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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Having Super Mario wow fans at Brazil at the close of Rio 2016 comes as a fitting end to an Olympic season fraught with drama and excitement. With thousands braving the wind and the rain to celebrate amidst Brazilian music and jaw-dropping fireworks, it was Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, suddenly appearing at the arena as Nintendo’s iconic superhero, that threw the audience into a frenzy and ultimately led to Japan stealing the show.
The unexpected moment cued everyone towards Japan 2020, but it was also a reminder that this wasn’t the first time Rio 2016 surprised us with a twist.
In fact, if the events of the fortnight are any indication, the Olympic Games have given us enough material to feed a dozen storylines for TV drama:
1. Japan upstages Brazil.
Having the Prime Minister of Japan dress up as a computer game hero while holding up a blazing red orb in front of a crowd gone wild is one thing; juxtapose this with boos for interim Brazilian President Michel Temer when he opened the games. Too bad for Temer that this should happen on his own turf. He made sure it didn’t happen again by not showing up for the closing ceremonies.
2. China’s factory of gold medalists.
This year China racked up a total of 26 gold, 18 silver and 26 bronze medals at the games. Not bad, but the games shed light once more on “China’s Gold Medal Factories,” where children as young as 4 or 5 are subjected to back-breaking training that would make you weep. Taking the hint from dropping enrolment stats in these schools, China is changing its tactics by toning down their Olympic-level training to encouraging more people to take up sports.
3. The saddest gold medalist you’ll ever see.
It’s hard not to tear up at the sight of North Korea’s Ri Se-Gwang fighting back tears while holding up his gold for gymnastics. The Olympian is luckily only the third athlete to bring honors back to the closed state, but netizens couldn’t help but point out the deep sadness on his face that was hard to disguise. In the past, failed athletes had to endure public shaming or prison camp if they didn’t bring home the win, which is enough to give us an idea of North Korean standards.
4. Olympians who fell from grace.
Usain Bolt – along with Phelps – were undeniably two of the stars of 2016, but not all of Bolt’s glory could save him from the shame of post-Olympics drinking and partying, Rio style. After turning 30 on Sunday, Whatsapp photos showing Bolt in a drunken embrace with a girl went viral even as it was revealed that the Olympian was engaged to a Jamaican model.
Unfortunately, Bolt wasn’t alone in party-loving Rio as a previous report emerged about a pair of Brazilian divers falling into an argument because one kicked out her roommate for a late night tryst with a Brazilian canoeist.
5. Marriage proposals at the Olympic Arena.
It is not certain whether intense competition makes people more romantic, but the summer games saw at least five athletes publicly receive their proposals from their partners on bended knee.
Some have criticized these ardent lovers for ‘publicly-sanctioned entrapment’ or stealing the light away from their partners’ victory. On the other hand, many others would simply conclude that love conquers all – especially at the Olympics.