Thank You, Rio

August 21, 2016

I’m sitting on my couch right now watching the Closing Ceremony of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, and I’m not happy about it.

I hate the end of the Olympics.

On one hand, the end is a celebration of all that was good about the Games, and it was a good one by any standard that you could possibly apply. But on the other hand, it is a blunt reminder that it will be four years before sports such as swimming, athletics, gymnastics and a host of other Olympic sports once again capture the hearts and minds of the world.

To continue the morbid tone that has accompanied the start of this article, an American male will, on average, experience 19 Summer Olympics in his lifetime if the current structure of Games being held every four years stays consistent. Fewer yet are the the number of Games for which he will actually be cognizant. And in most cases, even fewer yet are the Games he will truly remember.

Not counting the Winter Games, on average we will experience less than a year’s worth of perhaps the greatest spectacle of sports in our lifetime. For someone whose life is as intertwined with the sporting calendar on my own, that is a harrowing thought.

Thus, my extreme melancholy at this particular moment.

But, I digress – this was also the most entertaining and heartwarming Olympics that I have experienced in my 24 years of life (and fourth Summer Games of which I have been cognizant). And with that in mind, I can go to work tomorrow morning not feeling wholly depressed.

To some degree, these Olympics were defined by the amazing performances of some of the greatest athletes, arguably, who have ever lived.

Michael Phelps, with his 23 total gold medals, had never shown quite the amount of emotion as he did on the medal podiums in Rio. Those were real tears that were shed by a man who has perhaps finally found happiness and satisfaction with his achievements.

Usain Bolt, who with back-t0-back-to-back golds in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 4 x 100 meter track events stands alone in history, proved once again that being dominating and having fun doing it are not mutually exclusive.

Simone Biles competes in a discipline that awards medals based on human judgement, but it is difficult to argue with five gold medals, which ties the most ever in a single Olympics for an American. Biles’ performance was also a fitting farewell for U.S. gymnastics team coordinator Martha Karolyi, who has built an empire in the sport.

Along with the great performances were the emotions to match, which should not be of any surprise considering the country in which the Games were held.

Brazilian gymnasts Diego Hypolito and Arthur Mariano showed perhaps the greatest display of emotion during the Rio Games after they had been assured a spot on the medal podium, a first for the country in the event.

Neymar, avenging a loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup, put away the winning penalty kick in the gold medal match and collapsed to the grass in triumph.

Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand helping each other up, and ultimately embracing after a 5,000 meter qualifying race in which both had fallen during the event.

At the beginning of the Closing Ceremony, Mary Carillo commented that this is the first time in her career covering the Olympics that she has shed a tear while watching an event unfold. I am speaking for myself and surely many others when I write that Mary was not the only one who can say that.

Try as we may have in the U.S. media leading up to these Games, nothing was able to take away from the events on the track, in the pool, on the mat and in the various other sporting venues.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to those that remember the 2014 World Cup and the way that the Brazilian people welcomed the world for that event.

Algae in pools, a bizarre situation involving a quartet of swimmers and the Brazilian police and mosquito concerns will not define these Olympics. Not even close.

Brazil knows how to put on a party, and in the last three years it has successfully done it twice.

As we move on from these two weeks, the struggles for the host city and country will persist. But I hope that the people there have experienced some joy, if even temporarily, from holding these Games. They deserve it as much as any community in the world.

One of the truths of an event like the Olympics is that it is like looking through a kaleidoscope, each one of us will take away something different from the same pieces. I’m not sure what each of you reading this will have taken away from it, but hopefully something positive will remain with you like they will for me.

Thanks for the memories, Rio.

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