Scott Fowler

An odd, but ultimately successful, Rio Olympics

Usain Bolt was just one of the athletes who made the 2016 Olympics in Rio fascinating.
Usain Bolt was just one of the athletes who made the 2016 Olympics in Rio fascinating. Getty Images

If I had to describe these Olympics in two words, I’d go with strangely fascinating.

They were strange in that I came in worrying about Zika and street crime and will go out disgusted with Ryan Lochte’s antics and wondering how exactly all that water turned green.

These Olympics were fascinating for a number of reasons, including Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and the night I sat in a bar watching a bunch of Brazilians cheer like mad for a pole vaulter.

I never saw a single mosquito. I did see six of the seven U.S. swimmers with strong North Carolina connections win a medal – and then one of them, N.C. State’s Ryan Held, memorably break down in tears during the national anthem.

Then came the bizarre “robbery” story that dominated the Olympics’ second week, with Lochte and SwimMAC Carolina teammate Jimmy Feigen in the middle of it all. It was a decathlon of a tale, with a new event every day (the chilling original description, the flight home to the U.S. by Lochte in which he left behind his three teammates, the detaining of two other swimmers, the police’s “No they didn’t get robbed” press conference and Lochte’s carefully worded apology).

But don’t let the Lochte histrionics overshadow what these Olympics really were about.

The first Summer Games in South America provided a strangely fascinating brew, and ultimately the athletic competitions were terrific. The fans who did show up seemed to have a good time, and so did I.

Here are a few of the best, worst and weirdest things I witnessed after nearly three weeks in Brazil. And because I’m tired of talking about him at this point and I’m sure you are, too, not one of these lists and charts about the bests and worsts of the 2016 Olympics includes Lochte. 

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