Rio de Janeiro got South America’s first ever Olympic Games off to a happy start last night with an opening ceremony that was as colourful and efficient as the long build-up was dour and in places unsatisfactory.
Ceremony organizers had to make do with a budget that’s a fraction of the amount spent by 2012 Olympics host London. It wasn’t enough; they needed eleventh-hour government funds to make ends meet, breaking Rio 2016’s long-held promise for the event to be privately funded.
Brazil laced its high-energy opening party for the games of the 31st Olympiad with a sobering message of the dangers of global warming.
Graphic projections of world cities being swamped by rising seas set Rio de Janeiro's otherwise fun and festive gala apart from the more self-congratulatory and lavish celebrations that Beijing and London wowed with in 2008 and 2012.
The show at the iconic Maracana stadium kicked off Friday evening with a festival of song and dance to celebrate tolerance at a time of global instability, as well as the nature and ethnic diversity of South America’s biggest country.
The ceremony, which was televised with a delay in some countries, also featured a reminder about the perils of climate change. Estimates suggest that nearly half the world’s population will tune in to at least part of the four-hour event.
Brazil's interim President Michel Temer declared open the first Games ever in South America. But in a display of the deep political divisions plaguing Brazil, he was jeered by some in the crowd at the famed Maracana soccer stadium.
Brazilian marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, a bronze medallist in Athens in 2004, lit the Olympic cauldron, a small and low-emission model befitting the environmental theme of these Games.
The Indian contingent, led by its flag bearer and the only individual Olympic gold medallist, Abhinav Bindra, who is in his swansong Olympics, entered the stadium as the 95th country. Around 70 Indian athletes (out of 118) and 24 officials took part in the march past, with the male athletes wearing navy blue colour blazer and trousers, and their female counterparts donning blue blazers and traditional Sarees.