RIO DE JANEIRO: Rio de Janeiro returned to the cold reality of Brazil’s political crisis and recession yesterday 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 its 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. 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.
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. But memories of American swimming legend Phelps and Jamaica’s “immortal” sprint king Bolt will linger after they set the 2016 Olympics alight. 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. A catalogue of outstanding achievements in Rio included Britain’s Mo Farah, who captured a “double double” of 5,000m and 10,000m titles.
And the hosts got to revel in a priceless moment in the sun on the final full day and 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. 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. – AFP