The Rio Summer Olympics Wrap up Sunday Night Many doubted whether the city, suffering unprecedented political and economic upheaval, could host such a large event. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro tells Rachel Martin how it all played out.
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The Rio Summer Olympics Wrap up Sunday Night

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The Rio Summer Olympics Wrap up Sunday Night

The Rio Summer Olympics Wrap up Sunday Night

The Rio Summer Olympics Wrap up Sunday Night

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Many doubted whether the city, suffering unprecedented political and economic upheaval, could host such a large event. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro tells Rachel Martin how it all played out.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And indeed, the closing ceremony of the Olympics is tonight. You can say one thing about these games - they have not lacked for drama. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro has been covering the Olympics from outside the arenas. She joins us now to talk about how things went for the host city, Rio de Janeiro. Hi, Lulu.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: So let's start with soccer briefly. I mean, we just heard Melissa's report there. It must have been so satisfying for Brazil to win this, right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh my gosh, you have no idea. It was just a glorious way for these games to end for Brazil, you know, an amazing moment. My neighborhood erupted into cheers. There were fireworks over the city. You know, Brazil's had such a hard year politically, economically. It was just a great moment for them.

MARTIN: All right, so let's talk about some of the hard stuff. Before the games even began, there was all this talk about, of course, the Zika outbreak, terrorism even, the water quality. Did these end up being issues in the games?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Zika and terrorism, thankfully not. Water quality did. You know, at least one Olympian got sick. Sailing teams did complain of trash in the bay slowing them down. And then there were those green pools in the aquatic center, if you'll remember, though they had apparently - that had something to do with people dumping the wrong chemicals in the water.

You know, other challenges - empty seats, organizational problems with transport, food - it seemed that there was some sort of crisis, big or small, every single day. So that was the bad. What really elevated these games were the Brazilians themselves. You know, their hospitality, their joy. Many Brazilians in Rio really warmed to these games, embraced them, and that was beautiful to see.

MARTIN: OK, we have to mention it, the scandal you cannot turn away from, try as you might. Ryan Lochte and what has ended up turning into a diplomatic incident. How big of a shadow did this cast over the games?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's still generating multiple news stories in the Brazilian press. You know, Lochte in an interview last night on NBC said, quote, he "over-exaggerated that story." He also gave an interview to Brazilian TV, and that's made headlines here all over again. He apologized. But, you know, the Lochte story really tapped into something here. Brazilians don't feel like Lochte's various apologies have really cut it, so I'm not sure he should be vacationing here anytime soon.

MARTIN: OK, so now let's turn to the Paralympics also being held in Rio. But they're in a lot of trouble now. What's going on?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, you know, the Paralympic Committee announced unprecedented cuts to the event. Rio 2016 has simply run out of money, Rachel, and they're scaling back. Only 12 percent of tickets have been sold. So the question is why did they run out of cash? Why won't they open up their books to show what happened? And also, why was so little muscle put into promoting these Paralympics, which were such a success in London? That's what many people are asking themselves.

The spokesman for Rio 2016 has denied reports that they took money from the Paralympic budget to pay for the Olympics. Lots of criticisms. We heard Britain's most prominent Paralympian, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, saying it sends out the message that the Paralympic Games doesn't mean as much to the organizing committee. And she warned that it risks making Paralympians into second-class citizens.

MARTIN: And just real briefly, Lulu, you live in Rio. You've been covering the buildup to the games. What's your take? Was this an Olympics that Brazilians could be proud of?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think it was, but I think it's a mixed review. And I'm going to let Brazilians speak for themselves on this. A new poll came out this morning, and it was ambivalent. Sixty-two percent of the population believe the Olympics brought more costs than benefits, and yet 57 percent believe it improved Brazil's image abroad. And I think that's what I've experienced here. People feel that the games could've been organized better. They know that the bill is going to come due. But they also feel that Brazil was presented in a positive way to the world, and they're extremely proud of that.

MARTIN: NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Rio. Thanks so much, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

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