Rio Olympics reaches colourful conclusion

Rio Olympics reaches colourful conclusion

Gary O'Donovan carried the flag for Ireland at the Olympics closing ceremony last night.

Gary and his brother Paul won silver in the men’s lightweight double sculls.

The carnival-themed closing ceremony lasted three hours and featured the parade of athletes and the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach praised Rio's "marvellous Games" during a closing ceremony marked by colour, music and rain at the Maracana Stadium.

But perhaps the most memorable moment of all was Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's starring role in the traditional handover segment to the next hosts, Tokyo.

In a section that showcased Japan's reputation for design and technology, video screens showed a red ball being passed around various Japanese Olympians and computer game characters, including Super Mario, who then jumped into a green tube.

Rio Olympics reaches colourful conclusion

The other end of that tube had been wheeled into the middle of the Maracana pitch for Abe to emerge from, with the ball and Super Mario's red cap.

The highly polished segment ended with Abe saying to the crowd: "See you in Tokyo."

But that is for the future. What many people in Rio wanted to know is how Bach would describe the Games, as it has become a closing-ceremony custom to refer to each Olympics as 'the best'.

Bach, however, opted for something more neutral, and arguably more honest.

Some of the obstacles Rio faced in staging these Games were inadvertently highlighted during the two-hour celebration, with a less-than-capacity crowd loudly booing city mayor Eduardo Paes during the exchange of the Olympic flag to Tokyo's governor Yuriko Koike.

Paes has poured public money into the Rio Games, largely via state-owned sponsors, but the costs have brought criticism at a time of economic hardship and political turmoil.

There was also a power cut in the Mangueira favela that meant people there were unable to watch the ceremony on television.

Speaking just before Bach, Rio 2016's organising committee Carlos Arthur Nuzman said: "The Olympics were a great challenge but they were a great success. I am proud of my city and my people."

Bach picked up the baton from Nuzman, thanking the Games' army of volunteers and the athletes whose performances will be remembered long after the memories of Rio's sometimes chaotic organisation have faded.

The 62-year-old German was also quick to herald the example of the first ever team of refugees at the Olympics, saying they were a "symbol of hope to millions of refugees".

But his key message was that Rio had pulled it off.

"These were marvellous Games in the marvellous city, and they leave a unique legacy," he said.

Rio Olympics reaches colourful conclusion

"History will talk about a Rio before the Olympic Games and a much better Rio after the Olympic Games."

He then awarded the symbolic Olympic Cup to eight representatives of the "people of Rio".

Prior to that, the night was dominated by the usual mixture of interpretative dance routines, musical medleys and lots of selfie-taking athletes.

Team GB's large representation caught the eye as they were wearing shoes with flashing lights, which most of them took off and waved during one of the dance numbers.

Slightly more controversially, there was also an advert for the IOC's new €530m Olympic Channel and the introduction of the four new members of the IOC athletes' commission, including Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, the most high-profile critic of the decision to exclude Russia's athletics team from Rio because of its state-run doping programme.

Rio Olympics reaches colourful conclusion

But the crowd gave her a warm reception and, in a nice touch, the new IOC members presented a group of Games volunteers with flowers. There was even a return for Tonga's topless opening ceremony flag-bearer Pita Taukatofua, which was more impressive this time, given the rain.

After Bach officially closed the 31st Olympiad, calling upon the youth of the world to gather again in Tokyo, the music struck up again and those athletes still in the mood turned the Maracana into a giant dance floor, an apt way to end a Games that have certainly been fun.

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