Rio 2016 Olympics = standard media frenzy. But what makes this year's competition different from any other? Read our compilation of heart-lifting, weirdly wonderful and unusual stories to find out...
The first transgender person to ever take centre stage in an Olympic opening ceremony
Brazilian supermodel Leandra Medeiros Cerezo, most commonly known as Lea T, made history by becoming the first transgender person in the world to participate in the highly anticipated Olympics opening ceremony. Now if it doesn’t send a positive message of tolerance and diversity throughout the globe, we don’t know what else will.
“We are all human beings and we are part of society. My role at the ceremony will help to send this message” – Lea T
You don't need a big budget to make an impact
Despite the lack of funding available for the opening ceremony, the organisers managed to pull off a killer show and prove that regardless of budgetary constraints, Brazilians are undeniably the kings of carnival-like celebrations. Not only did the opening ceremony in all its cacophony of colours, lights, costumes and dances do an incredible job of exposing the intoxicating culture and history of this dynamic country, the ceremony also aimed to raise awareness about climate change. And the best bit? All 11’551 competing athletes were given seedlings to plant a tree in their recently-built olympic villages. Festive AND impactful at the same time: the perfect recipe for a successful party.
Emerging youth talent takes centre stage
During her early childhood, Brazilian Soffia Corrêa was ashamed of her dark skin. Her classmates would mock her, telling her she had fallen into a bucket of paint. And yet just a few short years later, a fully confident “Mc Soffia” took to the Olympics opening ceremony stage to put those bullies right back in their boxes. The young rapper has said that her lyrical skills have helped her build pride in her ethnicity and skin colour, giving her the confidence to get to where she is now : a successful 12 year old rapper rocking up a global event whilst spreading positive messages about accepting and loving yourself.
The first American in history to compete in a hijab
This 30 year old sabre fencer is the first American athlete to compete in the Olympics with a hijab. Ever. She made history by simply stepping on the arena but the young muslim hopes this will lead to greater changes.
“A lot of people believe that Muslim women don’t have voices or that we (don’t) participate in sport. And it’s not just to challenge the misconceptions outside the Muslim community, but also within the Muslim community. I want to break cultural norms and show girls that it’s important to be active, it’s important to be involved in sport.” – Ibtihaj Muhammad
Art installations in giant form
JR, a french artist known for his public art installations, surprised more than one passersby before the games had even started. Three giant athlete figures marked their territory over the Brazilian landscape in the lead up to the games, putting art and creativity centre stage. A gigantic swimmer bathing in Guanabara Bay, a colossal diver plunging in Barra, and a Hulk-sized athlete jumping over a building in the Flamengo neighbourhood were all JR’s creations, each one as impressive as the next.
North and South Korean girls pose together for a selfie
Despite the well-known and long-existing tension between South and North Korea, it didn’t prevent these two young female gymnasts from casually bonding and even taking a quick selfie together during the games. Lee Eun-Ju is from the South and Hong Un-Jong from the North, but it clearly wasn’t a big deal for these open-minded young ladies who took the Olympics as an opportunity to make new friends.
Usain Bolt's samba skills
Unless you live on another planet, there’s no way you’ve not seen Usain Bolt display yet more human defying mastery at the 2016 Olympics (and THAT picture). However, you might not have caught up on his latest revealed talent : samba. Yes, the Jamaican athlete has clearly taken the culture of the host country to heart, showing off his moves during a press conference in Rio.
Age ain't nothing but a number for this trainer
If you think it’s too late to become the coach of a professional athlete, you haven’t heard of Anna Sofia Botha, a 74 year old granny who recently helped sprinter Wayde van Niekerk bring home gold. Playing scrabble and knitting socks isn’t how Botha’s spending her retirement. Instead she plans to continue training athletes for as long as possible, proving dreams can still come true at any age.
Street art attempts to make history
Eduardo Kobra hopes to enter the Guinness Book of Records with his 190m long graffiti mural called “Ethnicities” (Ethnias in Portuguese). This spectacular piece of street art exposed in Praça Mauá is the longest ever created, and as if that weren’t enough, it’s also one of the most striking pieces of all time. The graffiti portrays the faces of five indigenous natives from five different continents, aiming to spread a message of unity despite our ever so fractured world.
“We’re living through a very confusing time with a lot of conflict. I wanted to show that everyone is united, we are all connected” – Eduardo Kobra
Women in the spotlight
This year’s Olympics has been particularly special for female competitors, who made up a record breaking 45% of all attendees (the most females ever in an Olympics). And they’re not just coming to perform – these ladies are SMASHING it left, right and centre on the field, in the swimming pool, in the velodrome – basically everywhere. Think about Simone Biles who nailed 4 golds and even imposed her signature move “The Biles” to the world of gymnastics; Katie Ledecky who skyrocketed to first position for the 200, 400 and 800 swimming competition, or former favela resident Rafaela Silva, the first Brazilian in history to become a judo world champion. Ladies, we salute you.
The Refugee Olympic Team
Possibly the best story of all, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to integrate an entire team of ten refugee athletes to participate in this year’s games. All have heart-lifting stories that testify for their brave and determined characters, such as the female Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini who saved the lives of 20 refugees by pushing their boat for three hours until they reached ashore.
“This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.” – IOC president Thomas Bach