Rio Olympics Closing Ceremony: City Throws Final Party to End Games
Olympic athletes were smiling, dancing and taking selfies as they proceeded into Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana Stadium on Sunday night.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil and the world bid farewell Sunday to the first Olympic Games in South America, a 16-day spectacle that combined numerous highlight reel moments with ugly and even bizarre episodes that sometimes overshadowed the competitions.
Olympic athletes were smiling, dancing and taking selfies as they proceeded into Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana Stadium for the closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games.
Thousands of fans braved strong winds and sporadic rains to watch the closing ceremony, a finale meant to be both one last bash and to take care of some business — namely signal the transition to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. As they entered the stadium on Sunday, DJs played music as some in the arena danced in their seats.
The final party was designed to be more low-key than the opening, which focused heavily on Rio. The ceremony opened with original footage of Alberto Santos Dumont, the man that Brazilians recognize as the inventor of the airplane. Brazilians also believe he is the first to ever wear a wristwatch, an invention made by a friend so he could see the time in flight.
The theme of the show was "Brazilians can do with their bare hands," a nod to the emerging economy of the world's fifth-largest nation.
Dressed in colorful feathers, dozens of dancers formed in the shape of the arches of Lapa, a popular area of Rio akin to Roman ruins, then morphed to make the shape of iconic Sugarloaf before quickly changing again, this time to the official 2016 symbol.
Samba legend Martinho da Vila, whose tunes make their way into many popular telenovelas, sang "Carinhoso," or "Affectionate."
Then the athletes poured in under a light rain, waving their flags while many shook their bodies to samba-infused pop that made the stadium feel like a Carnival parade. Greece was the first country to enter the stadium, followed by the other 206 delegations, including for the first time a delegation of refugees.
Gold medalists were among the flag bearers, including U.S. gymnast Simone Biles and South Africa's Caster Semenya. Isaquias Queirez dos Santos, who won two silver medals and bronze in men's canoe, was the flag bearer for Brazil.
The Games had many memorable moments, both for Brazilian competitors at home and athletes from around the world.
Soccer-crazed Brazil got partial payback against Germany, winning gold two years after a 7-1 World Cup final shellacking that left many in Latin America's largest nation fuming. American gymnast Biles asserted her dominance with four golds, swimmer Michael Phelps added five more to raise his staggering total to 23 and the world's fastest man, sprinter Usain Bolt, put on his usual show with three golds just days before turning 30 years old.
But there were also ugly episodes, like American swimmer Ryan Lochte's fabricated story about a harrowing robbery that was actually an intoxication-fueled vandalism of a gas station bathroom, and bizarre issues like Olympic diving pools going from crystal blue to gunky, algae green — at a time when Rio's water quality in open waters is one of the biggest local environmental issues.
Many people, from Brazilians to International Olympic Committee members, will spend time analyzing how things went for the Rio Games in the months ahead. But on Sunday, one strong sentiment was relief — that despite some problems, the Games went well overall.
That wasn't a given going in. The Zika virus scared away some competitors and tourists, rampant street crime in Rio and recent extremist attacks around the world raised fears about safety and Brazil's political crisis and the economic angst behind it threatened to cast a pall over the competitions.