Rio is history: and maybe that is a good thing. Over the past few decades, each four years comes with a clean cycle: enthusiasm, questions about budget and building schedules, panic about budget and building schedules, then a glorious event in which somehow everything comes together. Rio had the first three stages down, but couldn’t quite stick the landing.
Empty seats, suspiciously green-hued pools and facilities with some serious plumbing issues…Rio looked like a party, but the kind of party you have when you invite too many people over to your studio apartment and didn’t have time to clean up or buy any snacks.
But it was still the Olympics, so moments of drama, controversy and excellence are guaranteed.
So here are the winners and losers from Rio 2016.
Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps may just be two of the greatest sports people in history, and the world has seen the last of them at the Olympics. Phelps has now won 28 Olympic medals, 23 of which are gold. Rio brought him five golds and a silver.
Bolt achieved a “triple triple” by defending his titles in the 100 and 200 metres and the 4X100 metre relay. Both men make it look easy. Brazil’s Neymar is a serial winner with Barcelona but has been haunted by the 7-1 loss Brazil suffered against the Germans two years ago. In Rio, a free kick and a converted penalty in the shoot out helped salve that wound.
Penny Oleksiak of Canada won four medals in the pool and then was the standard bearer for the closing ceremony. At 16, she has announced her coming career with an outstanding Olympics. Simone Manuel, USA, is a little older but seems to have a few more medals in her. Two golds and two silvers for her. Another Simone crushed it in the gymnasium.
Simone Biles is currently the greatest gymnast in the world, having nailed the World Championships three times in a row. After Rio, talk is of her being the greatest of all time. While she hardly carried the team, she accounted for a third of their points in the team event. She finished up with four golds and a bronze – and a kiss from Zach Zefron.
Countries that Dominate
US dominance in basketball creates unbackable odds at the bookies, and even with some of their stars back home, it was another romp. The Australians had a rare sniff of victory, but seeing the scoreboard surprisingly close, the Americans slotted the machine into 3rd gear and won by more than ten.
China’s table tennis team blew the competition away, barely dropping points on their way to a silver and a gold in the individual events and double golds in the team. South Korea’s archers took all four golds, Kim Woojin breaking the world record by scoring a 700 out of a possible 720.
Failure to Meet Expectations
While Australia’s woes maybe are a result of a collective fantasy, China has decided that coming third counts as a flop. Sure, with over a billion people to choose from, and a training culture that can best be described as brutal, they should be getting some prime podium space.
The Xinhua news agency tweeted “On Rio Day 12, even GBR has one more gold than China,” and from there the navel gazing just got worse. China’s gymnasts did actually flop badly, winning no gold, and the divers had a tough time as well.
The Olympics and paralympics
Folded neatly into this category is the Russian doping scandal, because the IOC’s failure to properly deal with this rule infringement is a symptom of a larger problem. The Olympic Games is suffering an identity crisis. At least the International Paralympic Committee took the stand to ban the entire Russian team
Maybe globalisation has made the Olympics redundant in a way: back in the Cold War, this was one of the few truly international events in the world. Today, maybe we are all just a bit sick of each other.
Rio de Janeiro failed its people through the sledge-hammer approach to urban planning, and the billion dollars they took from the tax-payer will create a hole in the balance books for years to come. Many of the facilities built for the games will never be used again.
Expensive, stressful and a security nightmare, it is little wonder that cities are hardly lining up to host. The IOC needs to have a really good think about what the future of the competition will be.