Rio Olympics open with fanfare, environmental call
The Summer Olympic Games kicked off Friday night in a display of spectacular pageantry befitting one of Latin America’s most evocative nations.
With Samba and elaborately choreographed dances, the games began in resplendent glory – marking the first time that a South American country played host.
Brazil prominently conveyed a message of environmental conservancy during its opening ceremony as the games themselves have been overshadowed by concerns over water quality and the conversion of natural habitats into golf courses.
Early on, the host country told its story through a combination of dance and display, tracing the country’s history from its indigenous peoples to Portuguese colonization, slavery and the massive skyscrapers that jut out from its major cities sometimes not far from the favelas where its impoverished live.
National teams marched into the famous Maracana Stadium alphabetically – Greece marched first in line with tradition as it hosted the first games – after the lighting and dancing displays that were matched only by fireworks that illuminated Rio’s skies culminating in the city’s name soaring in the air.
The games are the most heavily participated to date with 207 teams competing.
For the first time refugees will compete in the games under the Olympic flag. The team will feature 10 members – five hailing from South Sudan, two each from Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and one from Ethiopia.
They received boisterous applause when they entered the 78,000 seat arena. And for that moment, at least, all the concerns over health and safety that have loomed large over the games seemed to give way to support for a community neglected by its nations.
Once all teams made their way, capstoned by Brazil, an elaborate use of lighting and mirrors dazzled the arena floor forming the Olympic rings, each wrapped in greenery.
Brazil's bronze-medal long-distance runner Vanderlei de Lima ceremoniously opened the games when he lit the Olympic cauldron using the Olympic torch that has passed through countries across the globe, including several in Brazil where protesters have attempted to block its passage.
Football legend Pele was invited to light the cauldron but was forced to bow out just hours before the festivities began due to poor health following hip surgery.
A separate cauldron for the public has been set up in downtown Rio.
The sound of fireworks drowned out the sound of massive boos from the audience when interim Brazilian President Michel Temer declared the games open. Temer assumed office after former President Dilma Roussef was suspended just over three months before the games began.
Organizers reportedly made plans to muffle the boos in anticipation of an unwelcome reception for Brazil's unpopular and unelected president.
While the opening ceremony took place Friday night, competition actually began on Wednesday when women’s football kicked off.
It will resume tomorrow morning with shooting, swimming, women’s football, rowing, water polo, archery, beach volleyball and table tennis.
Last Modified: 2016-08-06 09:12:07
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