Of course, the Olympics wouldn't be the Olympics without its share of controversy and doom-mongering.
I have to admit, I was worried about the Olympics being hosted by Rio in Brazil, and more so in the weeks running up to its beginning. Almost from the starting block there have been problems; there have been financial constraints on the South American country, and over the four years since London's successful games, there were countless demonstrations and riots lamenting at the enormous cost of hosting the event (somewhere in the region of £9 billion), a cost they seemingly are now struggling to extend to the Paralympics. Then there were the delays in building the stadiums, with many reports just days before the opening ceremony claiming and scaremongering that some of the sporting venues would not be ready. Add to that the threats of terrorism, the Zika virus, the dirty water and the spate of robberies effecting many athletes and their support teams within days of arrival, things weren't looking good. Then there was the doping scandal by the Russians in the background, which should have resulted in a blanket ban for them, but the IOC bottled it, leaving it to individual sporting bodies to make the decision. But, against all the odds and the negativity, Rio have done themselves proud, even if it wasn't without problems:
The course used for the road race and time trials was dangerous resulting in more injuries in these four events than all of the preceding Olympics combined, with the dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten lucky not to have died, so horrific her crash was (she ended up in intensive care with spinal injuries). Then there was the green water of the Olympic diving pool that looked like radioactive waste - it was perfectly harmless (apparently), though amusingly it did change Ryan Lochte's hair (which he wished was the ONLY thing he would be remembered for; aside from winning a gold at these Olympics - he would go on to embarrass himself and his country by fabricating an armed mugging story to hide his own stupidity at urinating in public and vandalising a petrol station). Then there were claims that the the sprung floor at the end of the vaulting apparatus at the Arena Olímpica do Rio was not cushioned enough, resulting in a blood-curdling injury to French gymnast Samit Ait Said, who broke his leg on landing at the end of his routine, the sound of which could be heard around the whole arena. The video of it can be seen here. Not for the squeamish. I've seen it about twenty times now. If that wasn't bad enough, paramedics dropped him on the way out of the building. Which reminded me of an episode of The Simpsons.
Surprising the world over, was how dominant team Great Britain has been, which highlighted the fact that London 2012 wasn't just a fluke or owed to home advantage. In fact Great Britain is the first country to exceed its medal total in an Olympics following hosting it. Not a very favoured people at the moment owing to the decision to leave the European Union, Britain's success has been rubbing a large dose of salt into very sore wounds around the Globe. But hey, I'm British... let them wallow in self-pity as I swell with pride every time I hear God Save The Queen blaring over the PA system across the Olympic park (which, with just a few hours left of competition at time of writing, is 27 times).
So, what are the highlights? Well, for me, there were quite a few. Here's a run down of my favourite ten:
- Adam Peaty got Team GB it's first medal - and a Gold one at that, within the 100m breaststroke. We quickly followed with a silver for Jazmin Carlin in the women's 400m freestyle. I have an interest in swimming as my youngest daughter aspires to go to the Olympics one day and shows a lot of promise in the pool.
- Michael Phelps. Half man, half fish. The guy is a legend in the pool, quite possibly the greatest swimmer ever to live. Winning five golds and one silver in Rio, it brings his Olympic medal tally to 28. Who's likely to ever beat that?
- Usain Bolt. The fastest man alive, at his third Olympics, the first man to achieve a triple-triple of gold medals. He retires at the end of these Olympics, it's just been a pleasure to have witnessed his accomplishments. For me, the best track and field athlete to grace the Olympics since Carl Lewis.
- Cycling within the velodrome. By far my favourite sport at the moment. Nothing compares to the adrenaline rush of sprint cycling around the velodrome. I love it. I was on the edge of my seat for all of the gold medal finals. The women and the men's racing was awesome. We won too many to name them all, but congratulations to Jason Kenny who equalled Chris Hoy with his sixth gold medal, and who, no doubt, will return in four years in Tokyo to surpass him. Surely a Knighthood is coming your way.
- Mo Farah. Did the double-double by successfully defending his Olympic titles from 2012 by winning the 10,000 metres (after being tripped) and the 5,000 metres. He can be forgiven for being an Arsenal fan.
- Jack Laugher did what Tom Daley couldn't. And that was, win a gold AND a silver medal. He should be the new cover guy for the sport. Sorry Tom, despite getting a bronze in the 10m synchronised dive, bumming the individual by coming in at 18th is a serious let down.
- Maddie Hinch and the women's hockey team. Maddie Hinch won team GB the gold medal by saving all the penalties in a nail biting final against Holland. Brilliant stuff. She'll be playing for a Dutch team next season... hopefully they'll forgive her by then.
- Nick Skelton - in his seventh Olympics, he finally won an individual gold. Holding his nerve, he defied his age by achieving the highest accolade in his final outing.
- Andy Murray defended his Olympic crown, breezing into the final and barely breaking a sweat against Del Potro (actually, Del Potro did win a set... fair play to him).
- Max Whitlock won two gold medals in the space of one hour and a bronze medal in gymnastics. His achievement will inspire many to follow in his footsteps. Louis Smith's face after being beaten to second place by him was golden.
I could name every one of Team GB's fantastic medallists, for they are all sporting heroes, and could easily list another twenty high points, including the amazing Simone Biles for USA, who is only 19 and a master in gymnastics, and the Ethiopian swimmer Robel the 'Whale' not because he was good, but because he was this Olympic's Eddie the 'eagle' Edwards... so bad/so good he was, he's vowed to return to the next Olympics.
Rio 2016 wasn't the 'greatest show on earth' but it was a good one, and one which will likely be held fondly in many people's memories, especially those in Great Britain. It is unlikely that Team GB will better or equal its performance at another games (especially if Nicola Sturgeon gets her own way and splits Scotland from the Union before the next one); Russia will likely be allowed to field a full contingent next time round, and restore themselves back to within the top three in the medal tables. The best we can then hope for, if not fourth place, is respectability.
A huge national parade to honour Team GB’s awesome Olympians, the first of its kind, will be held in Manchester sometime in October. It would be an honour to be there to applaud them.