Shaking to samba and expressing a sense of longing with uniquely Brazilian words, Olympians and fans said goodbye to the Rio Games with one last big bash that was both revelatory and a sigh of relief.
The closing ceremony Sunday celebrated the 16-day spectacle that was the Rio Games, which combined numerous highlights with ugly and even bizarre episodes that sometimes overshadowed competition. Cariocas – as Rio’s residents are known – weren’t swayed by the issues that led up to these Olympics, and braved rain and strong winds on the final night to cap their moment in the worldwide spotlight.
While South America’s first Olympics are over, safely and with a grandiose finale, many problems remain. Still, Brazil showed Sunday it still definitely knows how to party.
“These were marvelous Olympic Games in the `marvelous city,“’ said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, playing off the “cidade maravilhosa” nickname of Brazil’s postcard city of inviting coastlines, year-round sun and lush tropical vegetation.
While the stadium erupted in applause at that declaration, a few minutes later there were boos of sadness when Bach announced: “I declare the Games of the XXXI Olympiad closed.”
The closing ceremony in iconic Maracana Stadium was also meant to take care of some business – formally signaling the transition to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.
But Sunday’s party was all about Brazil, designed to be more low-key than the opening, which focused heavily on Rio.
The ceremony featured original footage of Alberto Santos Dumont, the man that Brazilians recognize as the inventor of the airplane. The theme, “Brazilians can do with their bare hands,” was a nod to the emerging economy of the world’s fifth most populous nation.
Gold medal match: With Neymar in a courtside seat cheering his countrymen, Wallace pumped his arms and let out screams from deep in his lungs as Brazil fed off the energy in raucous Maracanazinho arena.
Over and over again he celebrated each point that got his team closer to an Olympic title.
Brazil’s determined men’s volleyball team gave the hosts another sensational gold right next door to where Neymar and Co. did it less than 24 hours earlier in a thrilling penalty shootout against 2014 World Cup champion Germany.
Brazil beat mighty Italy 25-22, 28-26, 26-24 on Sunday for the home team’s first Olympic title in 12 years since a championship at Athens in 2004.
As the delirious home crowd hung out to watch the medal ceremony, fans danced in the stands and chanted “Campeao! Campeao!” – or, “Champion, Champion!”
Bronze medal match: Reid Priddy could take his Brazilian bow.
One of the biggest ambassadors in men’s volleyball for more than a decade, the 38-year-old American ended his fourth and final indoor Olympics in spectacular fashion Sunday, leading a five-set comeback that carried the U.S. to the bronze medal with a victory over defending champion Russia.
Yet Priddy will be remembered for far more than a medal. That he even suited up was an achievement. And it wasn’t lost on those who played alongside him, watching as he recovered from a career-threatening knee injury – especially important to the younger players, who relished the chance to learn from him.
“I won before this game started,” Priddy said.
He leapt high for kill after kill, blocked his heart out, dived to the floor all day to keep points alive. Priddy played the most he has in these Olympics on the final day at Maracanazinho arena, pulling his teammates into quick huddles between points, patting them on the back and high-fiving at every chance.
With chants of “U-S-A!,” the Americans rallied from two sets down to deny the 2012 London champs, 23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-13.
Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya smiled as he crossed the finish line and later directed cheering fans from the podium. The one color of Olympic medal he lacked in his illustrious career finally is his.
Kipchoge grabbed the lead in the marathon Sunday around the 21-mile (35 kilometer) mark and finished off his first Olympic victory in this event in a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 44 seconds.
“I’ve won my Olympic gold medal,” Kipchoge said. “It was the Olympic gold medal that’s not (around) my neck.”
Kipchoge’s golden moment came was overshadowed by the silver medalist, Feyisa Lilesa, taking his opportunity to support protests back in his native Ethiopia. He crossed his wrists at the finish line, during the gift ceremony and again during the news conference in the symbol for the anti-government protests in Ethiopia
The nation has been marred by violence in recent weeks as government security forces have killed dozens of people amid protests over the nation’s decision to take over lands in the Oromia region. Protesters are calling for more freedom and an end of government brutality.
American Galen Rupp, running only his second marathon, added bronze to the silver he won in the 10,000 meters in London.
Meb Keflezighi of the U.S. did some push-ups at the finish line after slipping, having a little fun to celebrate his final Olympic marathon. He finished fourth.
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