After 16 days of competition between more than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries, the 2016 Rio Olympics came to a close on Sunday. Watched by billions of people around the world, the event was marked by a spectacular carnival-inspired celebration that lasted for almost three hours and featured colorful parades, 12 carnival queens, lots of music and dance, and the dramatic extinguishing of the Olympic flame. But, the highlight of the night had to be the surprise appearance by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who dressed as the famous Nintendo game character, Super Mario, to symbolize the handover to Tokyo for the 2020 Games. With that cameo, the Japanese PM stole the title of coolest PM ever (sorry Justin Trudeau).
For many, the organizers of this year’s event managed to pull off a miraculous Olympics despite being bounded by a toxic pool of cynicism, from the Zika virus, to poor security concerns to uncontrollable Olympians. Rio 2016 will be remembered for some fascinating and inspiring feats by athletes who have, without a doubt, done their country proud.
A Game of Firsts
The Games of the XXXI Olympiad saw countries such as Kosovo, Jordan, and Fiji opening their accounts in Gold. Other countries like Tajikistan, Bahrain, Singapore, Vietnam, and Puerto Rico also won their first medals. A total of 27 new world records were set in track, cycling, archery, swimming, shooting, modern pentathlon, weightlifting and athletics.
Even the host-nation’s football team got to exorcise past demons of the 7-1 defeat during the World Cup semi final back in 2014 by winning their first Olympic gold medal. What made the victory special was that Brazil’s own, Neymar, got to score the winning penalty in the shootout.
That’s the Spirit!
The 2016 Olympics left everybody with quite a few cherishable feel-good moments. For instance, the Rio games featured a refugee team made up of 10 athletes from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and DR Congo who participated under the IOC flag.New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and USA’s Abbey D’Agostino were both given fair play awards after stopping to help each other in the 5,000m semi final. Both were also given a chance to compete in the final. Another warm moment at Rio 2016 happened when Chinese diver Qin Kai got down on one knee and proposed to fellow diver He Zi who had just collected her silver medal in the women’s springboard final (and for those who are wondering, she said yes).
End of an Era!
What really makes the Olympics are the athletes. So, who should we expect to see in the 2020 Olympics?
USA’s Michael Phelps announced of his retirement after winning the most medals in the history of the Olympics. His absence; however, will make way for other up and coming swimmers such as South Africa’s Chad Le Clos. Speaking of pools, one athlete that will not be around in 2020 is Ryan Lochte. Although Lochte “The Ultimate Bro” has reportedly said that he will be participating in Tokyo, the America swimmer is facing a four year suspension for his embarrassing antics at a local gas station in Rio, which should be enough to keep him out of the 2020 Olympics.
Elsewhere, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt also announced that he’s hanging up his tracksuit after winning an incredible ‘triple-triple’. Swimmers, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel are determined to compete in 2020, since there’s “more gold to win.” In gymnastics though, the 2020 roster is pretty much open field. Simone Biles took the Rio Olympics by storm this year after winning one bronze and four gold medals. The 19-year old sensation representing team USA told reporters that she would return in 2020. Unfortunately, gymnasts have extremely short careers, which means, at age 23, Biles might not be able to compete in Tokyo. But, from what we’ve seen, anything is possible in the Olympics.
Other Big News
With the ceremonial flame finally extinguished, the next Olympics is scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan. The event that takes place in 2020, will see the debut of surfing, skateboarding, baseball/softball, climbing and karate now that they have been recognized as a sport by the International Olympics Committee. The inclusion of these new sports and new athletes such as the legendary skateboarder, Tony Hawk makes the Tokyo Olympics something interesting to look forward to.