Rio de Janeiro has almost done it. The first city in South America to host the Summer Olympic Games is in the home stretch.
As long as it doesn’t trip and fall over the weekend, Brazil’s “marvelous city,” as Rio is known, will have pulled off two of the world’s biggest sporting events in as many years.
There have been some wonderful moments, tears, jubilation and weirdness. And aside from the sports, the world has been watching to see how some of the dramas of the last few months would play out in Rio.
Here is a countdown of some of the top issues we've been watching:
5. Rio’s filthy water
In the run-up to the Olympics, we took you on a tour of Rio’s disgusting and polluted Guanabara Bay. We showed you gross photos of unidentifiable poopy objects in the Marina da Gloria, home to Olympic sailboats. And we talked to professional surfers whom Rio’s water regularly makes sick.
In the end, despite the hoopla, there hasn’t been a flood of complaints about Olympians getting sick from Rio’s water. One Belgian sailor, Evi Van Acker, reported getting sick in July and then had a relapse earlier this month, according to her coach.
But we haven’t seen widespread sickness. "The water quality wasn't a problem at all," US rower Andrew Campbell said this week.
Of course, there are some variables to consider. Unlike surfers, sailors and rowers float on top of the water and are rarely immersed.
The media have also covered this story pretty much nonstop. The Zika virus caused a number of athletes to think twice about even coming to compete. But Zika has largely been a non-issue in Rio.
That’s because, as many experts predicted and most Rio residents know, very few mosquitoes appear here during the cooler, drier winter months.
Instead, in recent weeks the Zika story has mostly focused elsewhere, with rising alarm in cities like Miami and San Diego. Meanwhile, in Brazil experts are studying whether the virus actually combined with another element to cause the reported increase in birth defects in the country's northeast.
Watch this space. We’ll continue following the story closely.
Performance-enhancing drug use was another big story running up to the games.
A crazy expose in The New York Times, coupled with astonishing revelations from a former top official at the World Anti-Doping Agency, led the International Olympic Committee to consider a complete ban on Russian athletes at the 2016 Summer Games.
In the end, the IOC balked. Dozens of Russian athletes were banned, but dozens more came to town. As The New York Times reported this week, 25 athletes with previous suspensions for doping won medals in Rio. Their presence stirred up some controversy, and finger-wagging.
The International Paralympic Committee took a harsher stance, banning all Russian Paralympic athletes from competing this year.
During the games, we spoke to Russian fans about their experience here.
And we hassled the World Anti-Doping Agency to reveal details about why Rio’s doping lab was shut down for a time before the games. They still haven’t told us.
2. Crime and security
Can we agree not to talk about a certain scandal involving certain American swimmers?
Let’s talk instead about several other reported robberies, including claims from two athletes (one British, one Australian) that they were robbed in the last few days. Those stories were rather overshadowed by the fracas involving the swimming jocks.
Despite the presence of more than 85,000 troops and cops in the city, there has still been plenty of crime. As we reported earlier this week, a new app launched by Amnesty International in Rio registered 14 fatal shootings from Aug. 1-8, just as the Olympics were starting.
We haven’t heard much about those either. Rio remains a city with a high level of crime, and political scientist Mauricio Santoro said he’s been surprised at the continuation of crime throughout the games:
“My personal feeling is that the city is more violent than I would have expected during the Olympics,” Santoro said. “I thought that the extra security was going to have a better impact.”
1. Brazilian gold
Residents of the host country were right to worry they might not win too many medals.
Despite being a soccer powerhouse, Brazil has traditionally underwhelmed at the Olympics. The country of about 200 million people is still a developing economy, with deep social and economic problems — and that has traditionally been reflected in its medal count.
Nevertheless, Brazil has produced some fantastic Olympic medal stories over the last two weeks. All told, the country won 15 medals, as of Friday morning.
First there was Rafaela Silva, a tough woman from the hard neighborhood of Cidade de Deus, or City of God, in Rio’s Western Zone. The judo star won Brazil’s first gold medal of 2016, and the country cheered on her rags-to-riches story.
We visited Silva’s home neighborhood and found that she’s just one of several homegrown heroes.
Brazil also won the men’s beach volleyball tournament on a wet and windy Thursday night on Copacabana Beach, a victory the Brazilian press has gone gaga over.
Perhaps most dramatically, Brazil’s men’s soccer team will take on Germany on Saturday night. The match offers an opportunity for the country to make up for its humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup. Safe to say, most of the country will be watching.
And finally, officials in Rio announced that surfing, skateboarding, karate, climbing and baseball/softball will feature in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The last two surfing world champions have been from Brazil, so here’s to some Brazilian surfing gold medals in 2020.