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Rio sends off rocky yet rousing Games with tropical tribute

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The Most Heartwarming Moments From The Rio Olympic Games


A blustery storm, a touch of melancholy and a sense of pride converged at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics on Sunday as Brazil breathed a collective sigh of relief at having pulled off South America's first Games.

SEE MORE: Everything you need to know about the Summer Olympics

It was far from a perfect execution by Brazil, which battled with empty seats, security scares and a mysterious green diving pool. But two late gold medals for the host country in its two favorite sports, men's soccer and volleyball, helped smooth some of the rough edges around the Games for Brazilians.

From the Maracana where it all began 16 days ago, the final event kicked off with figures dressed as multi-colored macaws flying over Rio's world-famous landmarks, Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain, before forming the five Olympic rings.

A storm that menaced Rio all day sent wind and rain through Brazil's most storied stadium and the power briefly went out in part of the stadium and the surrounding neighborhood shortly before the ceremony kicked off.

Rain drenched performers and hundreds of athletes as they entered the party, many with medals hanging around their necks, like the U.S. men's basketball team which won gold on Sunday.

To the beat of traditional Brazilian music, Olympians danced and waved their countries' flags to celebrate their place on the world's premier sporting stage. The first Refugee team in Olympic history, one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the Games, marched in behind the Olympic flag, carried by a Congolese judoka and Rio resident.

The athletes will witness the last of 306 medal ceremonies, for the men's marathon earlier in the day.

The city will then hand over the Olympic flag to Tokyo, site of the 2020 Summer Games, and extinguish the Olympic flame, burning since Aug. 5, in a small, environmentally friendly cauldron.

SPORT COMPETES WITH SCANDAL

Rio will be remembered for the comeback of American swimmer Michael Phelps, who won five golds and one silver to reinforce his distinction as the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Jamaica's Usain Bolt drew down the curtain on his brilliant Olympic career by securing a sweep of the sprint titles for a third successive Games. And American gymnast Simone Biles, the U.S. flag bearer in the closing ceremony, kicked off her Olympic run by tying the record of four gold medals in a single Games.

At times, it was hard to focus on the great sporting moments happening across the sprawling city.

A low point for Rio came when Ryan Lochte, one of America's most decorated swimmers, said he was robbed at gunpoint. That ignited further security concerns after a series of assaults against government ministers, athletes and tourists.

But Lochte's story quickly unraveled when police discovered he fabricated his story to cover up his vandalizing a gas station after a drunken night out with three teammates. His lie enraged Brazilians and Americans alike.

Brazilians could take heart in the fact that there were no major mishaps or breaches after deadly attacks in Europe and the United States had prompted the biggest security operation in Brazil's history. The military and police presence was extraordinary with 85,000 troops fanned out across venues, streets and transport hubs, double the deployment in London four years ago.

BEST PHOTOS FROM THE SUMMER OLYMPICS:

30 PHOTOS
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
See Gallery
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania shoots over Marcus Vinicius Marquinhos of Brazil during a Men's preliminary round basketball game between Brazil and Lithuania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Segun Toriola of Nigeria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Koki Niwa of Japan on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 06: Bret Bonanni #10 of United States shoots the ball against Croatia during the Men's Water Polo Preliminary Round - Group B match between the United States of America and Croatia at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Laura Giombini of Italy (R) reacts during the Women's Beach Volleyball preliminary round Pool D match against Jamie Lynn Broder and Kristina Valjas of Canada on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Robert Gardos of Austria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Michael Phelps (L) of the United States leads Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men's 200m Butterfly Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Shu-Ching Hsu of Chinese Taipei competes during the Women's 53kg Group A weightlifting contest on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 2 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Beach Volleyball - Women's Preliminary - Beach Volleyball Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 07/08/2016. Doaa Elghobashy (EGY) of Egypt and Kira Walkenhorst (GER) of Germany compete. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Lilly King of the United States celebrates winning gold in the Women's 100m Breaststroke Final on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Ruolin Chen and Huixia Liu of China compete in the Women's Diving Synchronised 10m Platform Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Ning Ding of China in action during the Womens Table Tennis Singles Final match against Li Xiaoxia of China at Rio Centro onn August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Axel Augis of France competes on the horizontal bar during the Men's Individual All-Around final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro of Italy compete in the Women's Duets Synchronised Swimming Free Routine Preliminary Round on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Jennifer Oeser of Germany competes in the Women's Heptathlon Long Jump on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Matthew Glaetzer of Australia competes in the Men's Sprint Qualifying on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Usain Bolt of Jamaica competes in the Men's 100 meter semifinal on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: An RS-X athlete is seen on the way back to the marina after the conclusion of racing on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Marina da Gloria on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Silver medalist Nia Ali (L) and gold medalist Brianna Rollins of the United States celebrate after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Russia compete during the ribbon rotation 1 in the group all-round qualification round at the at Rio Olympic Arena on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: The riders compete during the Men's semi final 2 on day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic BMX Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: Yauheni Karaliou of Belarus competes during the Diving Men's 10m Platform Preliminary on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring the winning penalty in the penalty shoot out during the Men's Football Final between Brazil and Germany at the Maracana Stadium on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image.) Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Women's Individual All Around Final on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: (L-R) Bronze medalist Kristi Castlin, gold medalist Brianna Rollins and silver medalist Nia Ali of the United States celebrate with American flags after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Kristin Armstrong hugs her son Lucas Armstrong Savola, 5, after she won the gold medal in the women's cycling road individual time trial at Rio 2016 on Wednesday, August 10, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Team Great Britain competes in the Women's Team Pursuit first round on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 15: Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dives over the finish line to win the gold medal in the Women's 400m Final on Day 10 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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'DIFFICULT MOMENT'

"Even with all our problems we pulled off a good Olympics. Nothing too bad happened and I'd say it was better than expected," said Nivea Araujo, a Rio resident attending the closing ceremony.

For many in the soccer-mad nation, the best Olympic moments happened in the Maracana, where Brazil defeated Germany in soccer on Saturday and pieced together a widely hailed opening ceremony despite a tight budget.

"We are in a difficult moment as a country right now, we can't hide that, but the Games were scheduled and I'm glad we could enjoy them," said Alessandro Freitas, also from Rio.

One of the major concerns for Brazilians is what will be the final cost of the Games for a country in the midst of its deepest economic recession since the 1930s and how much they actually helped improve the city's infrastructure.

And come Monday, with the Games no longer a distraction, Brazil gets back to its dour reality of dueling political and economic crises. An impeachment vote in coming days could lead to the permanent ouster of suspended President Dilma Rousseff.

Interim President Michel Temer, who was booed at the opening ceremony, decided not to attend the closing event. He said he would come for next month's Paralympic Games.



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