RIO DE JANEIRO (theguardian):
The curtain fell and finally there was a sense the Games had managed to capture the imagination, despite several reminders of the problems encountered in Rio
Perhaps appropriately at the end of a by turns stormy and thrilling fortnight, the 2016 Olympics closed amid driving rain and fireworks with a ceremony that was largely celebratory in tone.
The International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach declared that Rio had staged a "marvellous Olympic Games in the marvellous city" as the flame went out on South America's first Games, one with perhaps the most troubled build up of any in the modern era.
If the opening ceremony is an opportunity for the host to show itself to the world as it would like to be seen, the closing is traditionally a mix of protocol and party, as well as a chance for the athletes to let their hair down after competition.
During an opening that utilised the same clever floor projection effects as the opening ceremony dancers recreated famous Rio landmarks, before the traditional parade of athletes began to a blend of Brazilian rhythms and sections celebrating the country art and culture.
Kate Richardson-Walsh, who captained the British women's hockey team to gold 16 years after appearing at her first Games, carried the Union flag into the Maracanã.
Simone Biles, the diminutive gymnast who was one of the stand out stars in Rio as the US topped the medal table, was almost engulfed by the Stars and Stripes. Wrestler Yun Won-Chol carried the North Korean flag very straight.
Unfortunately for the organisers, in the gaps in the crowd there was also a reminder of the empty seats that studded venues because they and the IOC had been so fixated on making sure the venues and infrastructure was finished they had not marketed them properly.
Over the final weekend, as gold medals finally rained in for the hosts in men's beach volleyball, volleyball and football – the latter celebrated loud and long on Saturday night when Neymar scored the winning penalty – there was a feeling the Games had finally caught the imagination just as they were coming to an end.
There were boos for Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, for whom the Games have been a personal crusade, but he waved back as though being cheered to the rafters before handing over the Olympic flag to the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike.
During the 10 minute segment traditionally afforded to the hosts of the next Olympics, a virtual reality Super Mario transferred from the big screens into the stadium and turned out to be the country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
But there also some reminders of the problems that have assailed these Games from within and without, not least a last-minute power cut that forced the organisers to switch to generators within the stadium.
There was also a hint of the Russian doping controversy that clouded the weeks and months leading up to the Games when Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole vaulter who had railed against the IAAF's decision to ban the country's track and field athletes, was introduced as a new member of the IOC's athlete’s commission.
The recently retired athlete smiled, waved and posed for selfies with the volunteers in an odd reminder of the compromised nature of the IOC. There was also a nod to its curious clash of corporatism and lofty ideals in a section used to promote the new $600m Olympic Channel.
Bach played up the legacy angle but fierce debate will rage long after the IOC has left town over whether the Games has accelerated long overdue public infrastructure improvements or distracted from other priorities.
"We arrived in Brazil as guests, today we depart as your friends. You will have a place in our hearts forever," said Bach. "These Olympic Games are leaving a unique legacy. History will talk about Rio de Janeiro before the Olympic Games and after the Olympics."
Organising committee president Carlos Nuzman, who led the bid that won the Games in 2009 at a time when Brazil was a coming world superpower, said Rio had delivered history.
"Rio showed us and the world that we are indeed capable of hosting the biggest sporting event on the planet. It showed our passion for sport and our belief in a new world," he said.
"Sport has graced Rio with moments we will never forget, and Brazilian fans have earned the gold medal. They are the best fans on planet Earth."
It seemed fitting that the loudest cheers of the night – at least until the closing release of the final confetti strewn carnival section – were reserved for the tireless Rio volunteers and the athletes who, in spite of everything, delivered soaring moments that eventually caught the imagination of the city.
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