"Rio de Janeiro Stepped Up To Win"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, August 27, 2016

The XXXI Olympiad was held in South America for the first time in the history of the games, which date to 1896. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was the host city and did they ever put out the welcome mat. Thanks to NBC’s extensive coverage, I was able to witness many of the events. I almost felt like I was there.

More than 11,000 of the world’s best athletes were in attendance as they gathered to compete in the games. The U.S. dazzled and impressed everyone with their many appearances on the medal stands. Our country’s tally was 46 Gold, 37 Silver and 38 Bronze for a total of 121, which was 51 more than any other country. As each athlete took the medal stand, a chill of pride had to be felt — no matter what sport was represented. Many sang the anthem and many more shed tears of joy.

A touching display of pride of country occurred when a U.S. pole vaulter, Sam Kendricks, stopped in mid-stride and dropped his pole upon hearing our national anthem.

A truly wonderful act of sportsmanship happened during the woman’s 5000 meter track event. U.S. runner Abbey D’Agostino collided with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin at the 3200 mark and they both fell to the track. D’Agostino helped Hamblin up saying, “Get up, get up, we have to finish this race.” They continued to run but after a few strides, D’Agostino grabbed her knee and fell to the track. This time Hamblin glancing back saw what happened and she went back to help her fellow athlete up, but D’Agostino told her to go ahead. They both eventually hobbled across the finish line.

Michigan had its share of competitors — one was a young female boxer that brought pride to her hometown of Flint. Middleweight Claressa Shields claimed her second gold at the age of 21. Ann Arbor was also well represented as U of M sent 24 of its finest to compete in swimming, track, rowing, sailing, cycling, soccer and gymnastics. Many of them claimed medals among the 19 total medals presented to competitors with Michigan ties.

Hard work and years of dedicated practice of their sport was represented as world and Olympic records were broken. The extreme effort was seen as the events unfolded and those in the lead were overtaken by others and in some cases by extreme measures. A woman’s track event finale had a competitor throw herself over the finish line to claim victory.

The U.S. did indeed take the most medals and their accomplishments put on display all the superior athletes on Team USA. The women outdid the men and many of the U.S. medal winners set new records. Four years ago when the International Olympic Committee announced that Rio de Janeiro would host the 2016 summer games, the world shook with disbelief. Every sports representative, as well as tourism media writer expressed concerns that they would not be ready. They would have to build facilities, crack down on public unrest and clean up their city. To top it off, as the games grew near, the Zika virus was said to be active in the area.

What do the naysayers think about how it turned out? The city that almost everyone said couldn’t, presented one of the best games in the history of the Olympics. They constructed the buildings, pools, tracks and a beautiful stadium. The countryside was stunning and the beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana, where many events took place, were revealed as a place everyone would like to visit.

The people were warm, friendly and full of pride of country. During their team’s events you could hear them, and no one else. As they won their soccer game, the stadium erupted and the party began in earnest.

As I see it, congrats to all those who worked so hard to make a worldwide mass of visitors feel welcome. Japan, the host nation for the 2020 games, will have to really work hard to beat the games of 2016.

Speaking of hard work, how about all those folks who helped make the 2016 Cheeseburger experience a big success, in spite of many rainy occasions. It did not dampen the spirts of the young competitors in the Cardboard Boat event, most of whom I was happy to see wearing personal flotation devices. Perhaps there may be some future Olympians among them.

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