The 2016 Rio Olympics had all the ingredients for a memorable Summer Games, and memorable it was. Even before the games started, a swarm of issues plagued the host city of Rio de Janeiro.
As Rio scrambled to finish arena and stadium construction projects, a critical new subway line was still undergoing safety tests just days before the Olympics officially commenced.
Paramount concerns over crime and terrorism also arose. Local law enforcement officials, disgruntled over their pay, held a banner at Rio’s Galeao Airport that read, “Welcome to Hell . . . Whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”
Brazilian authorities foiled a terror plot, though the country admitted the planned attack was “absolutely amateurish.”
Body parts washed ashore, competition water was heavily contaminated, and athletes housing was deemed inadequate at best, “uninhabitable” at worst.
The Olympics also failed to generate much in terms of sports betting. Nevada sportsbooks, which were allowed to offer lines on the Summer Games for the first time since 2000, reported activity similar to an NFL weekend or marque baseball game.
But there were some big lines, none more so than US swimmer Katie Ledecky. It’s understandable bettors in Vegas stayed away from Ledecky’s 800m freestyle. To win just $100, sports bettors would have needed to wager $10,000, but the bet would have paid up, as she easily swam to gold.
The IOC is unlikely to venture back to a developing country to host an Olympics anytime soon. And while the aforementioned controversies wreaked havoc on the IOC and Brazilian organizers, they won’t go down as the three biggest headlines from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Rio deflected many concerns over their air and water quality, but the gravest environmental concern was Zika. The mosquito-born and spread virus causes birth defects and neurological problems in newborns.
Zika’s widespread presence in the South American country led to numerous athletes boycotting the Games. Rory McIlroy, perhaps the biggest star in international golf, said his “health and my family’s health comes before anything else.”
Top American cyclist Tejay van Garderen and NBC host Savannah Guthrie also skipped the Olympics, and NBA superstars LeBron James and Stephen Curry also opted out, though the two basketball players didn’t necessarily cite Zika for their withdrawals.
Fans skipped the Olympics too on Zika fears, and hundreds of thousands of tickets went unsold.
#2 Ryan Lochte
It was the 2016 Rio Olympics scandal heard around the world. Ryan Lochte, a 12-time medalist, overshadowed the Games not for his swimming prowess, but for a deceitful tale.
On the morning of August 14, Locthe claimed criminals posing as police officers robbed him and three other US swimmers at gunpoint. He said they were forced to hand over cash and claimed a gun had been pointed at his head.
The story was later proven false.
In reality, the four men were heavily intoxicated and vandalized a gas station bathroom. They paid a security guard $53 for the damages. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and USA Swimming suspended Lochte for 10 months in September.
#1 Michael Phelps
Phelps has never been outdone by his fellow teammate Lochte, and 2016 was no different. While Lochte made headlines outside of the pool, Phelps did his talking in the water.
The most decorated Olympian ever capped off his historic career by winning his 23rd gold medal. He won gold in the 200m butterfly, 200m medley, 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle, 4x100m medley, and silver in the 100m butterfly.
“I wanted to come back and finish my career how I wanted and this was the cherry on top of the cake.”
Phelps once again provided easy money to bettors willing to take his strong odds of winning. At Bovada, the Olympic champion was a -300 favorite in the 100m butterfly, and his 4x200m freestyle relay team required a $700 bet to win $100.
The US won the most medals with 121, China came in second with 70, and Great Britain third with 67. Brazil took 19 medals, and a few of Ryan Lochte’s teammates, for awhile anyway.
It was certainly a summer we will never forget.