The 31st Olympics Games were officially declared open on Friday evening after a gala opening ceremony at the Maracana stadium in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil showcased its rich history and cultural heritage, combined with Rio’s famous ‘Samba’ dance. A subtle yet powerful message of climate change was conveyed in the four-hour long opening ceremony. Global warming and depletion of natural resources was the central theme in a thought-provoking ceremony.
In the 17-day extravaganza more than 11,000 athletes from 209 countries, and a refugee Olympic team is competing.
Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer declared open the Games, the first to be held in South America, in the presence of International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, who gave a lengthy speech, and United Nations head, Ban-Ki Moon.
“I declare the Rio Olympics open, and celebrate the 31st Olympic Games of the modern era,” Temer said to formally signal the commencement of competitions as the Rio night sky was lit with fireworks emanating from Maracana Stadium.
Brazilian long-distance runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lit the Olympic cauldron in the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony was decidedly simple and low-tech, a reflection of Brazil’s tough economic times. In one of the world’s most unequal societies, the spectacle celebrated the culture of the favelas, the slums that hang vertiginously above the renowned beaches of Rio and ring the Maracana.
Unlike the opening ceremonies in Beijing in 2008 and London 2012, a financially constrained Brazil had little choice but to put on a more “analogue” show, with minimal high-tech and a heavy dependence on the vast talent of Brazil and its Carnival party traditions.
While the Rio 2016 organizing committee has not said how much the ceremony cost, it is believed to be about half of the $42 million spent by London in 2012.
Before the entry of a few thousand of the 11,000 athletes that will be competing in the Games, the playful rhythms of the ceremony gave way to a sober message about climate change and rampant deforestation of the Amazon. Actresses Judi Dench and Fernanda Montenegro lent their voices for a classic poem about hope for the future.
Each athlete will be asked to plant seeds that will eventually grow into trees and be planted in the Athletes Forest in Rio in a few years.
(With inputs from PTI)