2016 Summer Olympics Close. How Did Rio Do?
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The 2016 Summer Olympics are officially in the record books. Closing ceremonies were held last night where they started - in Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium. Rio played host to athletes from more than 200 countries amid growing political and economic turmoil. To offer a little perspective on how it went, we turn to correspondent Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who is based in Rio. Good morning.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: And also sports correspondent Tom Goldman, also there in Rio. Morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So, Lulu, starting with you, closing ceremonies last night - with all the reported difficulties going into the games, there was a lot for Rio to celebrate.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, and the main thing was it's over, and there was no major catastrophe. It was a wet closing ceremony. But Brazil ended, I think, as it began, with a joyful celebration of Brazilian culture, this time focusing on Carnival, with floats and dancers. But I have to tell you, Renee, frankly, for me, the big wow moment came when the Japanese prime minister - yes - sprouted out in the middle of the stadium dressed as Super Mario, the video game character. It was funny. It was awesome. Japan, of course, will be hosting the next Olympics, so this was a chance for them to showcase themselves.
The most beautiful moment - when the Olympic flame was extinguished, with singer Mariene de Castro belting out a song under a waterfall. It was very evocative. It was, as the first one was, a budget-conscious affair, but it was a beautiful closing ceremony.
MONTAGNE: And, Tom, for you, what were some of the highlights?
GOLDMAN: Well, inside the rings, as we say, with the sports - the sports, for the most part, worked. You know, the marquee stuff, like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles. Let's also mention widely loved runner Allyson Felix, who ended up on the marquee after setting a record for the most Olympic gold medals of any woman in track and field history. So the stars really lived up to their expectations.
But then there's the part of the Olympics I always love and try to seek out, the little stuff. For instance, I spent an evening wandering around a venue called Rio Centro. Several warehousey-type pavilions are there, each with a different sport. And I went to badminton and boxing and table tennis, each sport with a whole culture built around it with knowledgeable fans who know the ins and outs - you know, when to cheer, who the players are. And it's really interesting tapping into these very specific little sports worlds.
MONTAGNE: And, of course, Rio has played host to two huge sporting events. It might be somewhat forgotten, but in the last two years, there was the 2014 men's World Cup and now the Olympics. And Lulu, given the country's current hardships and challenges, how are these games finally received by Brazilians?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I think they've looked at this in two ways. One, you know, as something that lasted 16 days, and you can judge it on that. And I think Brazilians are indeed proud, and they can be proud. But the other way that they look at this is something that they've been building towards for seven years, you know, a process that the city has been undergoing that was really very complex and very difficult.
And I'll let Brazilians speak for themselves on the Olympics. You know, we had a poll come out yesterday, and it shows residents here feel mixed. Sixty-two percent of the population believed the Olympics brought more costs than benefits. And yet, 57 percent feel it improved Brazil's image abroad. So, you know, Brazilians did fall in love with these games. They were ambivalent at the beginning. But they also know that the bill is coming due.
GOLDMAN: And, Renee, if I could add to that, you know, I think it's really incumbent upon the International Olympic Committee and Olympic historians to really study this whole experience in Rio so the games could be cited in similar locations in the future successfully, so the IOC just, you know, doesn't have to rely on affluent locales.
I think the idea of spreading the games, which is what the IOC wanted to do, is noble, but, you know, as Lulu was talking about, you know, there's certainly been well-documented problems heading in, and it would be important to see how the IOC kind of pulled this off so the IOC can know going forward if they - if they want to really spread the games, as they say they do.
MONTAGNE: Well, they say they do, but then do they have some sort of responsibility to support cities and countries that are not, as you say, the most affluent? You know, the Paralympics, for instance, coming up, they're apparently very under-supported and are not going to be doing very well.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I think that that's one of the big questions and legacies of Rio, if you will - not just for the city, but for the entire Olympic experience. There were, as you mentioned, many well-documented problems, and not the least of which is now the Paralympics, which is critically underfunded. People are extremely upset. They feel that the Paralympians are being short-changed by the Rio organizing committee. And what responsibility does the IOC have, as a well-funded international organization, to support a place like Rio de Janeiro when, all of a sudden, its economy tanks when they don't have the money to actually put on the kind of show that they would want to?
MONTAGNE: Tom, let me turn to you for one other area that you would know about. You've been to 11 Olympics. And for all the times we saw - and there were many - how much fallout was there from the doping scandal that banned many Russian athletes?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, there was talk. Certainly with swimming, the first week, we saw several athletes speaking out directly against competitors - Russian competitors and even Chinese competitors who had doping issues in the past. I wouldn't say - you know, we like to use the phrase a cloud hung over Rio because of this. I wouldn't say that's the case. I think it was discussed. We had fans certainly reacting to certain athletes with booing, but that kind of faded away as the - as the games kind of wound to the end.
The people who are very involved with anti-doping efforts hope, though, that we don't just leave it at that, that the stakeholders in the doping issue really kind of come to a reckoning as far as this issue and what they want to do so they can avoid what happened here - this incredibly embarrassing situation where, you know, officials tackled the Russian crisis at the very last minute, creating this absurd situation where Russians were being kind of vetted at the last minute and either allowed to compete or not to compete. So people hope there are some major changes there.
MONTAGNE: And that was NPR correspondents Lulu Garcia-Navarro and Tom Goldman, speaking to us about the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, both of them in Rio. Lulu and Tom, thanks very much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
GOLDMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.