The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

11 of the biggest political moments at the Rio Olympics

Sixteen days, 300 events, 200 countries. Earlier this month, more than 11,000 athletes flocked to Brazil to compete in the Olympic Games.

The goal of the Olympic Movement is to "contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

Now that the Games are over, here's a quick look back at some age-old disputes and modern dramas that stole some of the limelight, though there were a few small breakthroughs as well, our colleagues reported.

1. The two Koreas: First, some good news

The Korean Peninsula may technically still be in a state of war, but two gymnasts made a little peace. North Korea's Hong Un Jong and South Korean rival Lee Eun-Ju posed for selfies together — a rare event that the IOC president called a "great gesture." — Adam Taylor

2. U.S. politics: A message to Trump

Before Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal wearing a hijab, she had some words for Donald Trump: "I think his words are very dangerous,” the fencer told CNN. “I’m African American. I don’t have another home to go to. My family was born here. I was born here. I’ve grown up in Jersey. All my family’s from Jersey. It’s like, well, where do we go?” — Cindy Boren

Muslim American fencer to Donald Trump: ‘I don’t have another home’

3. Israel and Lebanon: And they're off ... 

On opening night: The Israeli team was prevented from boarding a bus filled with Lebanese athletes and heading to the Opening Ceremonies. Israel described it as a hostile act, but Lebanon's chef de mission said it was "only a small problem” that was soon resolved. — Associated Press

4. U.S. and Russia: The Chilly War

This dispute had some drawing parallels to the Cold War rivalries of the past: First, Lilly King pointed out that Russia's Yulia Efimova had failed two blood tests. Then, King beat her in the 100-meter breaststroke, "a feat she celebrated by slapping the water in Efimova’s lane then adding a bit of finger-wagging." “It’s incredible — winning the gold medal and knowing I did it clean,” King said. "I always thought the Cold War was long in the past. Why start it again, by using sport?" Efimova shot back. — Cindy Boren

5. Egypt and Israel: Judo gets political

Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby was sent home by the IOC for refusing to shake the hand of an Israeli competitor who beat him. He declined to comment, but Israel’s Or Sasson said: “I knew he would do it, so it wasn’t a surprise for me. But I cannot say anything. This was his decision.” — Roman Stubbs

6. Australia and China: Pool Wars, Part II: Australian swimmer Mack Horton referred to a Chinese competitor, Sun Yang, as a "drug cheat" before the men's 400-meter freestyle final — he noted that Sun had tested positive for a banned substance in 2014. A Chinese newspaper quickly fired back, saying Australia exists " 'at the fringes of civilization' and even getting in a jab about its infamous past as a British penal colony." — Emily Rauhala

The Rio Olympics are really hurting China’s feelings

7. Brazil: Not in front of the guests

The Olympic organizers weren't having it: Twice in one day, spectators were forced to leave their seats or were expelled from stadiums for protesting Brazil's unpopular interim president, Michel Temer. "Videos of both incidents circulated on social media and were widely condemned." Temer was booed during the Opening Ceremonies. — Joshua Partlow and Dom Phillips

8. Refugees: The Champions

For the first time ever, a refugee team competed at an Olympic Games — a recognition of the record 60 million refugees in the world today. The team included two Syrian swimmers, an Ethiopian marathoner, two Congolese judokas and five South Sudanese middle-distance runners. — Adam Kilgore

A mural honoring the 10 members of the first-ever Olympic refugee team is revealed on Rio de Janeiro's brand new Olympic Boulevard. (Video: Reuters)

Refugee Olympians: Ten athletes representing 60 million people

9. The 'misunderstanding,' starring supermodel Gisele: The home team

The dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies "struck some viewers as cringe-worthy: the moment when supermodel Gisele Bündchen got seemingly robbed by a black kid from the slums." Critics said the skit had to be dropped.

But the show’s creative director, filmmaker Fernando Meirelles — who has directed films such as "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener" — described the controversy as a “tremendous misunderstanding.

“Imagine us doing a scene like that in the opening,” he wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “I’m not that clueless.” — Joshua Partlow and Dom Phillips

Olympic organizers plan to cut a skit allegedly showing a black boy robbing model Gisele

10. Kuwait: Independent actions

The International Olympic Committee had banned Kuwait from international competition, so Kuwaiti shooter Fehaid Aldeehani competed, and won a gold medal, as a member of the Independent Olympic Athletes team. Kuwaiti media reported that when asked to carry the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremonies, he refused: "I am a military man and I will only carry the Kuwait flag.” — Scott Allen

The IOC banned his country, then raised its own flag after Kuwaiti wins gold

The mood on social media has been divided. Many Twitter users hailed the Olympics for its ability to unite athletes from around the world, despite their political differences.

Others used social media to vent, highlighting the racism, hatred and oppression the Games had exposed.

11. Ethiopia: An unambiguous symbol

Just after crossing the finish line of the men's marathon in second place, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head, a defiant gesture protesting his government's treatment of the Oromo tribe. The Ethiopian government has killed hundreds of Oromos, who make up the country's largest ethnic group and has plans to reallocate Oromo land. Many of the groups' protests have ended in bloodshed.

"If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me," Lilesa said. "If not kill me, they will put me in prison. I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country." — Kevin Sieff

Read more:

Brazilian police say they do not believe Ryan Lochte and others were robbed

Tourists really don’t know how to fit in at Rio’s famous beaches