On August 5, 2016, Brazil began its 16-day extravaganza of hosting the Olympic Games for the very first time. Beginning with its low budget Opening Ceremony, watched by more than 3.5 billion people, Brazil was under a lot of pressure to deliver a spectacle that greatly challenged that of the London 2012 Olympics.
The Ceremony was executed by creative directors Fernando Meirelles, Daniela Thomas and Andrucha Waddington who accumulated around 6,000 volunteers to carry out their vision. They intended to feature presentations on the history and culture of Brazil alongside an elaborate reference to the country’s landscapes and forests. Topics such as climate change were also given their chance in the spotlight during the Ceremony.
The estimated amount spent on the Ceremony was around $6.5 million (£5.3 million/€5.8 million). It took place within the walls of the Maracanã Stadium which had recently received a renovation since the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Olympic Torch was lit in Olympia, Greece on the April 21 and was carried right up until the Opening Ceremony. Throughout its journey, the Torch visited more than 300 Brazilian cities including all 26 state capitals and the Federal District.
The last leg of the Torch’s journey was carried out by Vanderlei de Lima who received the opportunity after Pelé, the esteemed Brazilian football player, declined due to illness. Vanderlei was the perfect man for the job due to an unfortunate attack at Athens 2004 when the marathon runner was brutally pushed to the side of the road by a spectator just four miles away from the finish.
Other notable people who carried the Torch on its journey to the Maracanã included Hortência Marcari, a woman considered to be Brazil’s best female basketball player, Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee and Eduardo Paes, then Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
Alongside the 18 existing venues used for the Olympic Games, nine new venues were constructed specifically for Olympic use and were to be temporary venues. Other renovations included Project Porto Maravilha, which was aimed at improving Brazil’s stance within the global economy by putting its “best foot forward” under the spotlight of the world.
The project involved the revitalisation of the urban waterfront in order to improve public networks in areas such as water supply, sanitation and drainage. The renovation was aimed at both aesthetically improving the urban waterfront and also taking measures to prevent the spread of disease.
Brazil’s outbreak of the Zika virus caused a significant amount of controversy regarding the Games. Many feared the influx of 500,000 tourists to the area would promote the spread of the infection and compromise the health of competitors.
After the Games, the World Health Organization confirmed that no Zika cases were linked to participants of the Olympics with many of the fears unfounded.
The polluted waters of Guanabara Bay were particularly concerning to sailing athletes with events due to take place directly in these waters. However, in the build-up to the Games, projects such as Porto Maravilha were aimed at providing reassurances regarding the safety of the venue.
More than 11,000 athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees took part in the Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro with 306 sets of medals across the 28 sports that took place.
This number included both rugby sevens and golf which had recently been added to the Olympic programme only seven years before. Throughout the Games, 27 world records were set alongside a staggering 91 Olympic records.
One of the most memorable events was Usain Bolt’s achievement of his “triple triple”. After coming first in the 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m relay at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the Jamaican did so again and matched American athlete Carl Lewis who gained nine medals in total between 1984 and 1996.
After announcing this was to be his last Olympics, Bolt said: “It’s a brilliant feeling. It’s been a long road. I’m happy, but I’m relieved. It’s great to be in the history books as one of the greatest. I’m proud of myself.”
In 2017, it was revealed that Bolt would lose his gold medal from the 4x100m relay in Beijing as team-mate Nesta Carter had failed a retrospective drugs test.
Russia were barred from the Rio 2016 athletics due to the country’s doping scandal with long jumper Darya Klishina the only athlete from the country allowed to compete.
Another great moment at Rio 2016 was perhaps the unexpected triumph of American gymnast Danell Leyva who won two silver medals, one in the parallel bars and the other in the high bar, which took place less than two hours apart. His wins were unexpected due to his injuries obtained a month before the US trials began.
Leyva was a clear favourite for the team before he was bitten on his leg and hand when breaking up a fight between his dogs. Despite his weeks off training in order to recover from the accident, he improved in the two months before the Olympics and was named an alternate for the team in June. It was bittersweet when it was announced that Leyva was to join the team in July after John Orozco tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
The 2016 Olympics made history after the IOC announced on March 2, 2016 that they would arrange for a Refugee Olympic Team to be formed. The European migrant crisis pushed the IOC towards forming such a group as, due to their circumstance, refugees were not eligible to take part in the Games.
In previous Games, refugees were deemed ineligible to compete due to their inability to represent their home country. The Refugee Olympic Team was a great success and out of 43 refugees eligible, 10 were picked to form the team.
The Closing Ceremony took place on August 21 in the Maracanã Stadium. It featured immense cultural presentations from both the current and future hosts of the Olympics, Brazil and Japan. Closing remarks were made by Bach, followed by the handing over of the Olympic flag from Paes to the Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike.
Date Games held: August 5-21
Number of nations represented: 205
Number of competitors: 11,238
Number of medal events: 306
Gold medal standings: USA 46; Great Britain 27; China 26; Russia 19; Germany 17