Olympics

Brazil celebrates record medal count at closing ceremony as Summer Games look forward to Tokyo

Simone Biles carries the flag of the United States during the closing ceremony in the Maracan stadium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016.
Simone Biles carries the flag of the United States during the closing ceremony in the Maracan stadium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016. AP

Over 60,000 cheering fans from around the world celebrated the end of this month’s Summer Olympic Games on Sunday night in Rio and looked forward to its next edition in Tokyo.

Brazilian-inspired Samba, Forro and Bossa Nova music blared as rain poured down during the three-hour closing ceremony in Rio’s Maracana stadium, which featured the medal presentation of the men’s marathon, dousing of the Olympic flame and celebration of the Games next host city.

“The rain can’t stop the celebration of the 31st Olympiad,” Rio 2016 organizing chairman Carlos Arthur Nuzman exclaimed. “I am so proud of my city, my country and my people.”

Gymnast Simone Biles represented the United States during a 50-minute presentation of the games’ remaining athletes, smiling and waving as dozens of Olympic volunteers stopped to take pictures throughout the ceremony. Biles tied the Olympic gymnastics record with four gold medals in this month’s Games and added one bronze to set the American record for single-Olympics medal count by a gymnast.

The U.S. was one of 205 participating countries in this year’s games, as well as an independent Olympic team and a 10-athlete refugee team.

Canoe sprint silver medalist Isaquias Queiroz held the Brazilian flag in celebration of all-time highs in both gold and total medals for the host country. Brazil won 19 medals this month, seven of them gold. The Games’ final weekend was fruitful for Brazil as the host country won gold in the men’s soccer tournament on Saturday and men’s team volleyball tournament on Sunday.

Brazil also won gold in the women’s 57-kilograms judo event, men’s beach volleyball and women’s 49er FX sailing, among other sports. Its medal count has grown every year since the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

Brazilian DJs Dolores, Mikki Mutti and Orchestra Santa Massa took the stage for the athlete introduction, while pop artists Roberta Sá and Leandra Leal sang during the closing ceremony’s final tributes.

The changing of the guard started nearly two hours into the ceremony, when Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes handed an Olympic-themed flag to International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach, who then handed it to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

In a video-game-inspired video, which included references to Super Mario and Pac-Man, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drilled a hole in the earth to take a shortcut from Tokyo to Rio. With the spotlight on a Super Mario-inspired green pipe placed in the middle of the Maracana floor, Abe appeared at the center of the pipe to one of the loudest ovations of the night.

Rio’s Olympics, the first ever held in South America, came to a metaphorical end with the extinguishing of the Olympic flame. Singing under raindrops choreographed to fall from the ceiling’s roof, Bahian singer Mariene de Castro performed “Chovendo na Roseira” (Crying in the Rosebush).

“Look how enjoyable the good rain is,” de Castro sang in Portuguese.

The Games of the 31st Olympiad officially ended minutes later, when IOC Chairman Bach praised the host nation for successfully hosting the games and promoting a social message of racial tolerance and sustainability to fight climate change. He called on attendees to celebrate four years from now in Tokyo.

“Goodbye, Rio,” Bach said as a nostalgic crowd showed mixed reactions of joy and sadness that the Games were over.

Rio native Daniele Pereira, 28, was one of tens of thousands of local Olympic fans at Maracana on Sunday. Clapping after a rendition of “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Marvelous City), Pereira, who also attended the men’s volleyball final earlier in the afternoon, said the Games went about as well as possible for her home city.

“We didn’t hear anything but negativity before the games,” Pereira said in Portuguese, referring to news coverage of the Zika virus in Brazil and high crime rates. “But what we saw here these past two weeks was beautiful.”

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