Today the presumably lavish Opening Ceremony will signal the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While the buildup has not been without its fair share of issues, controversies, and health concerns, people across the globe are looking forward to watching many of the world’s best athletes go for the gold!
The Origin of the Olympics
The first modern Olympic Games was held way back in the year 1896 in Athens, Greece – the birthplace of the ancient Olympiad upon which the competition is based. Since then, the Summer Olympics have been held every four years (with three canceled due to the World Wars). The Winter Olympics began in 1924 and now alternate with the Summer Games meaning the next one will be held in 2018. But for now let’s focus on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio!
Host of the 2016 Summer Olympics
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was selected as the host city of the of the 2016 Olympics, beating out competition from Madrid, Tokyo (who will host in 2020), and Chicago. This is the second major international competition held in Brazil in just over two years, following the countrywide 2014 World Cup (soccer). While the vast majority of the competitions take place in and around Rio, many of the Olympic soccer matches for men and women will be held at venues around Brazil.
Who is Participating in the 2016 Olympics?
All 206 countries with a National Olympic Committee have qualified at least one athlete for the 2016 Games. This includes the usual suspects like the US, China, Russia (despite a far reaching ban on Russian athletes), the UK, Australia, and Canada alongside nearly every sovereign state around the globe – including the first participation of Kosovo and South Sudan. While the major soccer tournaments earlier this summer might have been limited to a handful of nations, the Olympics are renowned for bringing nearly every country together for two whole weeks!
What Sports are there at the 2016 Olympics?
The 2016 Rio Olympics will feature 28 different sports, of which there are 41 different disciplines, and a whopping 306 events. That’s a lot of medals to be won! The big ones are all there, with Swimming one of the most popular sports during the first week of the games and Athletics (or Track and Field) dominating the latter half. Alongside these you can find team games popular around the world like Basketball and Soccer (although the men’s soccer tournament functions as a U23 edition with a few overage players, so as not to compete with the World Cup). Beyond this, you can watch a wide array of team and individual sports ranging from Gymnastics, Cycling, Rowing, and Equestrian to Wrestling, Tennis, Sailing, and Judo (a favourite of Russia’s illustrious President), plus many more. With the removal of baseball and softball from the program, two new sports have also stepped in – Rugby Sevens and Golf.
One of the main things that make the Olympics special is discovering sports and events that may not be on your radar. You may spend the year watching hockey and football, but find yourself cheering that bulls-eye in Archery just as much as that Stanley Cup winning goal (or draft choice if you’re a Leafs fan). No matter what you’re passionate about, take some time to sample a few of the lesser-known events and see what they have to offer!
Check out the official 2016 Olympic schedule to see all the sports and when they take place.
Athletes and Events to Watch
While we can’t wait to sink our teeth into some of the more obscure sports and events, there are always a few standouts that are sure to dominate the headlines throughout the next two weeks. We’ll take a look some of the big names, both around the world and here in Canada.
Let’s get the obvious two out of the way first, and we’ll start with Michael Phelps. Already the most decorated Olympian of all time, the American swimmer initially retired following the London Games…but shortly unretired two years later. Now 31 years old, he will compete in three events after a successful US Olympic Trials.
The other star of the Olympics for the last decade is, of course, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. The world’s fastest ever man will compete in three events – the 100m, the 200m, and the 4x100m relay – all of which he holds the world record in. With some stern competition, it remains to be seen if Bolt can dominate the podium once again.
A couple of the major team events to watch are Basketball and Soccer. Some of the biggest NBA stars will participate in the men’s basketball tournament, which is, admittedly, the USA’s to lose. Though superstars LeBron James and Steph Curry won’t be there, Toronto Raptors duo Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are both on the American team. The men’s soccer tournament is essentially an U23 event (not to the level of this year’s Euros or Copa América) – though it does feature Brazilian star Neymar. Women’s soccer on the other hand will see the best players and teams in the world compete for gold. This includes reigning World Cup and Olympic champs USA as well as a strong Canadian side (both teams have already played and won their first game at the time of writing).
Another to watch out for is 21-year-old Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse who is the first Canadian to clock in at less than 10 seconds in the 100m since the 90’s (though he’ll have compete with American Justin Gatlin in the battle to beat Bolt). Brooke Henderson (one of the best female golfers in the world) will look to bring golfing gold home to Canada for the first time since 1904. We could go on and on through the many amazing stories (including the Refugee Team), but we’ll let the athletes themselves do the talking!
Rio Olympics Venue Guide
The opening and closing ceremonies (as well as some major soccer games) will take place in Rio’s iconic Estádio do Maracanã. The main athletics venue however will be the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange (or Olympic Stadium), which was originally built for the 2007 Pan-Am Games. The Olympic Aquatics Stadium is a temporary structure that will, unsurprisingly, host swimming. All of the venues are located in and around Rio de Janeiro, expect for some of the soccer stadiums – which range from São Paulo to the Amazon.
For a complete list of stadiums and event locations, check out the official 2016 Olympic venue guide.
What to do in Brazil during the Olympics
There’s plenty to see and do in Rio de Janeiro any time of the year…and you can bet the city will be more bumping that ever during the next couple weeks! There are the famous landmarks like Copacabana beach and Christ the Redeemer, which are both must-sees. Though everywhere is likely to be packed, you might have better luck at Ipanema beach than its more famous counterpart. With people from all over the world flooding into Rio, you can bet that the already renowned nightlife is going to be on another level!
For more information about what to see and do in Brazil, check out the official tourist information page. For more on Brazil as a whole, take a look at our comprehensive Travel Guide (and brush up on the Brazilian real while you’re at it)!
Safety and Health at the 2016 Summer Olympics
It’s no secret that there have been a wide array of concerns in the lead up to the 2016 Summer Olympics. First off, there’s the prevailing health issue of the Zika virus. Pregnant women or women who are considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel here for the time being. In addition, there are severe crime and safety issues in and around Rio (as well as other parts of the country, especially urban areas). There is a lot to be aware of, but if you’re careful you can ensure that your Olympic getaway is one to remember for all the right reasons. You can learn more about the current issues and how to remain safe at the Canadian government’s travel advisory website.
Important: Before planning a trip to Rio for the Games, take a long look at the Canadian government’s Olympic factsheet and make sure you follow all instructions and recommendations.
How to Watch the Olympics
If you’re still interested in getting some last minute tickets, you can visit cosport.com, which is the Authorised Ticket Reseller for both Canada and the US. If (like us) you’ll be watching from back home, CBC will be the main broadcaster though you can also enjoy the games on TSN (including basketball and golf, plus more) and Sportsnet (tennis, among others). RDS will also broadcast events in French. You can also find tons of live content online at olympics.cbc.ca. In the US, NBC will broadcast the games across their litany of channels as well as online.
Enjoy the Games!
That’s all for now! With the Opening Ceremony kicking off soon, we hope that you’re strapped in for a memorable two weeks!
Stay up to date on all the latest Olympic news, including results and medal counts, at the official Rio 2016 website.
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