Despite the 17 medals Brazil had won up until last night, there was only one medal that truly counted for the country: gold in men’s soccer.
Over two years ago, Brazil was humiliated by Germany in the World Cup semifinals. Now they faced the German U23 team for Olympic gold.
I ended up watching the match from Rio 2016 Fest inside of the Olympic Park for a story I wanted to write for VICE. I was initially worried about what the attendance would be like and if it would be enough to drive the story. The last time I was down there for the final group stage match, a couple hundred folks were there watching. And with rainy weather threatening all day, I wasn’t sure what the scene would be like.
I wasn’t disappointed.
I arrived on the scene with roughly 1,000 Brazilian fans already there and starting to party. Everyone was in good spirits and circles of “keepie uppie” began to form. By the time the match started, I estimated at least 3,000 Brazilian supporters were in and around the festival area.
Once the match started, the anxiety skyrocketed. Supporters raised their voice on every Brazilian attack only to turn to annoyed yelling after every missed chance. Like the final group stage match, I didn’t need a translator to understand their frustration.
Finally, Neymar’s free kick in the 26th sent the crowd into a frenzy. The supporters yelled and hugged each other. Now they were the ones on the front foot.
But Germany sent the crowd back into anxiety mode 14 minutes into the second half. Tensions mounted as the clock ticked towards 90 and Brazil wasted chance after chance. The typical 90 minutes wasn’t enough; neither was 120.
The crowded hushed after every German success, then cheered every Brazilian response. Then, Germany missed as supporters began to feel their moment arriving. There was a hush before Neymar’s final kick. Then screaming.
Pandemonium took over the Olympic Park. Beer showers popped up in the area around the screens. People hugged, others ran around.
It was an incredible moment. The problems Rio and the country are currently going through seemed so far away right then and there. There was only joy — joy that the one thing that truly mattered in these Olympics had been secured. I tried to capture all of this in the story for Vice, which you can read here.
Sunday, the last day of the Olympics, will be a down day for us. I have a 5-11 p.m. shift during the closing ceremony and then that’s it. The Olympics are over. It’s been incredible.
Miles walked today: 6.35
Total miles walked: 138.28