Rio 2016: An Olympics dominated by Phelps and Bolt | Sunday Observer

Rio 2016: An Olympics dominated by Phelps and Bolt

27 June, 2021
Michael Phelps secures 23 Gold Medals and 28 podium finishes
Michael Phelps secures 23 Gold Medals and 28 podium finishes

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad and commonly known as Rio 2016, was held from August 5 to 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with the motto “A new world.” A total of 11,238 athletes took part in 306 medal events in 28 sports under 41 disciplines. At Rio 2016, 27 world records and 91 Olympic records were set.

These were the first Olympics to be held in South America, as well as the first to be held in a Portuguese-speaking country. Also, the first summer edition to be held entirely in the host country’s winter season, the first since 1968 to be held in Latin America, and the first since 2000 to be held in the Southern Hemisphere. These were the first Olympics under the IOC presidency of Thomas Bach.

All 205 National Olympic Committees qualified at least one athlete. On March 2, 2016, the IOC finalized plans for a specific Refugee Olympic Team and 10 were chosen to form the team. In November 2015, Russia was provisionally suspended from all international track and field athletic competitions by the IAAF following a WADA report into a doping program.

The United States topped the medal table, winning the most gold medals (46) and the highest number of medals overall (121); the US team also sailed past its 1,000 gold at Summer Olympics. Great Britain finished second and became only the second country in modern Olympic history to increase its tally of medals immediately after being host nation. China finished third. Host nation, Brazil secured seven gold medals, its largest tally at any single Summer Olympics.

The Rio 2016 saw Team USA top the medal chart in every category for only the seventh time in Olympic history and the first since 1948. Team USA’s haul is the most ever, surpassing the previous high of 110 from Beijing 2008. Overall, 210 American athletes contributed to the medal count and included 32 multiple medalists of which 13 won multiple golds.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony took place at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016. The ceremony highlighted aspects of Brazilian history and culture, and an appeal to environmental conservation and the prevention of global warming. The crowd in the stadium numbered 60,000 and the event was broadcast to an estimated global audience of three billion.

The ceremony included the inaugural presentation of the Olympic Laurel, an honor bestowed by the IOC on those that have made “significant achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport”; the trophy was awarded to Kenyan athlete Kipchoge Keino.

The athletes’ parade began with the entrance of Greek flagbearer. The Olympics are never shy of tear-inducing moments, as competitors push beyond the bounds of human limits, but it’s difficult to imagine stories more poignant than those of the 10 athletes clad in blue blazers and khaki pants

who made up the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team that marched in behind the Olympic flag to thunderous applause. Due to the European migrant crisis and other reasons, the IOC allowed athletes to compete as Independent Olympians. The team was made up of runners, swimmers and judo athletes from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The sound level rose still further when Brazil came in last, to the sound of the hit “Brazil”. All the teams’ name boards gathered in the middle then literally exploded to form green Olympic rings.

Brazil’s acting President, Michel Temer, declared the Games of the XXXI Olympiad open. The Olympic oath was pronounced by legendary Brazilian sailor Robert Scheidt for the athletes, Martinho Nobre for the judges and officials, and Adriana Santos for the coaches. The Olympic cauldron was lit by Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the men’s marathon bronze medalist at 2004 Olympics, who had received the IOC’s Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship.

A gigantic firework display lit up the sky. Rio 2016 Organizing Committee President Carlos Nuzman took the floor: “We welcome you to Rio, Olympic capital of the world. We are going to write history, made by you the athletes, volunteers, spectators and young people. The Olympic dream is now a wonderful reality. Rio welcomes the world with open arms. I am proud of my city and my people.”

IOC President Thomas Bach: “We are living in a world of crises, mistrust and uncertainty. Here is our Olympic answer: The 10,000 best athletes in the world, competing with each other, at the same time living peacefully together in one Olympic Village, sharing their meals and their emotions… In this Olympic world we are all equal. In this Olympic world we see that the values of our shared humanity are stronger than the forces which want to divide us. So, I call upon you, the Olympic athletes: Respect yourself, respect each other, respect the Olympic values which make the Olympic Games unique for you and for the entire world.”

Day 1: American teenager Virginia Thrasher won the first gold medal of Rio 2016 in women’s 10m air rifle. She started strongly achieving the top score of the competition: 10.9. In swimming, Australia got off to a strong start, with Mack Horton winning 400m freestyle and the Aussie quartet the 4x100m freestyle relay, setting a new world record of 3:30.65. Hungary’s “iron lady”, Katinka Hosszu, smashed women’s 400m medley world record with 4:26.36. In 100m breaststroke, Britain’s Adam Peaty set a new world record of 57.55.

