Rio 2016: a ‘mais ou menos’ Olympics

Time flies. Nearly seven years on from the announcement made in the grand expanse that is the Bella Center in Copenhagen, the Olympic journey for Rio de Janiero — and Brazil — comes to an end tonight.

(Ian Watson/Getty Images)

South America officially joins the club and a city, nation and continent can finally exhale. Because let’s face it (barring any disasters during tonight’s Closing Ceremony) they’ve done it. The Zika plague never materialised, the collapse of Carioca civilisation was ill-forecast and (at least for the second week) it looked like the hosts were finally starting to enjoy themselves.

Rio 2016 has been, in many ways, a success. A mais ou menos (local for ‘more or less’) Games. If a medal, the 31st Summer Olympics swooped a plucky Silver.

The Opening Ceremony set the tenet for the rest of the Games: thrifty, crafty, surprising and all delivered against a backdrop of ‘taking us as we are’. There was no need to reboot the history of Rio and Brazil (which on reflection was perhaps a hidden theme throughout London 2012); the Games were about showing the world who they are and challenging the status quo. Two weeks on, it’s all very clear: Rio 2016 will not go down as a classic Olympics, but maybe its set the blueprint for how other cities plan for and think about hosting theirs.

The lo-fi feel to some of the venues, coupled with the reports of many infrastructural issues, jarred with what had come before in London and Beijing. The poor ticket sales were a blight on the Rio Games and will be among the first lessons learned for Tokyo. But, the make-do-and-mend feel to a lot of Rio’s organisation of their Olympics did throw out a fascinating question: if the sport is this good, why bother with the other stuff?

(AP: Associated Press)

And that is what will make things challenging for the IOC as they look ahead, not just to 2020 but ‘24 when Olympic powerhouses like Los Angeles and Paris go against Budapest and Rome for hosting honours. Perhaps less great and more good is the way forward to keeping the summer games affordable and attractive to the world’s best cities.

Tokyo saw off the more intriguing Istanbul bid in 2013 as a consequence of Rio’s perceived hosting trajectory. A Japanese Olympics will provide a steady hand on the all-important tiller while offering enough capital to provide a platform of stability. Everyone expects an assured games in 2020 — and with sports like Karate and Baseball returning to the programme — coupled with a very bright sporting future, venues should be full with domestic success aplenty. For many, a Games like these can’t come soon enough.

(Getty Images/Cameron Spencer)

But, credit where it’s due. Brazil and Rio did enough. There are moments we will all remember, whether British or global viewers. The good highlights far outweighed the bad. The Olympic naysayers turned-up on-cue and they’ll be back to hate on Pyeongchang quicker than you can say ‘Jeah’. It’s what they do. Because for all of Rio’s problems (and the Paralympics may yet prove to the indelible legacy stain), the Olympic Games remained the greatest show on Earth, mais ou menos.

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