Rio 2016: 16 Fun Facts

1 – Rio 2016 was the first time in Olympic history that a South American country hosted the Games. The city won its bid in 2009, beating out Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo.

2 – The torch began on April 21 in the Games’ birthplace — Olympia in Greece — before traveling across Brazil for more than 90 days and finishing in Rio on August 5. While in Greece, it passed through the Eloenas refugee camp, near Athens, where one resident was selected as a torch bearer.

Image: Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame
Actress Ino Menegaki, performing the role of the High Priestess, lights the torch of the Olympic Flame in Greece for the 2012 London Olympics. May 2012.ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU / EPA file

3 – The opening and closing ceremonies was held in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, which boasts the world record for the most fans ever to attend a soccer game. Although its current capacity is around 78,000, the stadium squeezed in at least 173,000 fans during the 1950 World Cup final. Maracanã hosted the World Cup final again in 2014.

4 – Around 10,500 athletes from 208 countries took part in 17 days of the Olympiad, competing across 306 events.

5 – The competition took place in four different areas: Copacabana, whose world-famous beach will host beach volleyball; Barra, home to the Olympic Park; Deodoro, for aquatics, BMX, and equestrian centers; and Maracanã, which features two large stadiums.

Image: One Year Out, Rio Continues Preparations For The 2016 Olympics
Brazilians play soccer on Copacabana beach on July 28, 2015. Mario Tama / Getty Images file

6 – Rugby Sevens made its debut at the Rio Games, with both the U.S. women’s and men’s teams considered to be medal contenders. The seven-a-side variant of rugby lasts only 15 minutes per game. The U.S. is a defending rugby champion, of sorts, having won the gold medal in the 15-person version of the game the last time it featured at the Olympics — in 1924.

7 – Golf returned to the Olympics after a 112-year absence. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to reinstate the sport, which previously was played in the 1900 and 1904 Games. The 18 holes in Rio were designed by American golf-course architect Gil Hanse, who is based in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

8 – The Rio games was the first to feature Olympians born in the year 2000. Rules state that all competitors must have been been born before Jan. 1, 2003, but many sports have other age requirements for health and safety reasons. The youngest competitors are likely to be from diving and gymnastics.

Image: Fans watch a soccer match in Maracanã stadium
Maracanã stadium in 2014. RICARDO MORAES / Reuters file

9 – A team of athletes who have been forced to flee their countries was allowed to compete for the first time. 10 refugees competed under the Olympic flag.

10 – The mascot for 2016 is “Vinicius,” a yellow and blue creature representing Brazilian wildlife. It resembles a cat or monkey that can fly and has the power to stretch its limbs and body. It is named after Bossa Nova musician Vinicius de Moraes, one of the writers of “The Girl From Ipanema.” Rio 2016 organizers say they hope Vinicius will help them raise 1 billion reais ($398 million) in merchandising.

11 – There were 7.5 million tickets, with prices ranging from $40 for some swimming events to almost $3,000 for the best seats at the opening ceremony. Most popular events werefar are soccer, basketball, volleyball and handball.

12 – Organizers prepared 60,000 meals per day to feed the athletes. Brazilian staples like rice and black beans and barbecued meat will be accompanied by other local offerings, such as tapioca, pao de queijo (cheese bread) and acai (an Amazonian fruit and so-called superfood).

Image: Handout shows the unnamed mascots of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games during their first appearance in Rio de Janeiro
Rio 2016 Olympic mascot Vinicius, left, and Rio 2016 Paralympic mascot Tom. Alex Ferro / Brailian Olympic Committee via Reuters

13 – Rio 2016 had 70,000 volunteers— mostly from Brazil. The U.S., U.K., Russia, and China comprise most of the other volunteers.

14 – Around 85,000 soldiers and policemen was deployed — the largest security force assembled at any event in Brazil’s history and twice as large as the security presence for London 2012.

15 – Rio’s taxi drivers, or “taxistas,” were being given the chance to sign up for free online English lessons provided by the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. Drivers are often the first point of contact for fans, and those who take the four-month course will mostly likely be swapping “oi!” for “hi!”

16 – Team USA took 554 athletes to the Rio 2016 Olympics, more athletes than all the other nations in Rio. The U.S. topped the medal table in 2016 with 46 golds and 121 medals overall.