Day 2: Michael Phelps after his 18th gold in London 2012, won his 19th in 4x100m freestyle relay. Katie Ledecky established a new world record in 400m freestyle with 3:56.46. Britain’s Adam Peaty improved on his 100m breaststroke world record to 57.13. Sarah Sjostrom became the first Swedish woman to win Olympic swimming gold with a world record of 55.48 in 100m butterfly.

South Korea’s female archers were unflinching in their quest to retain the Olympic team archery title, beating Russia 5-1 to secure the eighth consecutive Olympic gold. In weightlifting, China’s Long Qingquan won men’s 56kg with a new world record.

Day 3: In the first rugby sevens and first women’s competition, Australia won against New Zealand 24-17. In swimming, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu continued her winning streak securing 100m backstroke. America’s 19-year Lilly King won 100m breaststroke. China’s Sun Yang won 200m freestyle, while America’s Ryan Murphy took gold in 100m backstroke with a new world record of 51.97.

Day 4: The most decorated Olympian of all time won his 20th and 21st gold medals. First, Phelps reclaimed the 200m butterfly title in 1:53.36. Then, took gold in 4x200m freestyle relay. Phelps immediately received a deserved ovation from the crowd at the Olympic pool.

Day 5: On the eve of her 43rd birthday, Kristin Armstrong won her third gold in 29.7km course in cycling. Australia’s Kyle Chalmers, at 18, became the new king of the swim sprint, 100m freestyle with 47.58. Great Britain’s Joseph Clarke was crowned Olympic champion in the kayak single. Haruka Tachimoto and Mashu Baker struck double gold for Japan winning women’s 70kg and men’s 90kg respectively. Jin Jong-oh of the Republic of Korea was crowned Olympic champion in 50m pistol.

Day 6: Michael Phelps secured the 22nd gold medal winning 200m medley. The women’s 100m freestyle produced two champions: America’s Simone Manuel and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak both clocking 52.70. America’s Ryan Murphy achieved a breaststroke double, winning 200m after 100m. In the rugby sevens, Fijians secured their country’s first gold. Croatian brothers Martin and Valent Sinkovic won men’s double sculls and their country’s first-ever rowing gold.

Day 7: Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana won women’s 10,000m with a world record 29.17:45. China’s Wang Zhen was crowned Olympic champion in the 20km walk. Michael Phelps won his 27th medal in 100m butterfly, his last individual race at the Games. Britain’s Bradley Wiggins added to his collection team pursuit gold with a new world record of 3:50.265. Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez became men’s doubles champions.

Day 8: As the swimming events at the Rio Games reached their conclusion, the final curtain fell on the glittering career of Michael Phelps. A career that ended, naturally, with another gold medal, in 4x100m medley relay – Phelps’s 23rd gold and 28th podium finish. The women’s 100m title was won by Elaine Thompson of Jamaica with a time of 10.71. Great Britain’s Mo Farah, with a blistering sprint finish, retained his 10,000m crown in 27:05.17.

The women’s heptathlon was won by Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam with a total of 6,810 points. USA’s Jeff Henderson was crowned Olympic champion in long jump after leaping 8.38m. Monica Puig gave Puerto Rico its first Olympic gold in women’s tennis singles. Proving himself to be a reliably steady shot, never missing more than one target in each round, Germany’s Christian Reitz reigned supreme in the 25m rapid fire pistol event.

Day 9: Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa, flying along despite running “blind” in lane 8, did not let up for an instant in his fantastic race to a world record of 43.03. The previous two Olympic champions, Grenada’s Kirani James (2012) and the USA’s LaShawn Merritt (2008), who took silver and bronze respectively were in the best place to witness this fantastic feat and were very proud to have competed in this historic race.

Less impressive than in his previous two Olympic triumphs, Usain Bolt had to dig deep to catch up with the leaders in the acceleration phase, draw level with American Justin Gatlin in the last 30m, then pull ahead over the finish line for an outstanding triple at the Games over the distance of 100m that no one else has managed before. Triple jumper Caterine Ibarguen won the first gold for Colombia with a leap of 15.17m.

Jemima Sumgong won Kenya’s first gold medal in the women’s marathon. Great Britain’s Justin Rose won the gold in golf. Great Britain’s Andy Murray became the first tennis player to win two consecutive golds in singles. Great Britain’s Jason Kenny won men’s sprint in cycling to secure his fifth Olympic gold. Italy’s Niccolo Campriani retained his shooting crown in the 50m rifle 3 positions.

Day 10: Kenya’s David Rudisha held on to his 800m title on the blue track of the Olympic Stadium, winning in 1:42.15. The women’s hammer throw world record was broken by Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk with 82.29m. In women’s 400m, Shaunae Miller from the Bahamas won by diving over the line. Ruth Jebet of Bahrain won the gold in 3,000m steeplechase in 8:59.75. Brazil’s Thiago Braz Da Silva was crowned Olympic pole vault champion. Dutchwoman Sharon Van Rouwendaal swam brilliantly to her gold medal in 10km open water event. Cuban Mijain Lopez Nunez reinforced his claim to be one of the greatest wrestlers in history by winning his third consecutive Olympic Greco-Roman title in 130kg final.

