RIO 2016: Brazil breathes sigh of relief at colourful closing ceremony

Concerns over lasting impact and cost of hosting the 2016 Games

A blustery storm, a touch of melancholy, and a sense of pride converged at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics as Brazil breathed a collective sigh of relief at having pulled off South America’s first Games.

After a gruelling 17 days, Rio de Janeiro cast aside early struggles with empty venues, security scares, and a mysterious green diving pool to throw a huge Carnival-like party.

Samba dancers, singers, drummers, and a giant plumed macaw float mixed with hundreds of athletes in the storied Maracana stadium while a final volley of fireworks lit up the sky.

Samba dancers perform in the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ segment during the closing Ceremony. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Samba dancers perform in the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ segment during the closing Ceremony. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Rio handed over the Olympic flag to Tokyo, site of the 2020 Summer Games, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared in the stadium dressed as popular video game character Mario, tunnelling from Tokyo to Rio.

Bach declared the Rio Games closed and expressed hope that they had left a lasting mark on the metropolitan area of 12m people.

“These Olympic Games are leaving a unique legacy for generations to come,” he said. “History will talk about a Rio de Janeiro before and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games.”

Irish athletes enjoy the closing ceremony at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Picture: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Irish athletes enjoy the closing ceremony at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Picture: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

In a final symbolic act, the Olympic flame that had burned since August 5 was then extinguished in a downpour of artificial rain.

In the midst of the worst economic recession since the 1930s, Brazil’s opening and closing ceremonies relied more on the country’s unique talents and natural beauty and less on expensive technology.

At times it was hard to focus on the sporting triumphs taking place across the sprawling city.

Brazilians could nevertheless take heart in the fact that there were no major mishaps or breaches after deadly attacks in Europe and the US had prompted the biggest security operation in Brazil’s history with 85,000 troops.

Fireworks explode above the Maracana at the end of the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday night. Picture: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Fireworks explode above the Maracana at the end of the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday night. Picture: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

“Even with all our problems we pulled off a good Olympics. Nothing too bad happened and I’d say it was better than expected,” said Nivea Araujo, a Rio resident at the closing ceremony.

For many in the soccer-mad nation, the best Olympic moments happened in the Maracana, where Brazil defeated Germany in soccer on Saturday and pieced together a widely hailed opening ceremony despite the tight budget.

Rio won the right to host the Games in 2009, when the economy was booming and millions were pushing into the middle class.

Athletes mingle and party during the closing ceremony. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Athletes mingle and party during the closing ceremony. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“We are in a difficult moment as a country right now, we can’t hide that, but the Games were scheduled and I’m glad we could enjoy them,” said Alessandro Freitas, also from Rio.

One of the major concerns for Brazilians is the final cost of the Games and how much they actually helped improve the city’s infrastructure. Many residents could not afford tickets to events, leaving them feeling on the sidelines of the city’s biggest undertaking.

By yesterday morning, with the Games no longer a distraction, Brazil got back to its dour reality of duelling political and economic crises. An impeachment vote in coming days could lead to the permanent ouster of suspended President Dilma Rousseff.

Interim President Michel Temer, who was booed at the opening ceremony, decided not to attend the closing event.

Ireland flag bearer and silver medal winner Gary O’Donovan at the closing ceremony. Picture: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ireland flag bearer and silver medal winner Gary O’Donovan at the closing ceremony. Picture: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

More on this topic

Rio Olympic head Carlos Nuzman charged with corruptionRio Olympic head Carlos Nuzman charged with corruption

President of Rio2016 games, Carlos Nuzman, could be suspended after arrest, say IOC President of Rio2016 games, Carlos Nuzman, could be suspended after arrest, say IOC

Pat Hickey could be back in Ireland soonPat Hickey could be back in Ireland soon

Olympic tickets inquiry calls on affected Irish fans to come forwardOlympic tickets inquiry calls on affected Irish fans to come forward


Lifestyle

We catch up with Bushmills’ master distiller, who tells Sam Wylie-Harris more about this liquid gold.Irish whiskey masterclass: 11 things you need to know

Temples, beaches, and several nations with new names.From Bhutan to Costa Rica, Lonely Planet reveals its top countries to visit in 2020

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman who’s unsure how to manage her mother’s dying wishes.Ask a counsellor: ‘Is it appropriate to notify my mother’s friends of her death by email?’

‘The Big Yin’ talks to Luke Rix-Standing about living with Parkinson’s, the power of forgiveness, and why he will never, ever stop swearing.Billy Connolly: ‘You don’t wake up famous, you wake up scratching yourself like everybody else’

More From The Irish Examiner