As Games end, Rio celebrates while looking warily to future

The skies opened Sunday night over Maracana, the stadium where Brazil bade farewell to the Rio Olympics with a spectacle celebrating everything from the giants of Brazilian music to the rock art drawn by tribesmen thousands of years ago, as if the heavens were lamenting the end of the 17-day sports extravaganza.
Still, the rainfall at the closing ceremony had little effect on the spirits of the performers who praised towering creative figures and thinkers like the prolific composer Heitor Villa-Lobos; the landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx; and Niede Guidon, the archaeologist whose discoveries in the remote caves of northeast Brazil are challenging long-held beliefs about the peopling of the Americas.
Nodding to Brazil’s diversity as Latin America’s largest country, the ceremony also honored facets of an astonishingly rich musical heritage that are often overlooked, promoting As Ganhadeiras de Itapua, a group of former washerwomen rescuing Afro-Brazilian songs in northeast Brazil, as well as Arnaldo Antunes, a poet and vocalist who once sang for Titas, a pioneering Sao Paulo rock band. The Carnivalesque ceremony, featuring frevo dancers twirling umbrellas, a performance by the samba legend Martinho da Vila and the songs of Carmen Miranda, offered a folkloric if fittingly upbeat bookend to an Olympiad that had been shrouded in grim assessments and protests as the games approached. Despite widespread fears that the city would be unprepared, or that crime and disorganization might turn the Olympics into a national embarrassment, many Brazilians came to view the 2016 Games as a triumph and a much-needed distraction from the country’s economic malaise and political upheaval. In the days after the opening ceremony, the criticisms that the games were an inappropriate use of public money at a time of crisis were mostly subsumed by a sense that Brazil had largely met the logistical challenges, delivering the world’s biggest sporting event for the half-million visitors who flocked to Rio for South America’s first Olympics. “We know the city isn’t an easy place to live in, but Rio flung its arms wide open, and we need to congratulate ourselves for our receptiveness and joy in making such a beautiful party,” said Naide Gouvea Lira, 45, a logistics analyst.
The ebullience was further buoyed on Saturday by the Brazilian soccer team’s win over Germany, a victory that yielded one of the country’s seven gold medals in the games and helped ease the sting of its humiliating 2014 World Cup loss to the Germans.
Overall, Brazilians seemed satisfied with their relatively modest medal count, which placed the country among the top 14 nations, its best Olympic showing ever. Many are still savoring their first gold of the Rio Games, won in judo by Rafaela Silva, 24, a black woman from an impoverished part of Rio. “To see her win really lifted our spirits,” said Fabio Costa dos Santos, 47, an unemployed carpenter who, like Silva, hails from City of God, a favela in the city’s western suburbs.
The games were far from trouble free. Even after the authorities deployed an 85,000-strong security force to ease crime fears, Portugal’s education minister was robbed at knifepoint. An Olympic bus carrying journalists was attacked by people throwing rocks.
Outside the Olympic bubble, gunbattles between the police and drug gangs in Complexo do Alemao, a collection of favelas, the poor urban areas that emerged as squatter settlements, were a stubborn reminder of the untamed violence and yawning inequities in a city that officials had promised would be the world’s safest during the games.
A police officer deployed to Rio for the games was killed when the vehicle he was in came under fire in a favela controlled by drug gangs.
The killing of the officer, Helio Vieira Andrade, from Roraima state in the Brazilian Amazon, focused scrutiny on Rio’s priorities during the Olympics. “There wasn’t even a tear shed for him in the ocean that was the Olympics,” Fernando Gabeira, a politician and writer, said, noting the contrast with emotions expressed around the victories and defeat of Brazil’s athletes.

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