Now that they had delivered a successful Games with enough sporting spectacles and personal memories for those who had dropped by looking for brilliant sport, Brazil decided to get gloriously self-indulgent as the Olympics closed. And the world loved every bit of it. It ended in a 70,000-full stadium of men and women, of all shapes, sizes, colours, ages and vocations — up on their feet and dancing to their own, very Brazilian, very local Samba tunes.
Grumpy grinches and wailing banshees will continue to complain about this and that. Starting with a power outage at the Maracana and the simple, austere Games and Brazil’s tendency to not stress the small stuff that left the cribbers to crank away as much as they pleased. But having pulled off the greatest sporting show at a time of political uncertainty and an economic sluggishness, Brazil left the uncontrollables to the kindly gaze of the big statue, and went ahead and danced the closing night away, leaving the Christmas killers to moan and crib.
The closing ceremony celebrated all things Brazilian – many unknown to Indians because South America remains far away and we’ve never bothered looking deeply into Goa’s Portuguese accents and hints.
The closing ceremony to the 31st started with a celebration of Santos Dumont, an innovator and father of aviation who made the first public flight possible and wore the first wrist watch. Projections onto a large stage used for the opening ceremony that wow both stadium spectators and those watching on TV was the biggest takeaway from Brazil’s twin shows – technology slashing the costs of expensive props, and forming the base of the closing too.
Having stuck to global themes through the opening ceremony in universal overalls, Rio finally began flaunting its curves — arches of Lapa, the Cristo Redonto, Sugarloaf, going deeper into the archaeological dig of Serra da Capivara’s cave paintings, private mourning of Saudade, the manual Brazilian art of Bilro lace making, clay figurines, Roberto Burle Marx’s landscaping and ending in the Carnival marches – that brought the crowd up to its twinkling toes. This is not a country that excuses itself from a party pleading two left feet.
Team GB finishing second on the tables were the best dressed for the party wearing lit up neon shoes, even as the remaining athletes danced in.
The sport went alright —with more than one upsets than were predicted. Phelps and Bolt did their thing, and the Brazilians found their succour in football and volleyball, though gymnastics brought the country its biggest breakout moment. Mo Farah, Nicola Adams and David Rudisha were popular repeat winners, while badminton got itself two mint-fresh Olympic champs in singles, Argentina won men’s hockey and Fiji and Puerto Rico got their first ever gold medals in rugby and women’s singles tennis.
India’s journey to halfway across the world – with the legendary 15 hour flights – wasn’t all that memorable except for three Indian athletes – silver medallist PV Sindhu who stormed her maiden Olympics, Sakshi Malik who calmly ignored all the muck that was happening in Indian wrestling and kept her eye on the ball to win bronze, and Dipa Karmakar — who might not have medalled but reached iconic heights when she landed her two difficult vaults to finish fourth in standings.
Otherwise it was a story of no medals won by pre-Games favourites. Former medallists just couldn’t get going, and there was nothing heart-winning about it. Rio got its music spot on, India remained jarring.