Rio de Janeiro, Aug 22 (IANS) Rain drenched Rio partied, saluting the Brazilian music maestros, the traditional arts and dance forms, as the 31st Olympic Games — the first in South America — drew to a close here on Sunday in a colourful but non-extravagant showcasing of the myriad and diverse cultures of the nation.
Tradition and technology merged during a three-hour-long closing ceremony, watched by over 60 thousand people at the historic Maracana Stadium, and millions across the globe on television.
The nagging showers and a strong wind failed to dampen the spirit of the 11,000-odd athletes who mingled freely in the true spirit of Olympic camaraderie and bade farewell to one another cutting across national barriers.
Over 3,000 volunteers and 200 actors took part in the ceremony that resembled a carnival as the spectators time and again jived to intoxicating beats of Brazilian music of different eras interspersed with moments of nostalgia.
There prevailed a wrenching feeling of sadness when International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach officially declared the Games closed.
“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, drawing thunderous 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 to host the earth’s biggest sporting extravaganza.
The Olympic flame was extinguished as singer-actress Mariene Castro crooned the evergreen melody ‘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 delegation — engaged in a fierce competition for a booty of 306 gold medals.
The US, with 121 metal pieces (46-37-38) took the top position, leaving closest challengers Britain far behind at 67 (27-23-17).
China took the third slot claiming one gold less than Britain but overall three medals more (26-18-26).
India finished 67th, courtesy a silver won by shuttler P.V. Sindhu in Women’s singles and a bronze claimed by wrestler Sakshi Malik in women’s freestyle 58kg 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.
The stadium was soon bathed in a magical light, and 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.
Twenty-seven children representing the 26 districts sang the Brazilian national anthem, while the percussions of an African tambourine heightened the ethereal effect.
The over 25,000 years old cave paintings found in North Eastern Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park were also focused upon, in between the tributes paid to the masters of the Samba, Forro and other genres of music.
The last of the 306 medal ceremonies of the Rio Games saw Bach draping Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge with the gold for the men’s Marathon held hours earlier.
Amid the fanfare, Rio did not forget to thank the volunteers, who toiled hard day in and day, and always with a smile to make the Games a success. Two of the representative volunteers were handed out bouquets, while singer Lenine belted out a song, and the crowd gave them a warm ovation.
Another priceless moment was the launch of the Olympic Channel amidst peppy tunes of Norwegian pop sensation Kygo, whose offerings saw the assembled athletes dance to their merriment as they relaxed, took selfies and savoured every moment of the closing ceremony of the Games.
Tokyo, the next hosts, 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 Super Mario.
The Japanese city’s presentation ended with the call “See you in Tokyo, 2020”, summing up the mood at the stadium.
The spotlight would henceforth shift to the Japanese capital, but Rio would forever be remembered for sporting excellence.
Redoubtable American swimmer Michael Phelps finished his Olympic odyssey winning five more gold here to take his overall Games medal booty to an unprecedented 28.
Legendary athlete Usain Bolt finished a dream triple triple — by virtue of his golden feat in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in three Olympics, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.