shift back to the capital, Brasilia, where Rousseff will go on trial before the Senate Thursday on charges of fudging the national budget to make the numbers look better.

Rousseff, who denies breaking the law and condemns the trial as a “coup,” has paid a heavy price for the recession and a massive corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras — which is separate from her impeachment case but has stained the entire political class.

Interim president Michel Temer, her nemesis, is not faring much better.

Booed at the opening ceremony and harangued in the stadiums, he stayed out of sight for Sunday’s closing celebrations.

– ‘The greatest’ –

But memories of American swimming legend Phelps and Jamaican sprint king Bolt will linger after they set the 2016 Olympics alight.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt poses after he won the men’s 200m on August 18, 2016 © AFP / Oliver Morin

Bolt, 29, made history when he sealed the sprint “triple triple” in his final Games, his third consecutive 100m, 200m and 4x100m sweep.

“There you go. I’m the greatest,” he said matter-of-factly.

It was Phelps who set the first week of the Games on fire when he took his unmatched career haul to 23 gold medals before heading into retirement at age 31.

In gymnastics, 19-year-old newcomer Simone Biles dominated the arena with her record-equalling four women’s gold medals and a bronze at her first Games.

US swimmner Michael Phelps won five more gold medals at Rio, taking his career haul of golds to 23 © AFP/File / Christophe Simon

A catalogue of outstanding achievements in Rio included Britain’s Mo Farah, who captured a “double double” in the 5,000m and 10,000m — despite tripping and falling halfway through the latter.

And the hosts got to revel in a priceless moment in the sun, fittingly in football. The men’s national team earned its greatest Olympic memory by winning the men’s gold medal.

Brazil celebrated long and loud when Neymar won the penalty shoot-out against Germany to erase memories of their 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation in 2014.

– Scandals on the sidelines –

An alternative Olympic medals table © AFP / Kun Tian, Thomas Saint-Circq

The United States topped the medal standings, matching their 46 golds from London four years ago ahead of Britain, who sealed a surprise second place ahead of China with 27 golds to 26.

Russia — with around half their team, including the track and field stars, banished from Rio following doping revelations — finished fourth with 19 golds.

Scandal also struck during the Games as police seized passports, phones and computers in a raid on the Irish Olympic office, following the arrest of Irish International Olympic Committee member and European Olympic chief Patrick Hickey over an alleged black-market tickets scam.

And American swimming standout Ryan Lochte and three teammates caused outrage when they falsely claimed they had been robbed at gunpoint in Rio by muggers disguised as police.

It later emerged the group had in fact been detained by security guards for drunkenly vandalizing a gas station bathroom.

The fallout continued to pile up for six-time Olympic gold medalist Lochte on Monday as sponsors Speedo and Ralph Lauren both announced they were dropping him.


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