Closing ceremony: Rio passes Olympic flag to Tokyo (and Super Mario)
RIO DE JANEIRO– It was a wet, windy and wild farewell to the 2016 Olympic Games as Rio de Janeiro bowed out in a storm of samba and rain inside the Maracana Stadium.
The night began with a power cut and ended with an explosion of color and carnival, featuring a supermodel, a giant parrot and hundreds of dancers dressed as plants — plus Japan’s prime minister in an unexpected outfit.
“I am the happiest man alive,” Carlos Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 organizing committee, declared during Sunday’s closing ceremony.
“We are unique,” he added. “Rio has delivered history … good luck to Tokyo 2020.”
Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and the Olympic rings were all honored during a lighthearted farewell, with Brazil’s cultural and artistic heritage also celebrated.
There was also a focus on “saudade” — a word loosely translated as nostalgia that is thought to only exist in the Portuguese language.
“These Olympic Games are leaving a unique legacy for generations to come,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said.
“History will talk about the ‘Rio de Janeiro before’ and the ‘much better Rio de Janeiro after the Games.’
“I declare Games of 2016 closed,” he added. “I call upon the youth of the world to assemble in Tokyo, Japan for the 32nd Olympiad — bye, bye Rio!”
The period of the evening dedicated to Tokyo’s hosting of the next Games threatened to steal the show, with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arriving center stage disguised as iconic video game character Super Mario.
Above all, it was a night for Rio to celebrate. Despite concerns surrounding security and Zika, the Games had gone off largely without a hitch.
The festival atmosphere was only dampened by the presence of yet more empty seats, with the stadium appearing far below its 70,000-plus capacity.