Rio de Janeiro, Aug 22 (IANS) Rain drenched Rio partied and brought out the myriad and diverse culture of Brazil, saluting the nation’s music maestros, traditional arts and dance forms, as the 31st Olympic Games — the first in South America — drew to a colourful close here on Sunday.
Tradition and modernity merged during a nearly three-hour-long closing ceremony, watched by over 60 thousand people at the historic Maracana stadium, and millions across the globe on television, with the nagging showers and a strong wind failing to dampen the spirits of the 11 thousand odd athletes who mingled freely in the true spirit of Olympic camaraderie and big farewell to each other cutting across national barriers.
Over 3,000 volunteers and 200 actors took part in the ceremony that resembled a carnival mood with intoxicating beats of Brazilian music interspersed with moments of nostalgia and a wrenching feeling of sadness when International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach officially declared the games closed and urged the youths of the world to converge in Tokyo in 2020 for the next edition of the quadrennial showpiece.
“I declare the games of the 31st Olympiad closed. In accordance with tradition , I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in Tokyo, Japan, to celebrate with us the games of the 32nd Olympiad. Bye bye Rio,” Bach said.
“We arrived in Brazil as guests, we leave as your friends. You will have a place in our hearts forever,” he told the Maracana while receiving a thunderous warm applause.
A little earlier, in a customary handover ritual, the flag of Greece — the host of the ancient Olympics and the stage of the first modern games in 1896 — went up and the Olympic flag was lowered and handed to the Mayor of Rio, who gave it to Bach.
Silence and emotion took over Maracana, with Bach presenting the flag to Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike in a symbolic gesture to the Asian city, now busy preparing for the games — the biggest sporting extravaganza in the globe.
The Olympic flame was extinguished with singer-actress Mariene Castro crooning ‘Pelo tempo que durar’, that spoke of “the time we have left”, and narrated the impermanence of life and nature’s constant change.
The rain soaked Castro, and aided in extinguishing the torch that had burnt in all its glory over the past 17 days, during which 206 teams — including a first ever refugee squad — engaged in a fierce competition over 306 events.
The US, with 121 medals ( 46-37-38) took the top position, leaving closest challengers Great Britain far behind at 67 (27-23-17).
China took the third slot claiming one gold less than Britain but overall three more medals (26-18-26).
India finished 67th with a silver won by shtuttler P.V. Sindhu in Women’s singles and a bronze claimed by wrestler Sakshi Malik in women’s freestyle 58 kg category.
Sakshi incidentally carried the Indian tri-colour at the closing ceremony where some other athletes and officials also took part.
The closing ceremony began with a connect to the opening show of August 5 by again celebrating the spirit of Brazilian aviator Santos Dumont, as the countdown to the party began courtesy a wristwatch.
The Brazilians hold that Dumont was the first man to wear a wristwatch as he wanted to see the time while flying his aircraft.
Performers formed distinctive shapes of Rio’s landmark sites like Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado Mountain and the Arches of Lapa, as figures clad like multi hued birds “flew” over them.
The over 25 thousand years old cave paintings found in North Eastern Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park were also focused upon, as was the Forro music popular in that region.
Tokyo presented a 12-minute programme, the highlight of which was the appearance of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed like a popular video game character Mario.
The Japanese city’s presentation ended with the call “see you in Tokyo, 2020”, summing up the mood at the stadium.