Malaysiakini Letter

Rio 2016 an Olympiad of firsts, bests and lasts

V Thomas
Published:  |  Modified:

The full diversity, creativity and exuberance of Brazil was displayed for the whole world to be awed and amazed during the opening and closing ceremonies of Rio 2016. It could go down in history as the sports festival that showcased Brazil’s energetic and enthusiastic spirit in the face of unexpected adversity in organizing the games. Possibly, the starting and ending celebrations may not be equaled in the future in terms of variety and colour.

Rio 2016 could be the best Olympics ever. The sporting Brazilians as well as their fabulous women were a tourist attraction in themselves. Despite facing an A to Z array of problems ranging from the algae-ridden aquatic venues to the much-feared Zika virus, the Brazilians put on a brave front inherent in their national character.

Despite being humbled by the morale-sapping 1-7 hammering by Germany in the 2014 World Cup and a range of demonstrations and opposition from various groups, including protests by natives displaying bows and arrows and adorning their aboriginal attire complete with feathered headgear, Brazil rose to the occasion.

Topping the turmoil was the political instability causing frequent demonstrations and rallies urging President Dilma Rousseff’s ouster and impeachment.

It was really surprising that Brazil had so quickly descended - from being one of the more vibrant emerging economies of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) grouping under President Lula da Silva when Brazil was accorded the rare honour of hosting the World Cup and the Olympics within two years of one another - to one being riddled with endless socio-economic and political problems that even risked the country from proper organization of the two mega events.

Added to these were heightened concerns about crime and security .

However, when the Games got started it became a Rio 2016 to remember with its many firsts, bests and lasts. The Olympic laurel, the Nobel prize for sports, was awarded for the first time. There was also the Refugees Team symbolising the millions of displaced people worldwide. Countries such as Fiji, Singapore and the Ivory Coast won their first ever gold medals. The US won its 1,000th cumulative medal since the modern Olympics began in 1896.

Unique achievers include Michael Phelps who accumulated his 23rd gold medal in the swimming events, Mo Farrah winning the double double in the 5,000m and the 10,000m in both London and Rio.

Usain Bolt’s triple-triple in winning the 100m,the 200m and the 4x100m relay in Beijing, London and Rio could be the unbreakable record of all time as it is very doubtful anyone can achieve this, considering that Jamaica has had a golden generation of sprinters for a decade who made a major impact in the relays. Both Phelps and Bolt have said that this will be their last Olympics and the world may not see the likes of these great Olympians again.

Four silvers and a bronze for Malaysia

For Malaysia it was their best effort with four silvers and a bronze since their debut in 1956. In badminton Carolina Marin won the women’s singles gold medal in addition to her World Championship and All England titles, completing a kind of Grand Slam in badminton. Brazil , despite being a soccer superpower, collected their first ever gold medal in soccer, overcoming their nemesis Germany in a dicey penalty shoot-out.

Great Britain surprisingly finished second in the medal tally and its haul of medals was the best since 1908 as the investments in sports for London 2012 continue to pay handsome returns.

Governments need to play a major role in sports development as part of youth empowerment programmes if more nations are to win medals for a fairer share of Olympic glory. As usual India continues to be a big disappointment in the Olympics and this time won a miserable one silver and one bronze to show for a population of 1.2 billion people.

During the closing ceremony, instead of the athletes marching separately, the organisers decided that all the participants should come together and mingle in the real Olympic spirit. Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, praised the organisers and exclaimed that Brazil had inspired the world and referred to Rio 2016 as the marvelous games in a marvelous city.

A dazzling final fireworks illuminated the iconic Maracana Stadium as Rio 2016 came to a happy ending. It will be Japan’s turn next to host the 2020 Olympiad.

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