Last night was the Closing Ceremony for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. The colourful, musical three-hour event went off without a hitch, despite some rain. All of the athletes entered the stadium one last time, as national flags were carried in by one of each country's best ahtletes. Canada's flag bearer was a pretty easy choice and their youngest ever — four-time medallist and first-time Olympian, swimmer Penny Oleksiak.
The United States had a slightly tougher decision, as both swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles won five medals, including four golds. In the end, Biles got the nod, but since she and Ledecky are still only 19, you can bet it won't be the last time they're both considered for the honour.
Rio meets the challenge
There was perhaps more controversy going into these Games than any in recent memory. And the two weeks did have its share of down moments, though the worst one wasn't about polluted water, crime, or Russian doping scandals. It was U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte's lying about being robbed by locals posing as policemen. His lie rightly angered Brazilians, and it sounds like his reputation probably won't fully recover. Fair enough, because there was no shortage of incredible athletic performances to focus on instead.
Biles and Oleksiak emerged as two of the most exciting young Olympians in the world (with Oleksiak truly surprising the field as this was the 16 year-old's first real taste of senior competition). American swimmer Michael Phelps put an almost insurmountable distance between himself and the rest of history. His six golds and one silver in Rio mean that he'll retire with 28 total medals, including 23 gold medals. That's unreal. The nearest number of golds won by a single person is 9.
Of course, one of those ahtletes to win 9 golds was another of the retiring stars of Rio: sprinter Usain Bolt. Bolt has only run in three events in his three Olympics — the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay — but he has been perfect in each event. The Rio Games left no doubt that he is the greatest sprinter of all time. Though Canada has reason to be excited in 21 year-old Andre DeGrasse, who won bronze in 100m, silver in 200m, and bronze in the 4x100m. With Bolt retiring, many are pegging DeGrasse as the next great sprinter. Both athletes seem to enjoy this fact — their easygoing affection for one another was one of the feel-good stories of the Games.
Canadian women step up, the USA, China and Great Britain dominate
It's not unusual to see the USA at the top of the medal count. But this year, they crushed the field winning 121 total medals, as well as the most each of gold, silver, and bronze. It's the most the Americans have ever won, outside the 1904 St. Louis and 1984 Los Angeles Games (though those events lacked huge countries such as the Soviet Union and China). China came in second for total medals with 70, while Great Britain had their best ever showing with 67 medals and the second most golds at 27.
As for Canada, it tied for its second most medals ever at 22. Of those 22 medals, 16 were claimed by women. From soccer to swimming to athletics to wrestling to rugby sevens, Canadian women showed awesome heart and had a historically great Olympics for their country. For years, Canada has been a force at the Winter Olympics, while struggling at the Summer Games (it is still the only country to host a Summer Games and not win a single gold medal, happening in 1976 in Montreal). But with bright young stars like Oleksiak and DeGrasse leading the charge, it feels like the country is ready to move up the ranks.
Along with the extinguishing of the Olympic torch, one of the final acts of the Games is the official passing of the event on to the next host nation. This country works hard to create a short performance that they believe expresses something important about their country's culture and how they will host the Games. In 2020, the Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan. Based on what they showed the world last night, we already can't wait for their games to start.
Japan is a country with many rich and storied traditions. They are a pioneering nation in martial arts, philosophy, art, dance, and food. But they also make amazing video games. Watch below as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lives out the dreams of many and becomes Super Mario. See you in four years!
— Juan A. Salinas M. (@SalinasJA) August 22, 2016