Japan’s Prime Minister stole the show at the Rio Games closing ceremony tonight, when he showed up via warp pipe as Super Mario to commemorate Rio passing the torch to Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Summer Games.
NBC’s coverage of the Rio Olympics closing ceremony was a celebration of Brazilian dance, music, and lace making, commercial breaks, American medal counting, and a celebration of NBC’s stubborn clinging to time shifting. The ceremony started at 8 PM local time, which was one hour ahead of 8 PM ET in the United States when NBC began broadcasting the ceremony. So, as with a surprising amount of the competition given the hemisphere in which the Games were played, anyone who got their closing-ceremony news via Twitter or other means was laps ahead of NBC viewers.
After an opening in which people dressed as colorful birds marched around the venue making tableau of various area landmarks:
A choir of 27 children took center stage in the arena for a very Gilbert and Sullivan performance of Brazil’s national anthem. Brazilian music, from the traditional to contemporary, played a big role, including a very Brazilian torch-extinguishing ceremony.
With music mercifully drowning out much of the chatter of NBC on-air talent in the early goings-on of the ceremony, Olympic athletes who had competed for more than two weeks in Rio poured, slo-mo, into the venue. Among those highlights: just over two weeks after Michael Phelps carried the American flag into the Opening Ceremony, leading Team USA into the Parade of Nations, tonight gymnast Simone Biles carried the flag in the Closing Ceremony. Biles, who won five Olympic medals in Rio, is only the second gymnast ever to serve as the U.S. flag bearer, and the first ever female gymnast.
But, truth be told, maybe even more exciting to some on social: Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua was back, looking even more oiled up than in the opening ceremony – no small feat given that it rained during that portion of the closing clambake.
The men’s marathon runners were awarded their medals during the closing ceremony in one of its quieter moments:
Crowd-pleasing segments included a dance by red clay dolls and a segment on the tradition of lace-making by slaves:
But the buzziest moment of the evening came when animated characters drilled a path for Mario to zip from Tokyo to Marcana Stadium in warp time, to commemorate Tokyo getting the next Summer Games. Mario revealed himself to be Tokyo’s Prime Minister Sinzo Abe, and a Twitter storm erupted.
And this year’s trophy for best of the many, many, many Olympics-themed closing-ceremony ads: HULU’s now-you-can-get-back-to-your-shows spot.
The Rio Games closing ceremony ended musically:
Brazil’s interim President Michel Temer, famously booed at the opening ceremony, did not attend the event. You know who else stayed home?
The night before NBC’s broadcast of the closing ceremony, a freshly un-blonded Lochte appeared on the network to tell NBC News’ Matt Lauer that he takes “full responsibility” for “over-exaggerating” his early-morning incident outside a Rio gas station last Sunday. But, when Matt asked Lochte, who’d high-tailed it out of Rio not long after his run-in with a gas station security guard, if, as he originally “over-exaggerated,” he was robbed at gunpoint, or was actually negotiating how to cover the cost of vandalizing the station, Lochte said he did not know. He also insisted he was still “intoxicated” when he gave that interview to NBC’s Billy Bush, claiming he’d been robbed by a guy who put a gun to his head.
NBC showed remarkable restraint during the closing ceremony itself, making no on-air pitch for the remainder of Lauer’s second interview with Lochte, in which Lauer spanked the 32-year-old for having, as NBC News’ Al Roker has described it, lied to Bush, and to Lauer in an earlier interview about the incident.