Opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. / Photo by Joe Capp
Usain Bolt / Photo by Joe Capp
Brazilian fan enjoys an event. / Photo by Joe Capp
Joe Capp looking patriotic.
Team USA won the gold in Brazil. / Photo by Joe Capp
The 2016 Summer Olympics turned out to be a smashing success – as I promised – and from my perspective, there were three overall winners.
The United States won 121 medals, 46 that were gold. Michael Phelps ended his storied career with 28 medals, the most by an Olympic athlete, 23 of which are gold! He easily goes down as the greatest swimmer of all time or as they say, he is the GOAT (greatest of all time!)
Katie Ledecky, the 19-year-old phenom, started her career out in a Phelps kind of way, winning four golds and one silver in the five events in which she swam. She set the world record in the 800-meter final winning by a whopping 11 seconds of the second-place finisher, almost the entire length of the pool ahead! If she stays on track, she will grab the same moniker as Phelps in the near future.
Another first-time Olympian already being touted as the GOAT is Simone Biles. The 19-year-old gymnast, who at 4 foot 8 inches tall was head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, also competed in five events, winning four golds and a bronze. Her routines were flawless and so difficult that most of her competition did not even attempt to perform them.
Finally, in one of the last Olympic events of Rio, this writer’s personal favorite, men’s USA basketball won the gold medal with a commanding 99-66 victory, led by Golden State’s newest team member Kevin Durant and the New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony, all the while with me sitting court side, what a thrill!
The host country, Brazil won a personal record 19 Olympic medals, seven of them gold. More importantly, or even the most significant of all events to have occurred, Brazil won the gold medal in soccer. Brazil is a country built on soccer. They are a people who live and breathe the very essence of the game. A people who went into mourning, an actual collective depression, after being embarrassed on their home soil in the 2014 World Cup against Germany, 7-1.
This time they extracted a bit of revenge and took Germany through extended time to end in a 1-1 tie. It then went to a shoot-out. In the shoot-out both teams held side and the score arrived at 4-4 when Brazil’s goalkeeper, Weverton, finally dived and stopped Germany’s fifth and final kick leaving the door open for the Brazilian superstar, Neymar to come on and finish it. He had the last kick and he did not disappoint. He stutter-stepped and then smashed it through with great confidence giving Brazil their first Gold Medal in Olympic history. Beating Germany allowed Brazilians to hold their heads high again after the terrible loss only two years earlier.
Everyone loved Rio. Everyone had a fantastic time and everyone got lucky because last minute tickets, for almost all events, were popping up everywhere and easily obtainable. Great seats sold for less than face value in the secondary market when they were not available on the official Olympic website. People snatched up these extra tickets and attended more events than originally planned. They ventured from a daytime gymnastic or swimming event on one side of town to a nighttime track and field event on the other. The lure of being able to go see a GOAT, like Phelps or Usain Bolt (who completed his triple-triple) for very little money turned out to be hard to pass up.
Transportation to and from all the venues was smooth, fast, reliable and safe. The BRT transit, a newly opened extension of the metro service, a new tram and the local trains system got people around the city like clockwork. The new tram runs from the downtown train station though Olympic Boulevard to the local airport of Santos Dumont. Unfortunately, those who relied on taxis or Uber paid the price, automobile traffic stayed snarled for much of the time throughout the city.
More than just the events, there was Olympic Boulevard, a once dilapidated area of downtown Rio (Centro) that was raised to make way for the games. City planners installed a beautiful new walking area on the wharf that runs down to the port area, connecting the Museu do Amanhã with the rest of Centro. They repurposed old warehouses to be Olympic-themed entertainment centers.
For example, the NBA opened up a large exhibit where people could play games, shoot basketball both in real life for prizes or in virtual reality for fun, see and photograph themselves with the Larry Obrien Trophy and meet current and past NBA Legends. Gary Payton, Glen Rice, Bruce Bowen and even Carmelo Anthony showed up! The exhibit was free to the public and was open every day during the entire Olympics. Coca-Cola, as well as a few other big organizations, converted warehouses for exhibition space. And live music played all day, every day outside in the Praça!
Every visitor experienced the friendliness of the Carioca, (the people of Rio) and both they and the city of Rio opened their arms and hearts, showing tremendous hospitality to countless grateful tourists.
Admittedly, as a part-time Carioca myself, I may be biased, but I think these Olympic Games may go down in the record books as the best in modern times. We saw two GOATs retire (Phelps and Bolt), no crimes of any significance was reported (except one from a U.S. swimmer that turned out to be a hoax), no delays, problems, confrontations or any athletes getting sick because of the poor water quality.
All in all, nothing bad occurred! And, as I predicted in this column months ago, the games turned out to be a huge success.