Day 11: Simone Biles won her fourth gold in Rio, in her favorite event of the floor exercise. Christian Taylor held onto his Olympic triple jump title with 17.86m. Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic won her second consecutive gold in discus with 69.21m. Canada’s Derek Drouin with a leap of 2.38m won the high jump. Omar McLeod won Jamaica’s first-ever 110m hurdles gold in 13.05.

Day 12: Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson achieved the first 100/200m double, winning 200m in 21.78. Tianna Bartoletta won long jump with a leap of 7.17m. German pair Kira Walkenhorst and Laura Ludwig won the first Olympic beach volleyball title for their country.

Day 13: Jamaican sprinting superstar Usain Bolt bowed out of his last-ever individual race at the Olympic Games in a blaze of glory, taking gold in 200m in 19.78 sec. Having already secured the triple over 100m, he repeated the feat over his preferred distance. A triple double that cemented even further the legendary status of the greatest sprinter of all time and an achievement that is unlikely to be repeated at the Games any time soon. In men’s 400m hurdles, USA’s Kerron Clement claimed victory in 47.78. In women’s 400m hurdles, the USA’s Dalilah Muhammad won with 53.13. Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee retained his Olympic title in the triathlon, beating his brother Jonathan. Argentina won hockey gold for the first time beating Belgium 4-2. At 15 years and 180 days, China’s Ren Qian became the youngest champion at the Rio 2016 Games in 10m platform.

Day 14: Usain Bolt succeeded in a bid for a new 100m, 200m and 4x100m triple, unmatched in the history of athletics, and signed off with an iconic farewell to the Olympic Games. He took the gold at the Olympic Stadium with Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade in 37.27. The giant Jamaican demonstrated once again his ability to delight the spectators after this success. The USA’s Tianna Bartoletta, Allyson Felix, English Gardner and Tori Bowie retained their Olympic title in 4x100m relay, allowing Felix to become the first woman to win five Olympic golds in athletics. Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot was crowned Olympic women’s 5,000m champion. The USA became the first team to retain its women’s Olympic water polo title. Great Britain won its first women’s Olympic hockey gold.

Day 15: Park In-bee of Korea lived up to the hopes of an entire nation and won the gold, becoming the first female Olympic golf champion since the USA’s Margaret Abbott in 1900. Brazil emerged victorious in football. The victory sparked scenes of wild celebration in the legendary stadium, and Neymar fell to his knees in tears and was swamped by his team-mates. The national hero stated, “This is one of the best things that has happened in my life.”

Great Britain’s Mo Farah won gold in 5,000m and realized his ultimate dream – an Olympic double-double in 5000m and 10,000m. Allyson Felix scaled new heights in the list of women’s athletics greats by winning the sixth Olympic gold of her career in the 4x400m. The US men’s relay team also claimed gold in 4x400m. The USA’s Gwen Jorgensen was crowned Olympic triathlon winner. Russia’s women’s handball team won their first-ever Olympic gold.

Day 16: USA won Basketball over Serbia 96 - 66. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, won the marathon gold 2:08.44. Brazil’s volleyball players delighted their 12,000 supporters by winning the gold. Triumphing with a free-flowing acrobatic display with hoops and clubs, Russia’s gymnasts won their fifth consecutive gold in the group all-around competition.

Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony was held on August 21, 2016. As per traditional Olympic protocol, the ceremony featured cultural presentations from both Brazil and Japan, as well as the official handover of the Olympic flag from Rio to Tokyo and the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.

The Closing Ceremony offered the world a magnificent farewell. The athletes from all the countries mingled in the middle of this legendary stadium, celebrating together with joy and enthusiasm. Various exciting and colorful dances evoking Brazil’s culture were performed. Spectacular images of action, joy and heartbreak from the sports events over the previous 16 days were shown on giant screens.

In keeping with the tradition, the medals for men’s marathon were presented on a podium in the middle of the stadium. Eliud Kipchoge, Feyisa Lilesa and Galen Rupp received their medals from IOC President Thomas Bach and IAAF President Sebastian Coe. The athletes freshly elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission were introduced to the audience.

President Bach concluded: “These were marvelous Olympic Games in the cidade maravilhosa!” I declare the Games of the XXXI Olympiad closed. In accordance with tradition, I call upon the youth of the world to assemble in four years’ time in Tokyo, Japan to celebrate the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.”

(The author highlights spectrum of sports extravaganza. He is the winner of Presidential Academic Award for Sports in 2017 and 2018 and recipient of National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil and double MSc)