The fears of successfully staging the Olympics were temporary put aside with a modest but stunning opening ceremony at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Brazilian capital Rio de Janeiro on Saturday August 5. The Organisers, however, had to endure a troubled build-up to the big occasion, which had been threatened by health issues, level of security for athletes and the host nation’s ongoing economic crisis. The rousing start amounted to the fulfillment of the first promise by Rio Olympic managers as they created a party-like atmosphere to officially kick off the first ever Olympic Games in South America. Though the budget significantly paled in comparison to the 2012 London Games, the brilliance of the proud Brazilian people was very much in evidence during the celebrations. Illness prevented Brazilian football legend Pele from lighting up the traditional Olympic Cauldron and in his absence, the honor went to 2004 men’s marathon bronze medalist Vanderlei de Lima. India have come to Rio with their largest Olympic contingent ever and led by ace shooter Abhinav Bindra, the cheerful Indian men and women looked great in their blue blazers and sarees as they paraded at the Maracana.
Participating in the grand opening ceremony of the 31st Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro, the colorful Indian contingent came out behind their flag bearer Abhinav Bindra. Smartly dressed in traditional blue blazers and designer sarees, the best sportspersons of India waved the Indian tricolors with infectious smiles on their faces. Like other national contingents, Indians were also greeted with all-round applause. The ceremony was a powerful display of the warmth and energy of the Brazilian people, who chose to momentarily forget the economic misery that the country is currently suffering. Several Indian stars like Leander Paes, Sania Mirza, PV Sindhu, Jwala Gutta and others tweeted about their excitement at being at Rio 2016. Leander Paes, who is making his 7th Olympic appearance, posted pictures in the morning with fellow athletes and wrote that he felt proud to be an Indian today.
The parade at the Maracana stadium had a march by 207 national teams, including first timers like Sudan and Kosovo. Also, there was one emotional moment, when a team labeled as the Olympic Refugee Team entered the parade. Kenya’s legendary middle distance runner Kipchoge Keino was conferred with the Olympic laurel, a distinction created by International Olympic Committee, IOC to honor an outstanding individual for his achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport. Keino spoke passionately during the ceremony and his speech was followed by another from IOC president Thomas Bach. The great start on Saturday will provide the Rio Games organizers some respite from criticism that they had been facing for some time. Now they will need to ensure that next 16 days of athletic competition pass smoothly to provide further reassurance to a nervous IOC.
Quite understandably, entry of the host nation Brazil was greeted with raucous cheers from a large gathering of Brazilians in Maracana. The home crowd will pin their hopes on the performance of their compatriots in various competitions that follow. Social media sites began a debate on which national team had come out in the best costumes during the parade. A large majority opted for the national side coming out in simple team tracksuits. Among famous team leaders were; the greatest all-time swimmer Michael Phelps led a 554 strong side from United States; tennis star Rafael Nadal was the leader of the Spanish national team and double Wimbledon champion Andy Murray led the team from Great Britain.
Besides the excitement generated by the parade of the national teams, the opening ceremony was also high on the performance side. Artistes created a visually spectacular show by bringing out national cultures of Brazil, Europe and Africa. The performers and video artists enacted the Amazon rainforest with a focus on environment and climate change. A metropolis skyline was created in the stadium to show the building of contemporary Brazil. Later, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont presented a scintillating video display that featured several important landmarks of Rio de Janeiro like the Christ the Redeemer.
In recent times, major sporting events have attached a lot of importance on opening and closing ceremonies and Rio didn’t disappoint with the first. Long before athletes came out for the parade, celebrated singer Dame Judi Dench had already begun the demonstration of his vocal skills and during the ceremony Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bundchen made her entrance to the utter delight of the home spectators. Bundchen coolly strolled across the stadium floor in a gold-sequined dress to the relaxing tune of Brazil’s most famous song, the bossa nova jazz classic The Girl from Ipanema. Besides 80000 people in the stadium Bundchen was seen by millions around the world and they all gave her a perfect 10.