Vinicius and Tom Olympic and Paralympic mascots (Getty Images)
de Janeiro - Rio
de Janeiro returned to the cold reality of Brazil's political crisis
and recession on Monday after bringing a carnivalesque curtain down on its
Olympics festival and passing the torch to Tokyo.
After a 16-day extravaganza of sporting heroics from the likes of
Olympics legends Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, Brazil woke up to the
hangover of suspended president Dilma Rousseff's looming impeachment
trial and its worst recession in more than eight decades.
Brazilians have mixed feelings on hosting the Games, according to a
poll released on the final day, which found that 62 percent think the
Olympics brought more harm than good.
At the same time, 57 percent were proud the event boosted Brazil's image abroad.
"There are doubts on the use of public money for events of this
nature when there are other priorities, especially considering the
economic crisis," summed up Marcia Cavallari, the head of the firm that
carried out the poll, Ibope Inteligencia.
Security fears, concerns over Zika, off-field scandals and
organisational gaffes were relegated to the background as South
America's first Olympics ended in a blaze of color late Sunday with an
exuberant closing ceremony.
Smiling and waving athletes danced into the Maracana stadium to
launch an all-night party after Olympics chief Thomas Bach described the
Rio Games as "marvelous."
But even as Olympics highlights reels continued to loop on Brazilian
television, the nation's attention began to shift back to the capital,
Brasilia, where Rousseff will go on trial before the Senate on Thursday
on charges of fudging the national budget to make the numbers look
Rousseff, who denies breaking the law and condemns the process as a
"coup," has paid a heavy price for the recession and a spiralling
corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras - which is separate
from her impeachment case but has tainted the entire political class.
Interim president Michel Temer is not faring much better.
Booed at the opening ceremony and harangued wherever he went, he stayed out of sight for Sunday's closing celebrations.
But memories of swimming legend Phelps and the "immortal" Bolt will linger after they set the 2016 Olympics alight.
The American swimmer, the Jamaican sprinter and a long lineup of
others helped the Games rise above the taint of scandal following the
exposure of state-sponsored doping in Russia.
And the hosts got to revel in a priceless moment in the sun on the
final full day and fittingly in football. The home men's national team
earned its greatest Olympic memory by winning the men's gold medal.
The country celebrated long and loud when Neymar won the penalty
shoot-out against Germany to erase memories of their 7-1 World Cup
semi-final humiliation in 2014.
Earlier, the glory belonged to Bolt, 29, who made history when he
sealed the sprint "triple triple" in his final Games, his third
consecutive 100m, 200m and 4x100m sweep.
Bolt, who had said the feat would make him "immortal," was matter-of-fact about his 12 years of Olympic dominance.
"There you go. I'm the greatest," he said.
It was Phelps who set the first week on fire when he took his
unmatched career haul to 23 gold medals with another five in Rio before
heading into retirement.
Then came Rio standout Katie Ledecky. At the age of 19 she
obliterated her own world record in winning the 800m freestyle, uniting
the 200m, 400m and 800m titles for the first time since 1968. The
American added the 4x200m relay gold as a bonus.
Another 19-year-old newcomer, Simone Biles, dominated the gymnastics
arena with her record-equalling four women's gold medals and a bronze at
her first Games.
"I'm not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I'm the first Simone Biles," she said.
A catalogue of outstanding achievements in Rio included Britain's Mo
Farah, who captured a "double double" of 5 000m and 10 000m titles.
The United States
topped the medal standings, matching their 46 golds from London four
years ago ahead of Britain, who sealed a surprise second place ahead of
China with 27 golds to 26.
Russia - with around half their team, including the track and field
stars, banished from Rio following doping revelations - finished fourth
with 19 golds.
Scandal also struck during the Games as police seized passports,
phones and computers in a raid on the Irish Olympic office, following
the arrest of Irish International Olympic Committee member Patrick
Hickey over an alleged black market tickets scam.