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On Friday 5 August 2016, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, the football competitions had already started. On 3 August at the Olympic Stadium, Sweden’s women had opened proceedings by beating their South African counterparts 1-0. Nilla Fischer became the first person to score at these Games, with a goal in the 76th minute! The four men’s groups and three women’s groups had all played already, with some surprising results among the men, like the 0-0 between Neymar’s Brazil and South Africa, the nine goals in the Nigeria-Japan game (5-4) or the amazing start by the Republic of Korea, beating Fiji 8-0.
In addition, the men’s and women’s archery ranking rounds had taken place in the afternoon at the Sambadrome, and Korea’s five-time world champion Kim Woojin had produced a fantastic achievement by becoming the first archer ever to reach 700 points, setting a new world record in the process.
At 8 p.m., the Opening Ceremony began in the legendary Maracanã Stadium. The first Olympic Games to be held in South America opened amidst an explosion of colour and music, offering the athletes and spectators alike an unforgettable experience.
The first part of the Ceremony started with fireworks lighting the sky above the Maracanã, before a symbol of peace in the form of a tree appeared on the floor of the Stadium, symbolising the message conveyed by this grandiose occasion. Paulinho Da Viola strummed his guitar and sang a poignant version of the Brazilian national anthem, as his country’s flag was raised.
Brazil’s turbulent history was then presented in a succession of spectacular tableaux. Metal spiders and caterpillars living in the dense Amazonian forest. The first inhabitants depicted through an extraordinary dance sequence with giant elastic bands, European caravels braving the stormy Atlantic Ocean before landing on the shores of Brazil, slaves brought from Africa working in the sugar cane plantations, and the country’s urbanisation. Plus the flight by aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont on his 14 Bis high above the Maracanã in the Rio night, flying over the Carioca beaches watched by the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop the Corcovado.
After this sequence, Brazil’s famous top model Gisele Bündchen made a catwalk appearance to the strains of the famous “Girl from Ipanema” sung by Daniel Jobim, grandson of its composer, Tom Jobim. Next, the Maracanã was suddenly transformed into a giant dance floor, with all the diversity of Brazilian music and dance heating up the stands! The whole Stadium then gave an a cappella rendition of the famous “País Tropical” hit song, with its creator Jorge Ben.
This first part of the show ended with a representation of the damage caused by global warming, with the polar ice cap melting and sea levels rising, and an appeal for reforestation. Linked to this, the athletes were given a symbolic seed to plant, to contribute to this movement.
The athletes’ parade began at 8.52 p.m. precisely, with the entrance of Greek flagbearer Sofia Bekatorou.
The Refugee Olympic Team marched in behind the Olympic flag to thunderous applause, and the sound level rose still further when Brazil came in last, led by pentathlete Yane Marques to the sound of the hit “Brazil”. All the teams’ name boards gathered in the middle of the Stadium then literally exploded to form green Olympic rings!
Rio 2016 Organising Committee President Carlos Nuzman took the floor: “We welcome you to Rio, Olympic capital of the world. We are going to write history, made by you the athletes, volunteers, spectators and young people. The Olympic dream is now a wonderful reality. Rio welcomes the world with open arms. I am proud of my city and my people.”
Nuzman then handed over to IOC President Thomas Bach: “We are living in a world of crises, mistrust and uncertainty. Here is our Olympic answer: The 10,000 best athletes in the world, competing with each other, at the same time living peacefully together in one Olympic Village, sharing their meals and their emotions. In this Olympic world there is one universal law for everybody. In this Olympic world we are all equal. In this Olympic world we see that the values of our shared humanity are stronger than the forces which want to divide us. So I call upon you, the Olympic athletes: Respect yourself, respect each other, respect the Olympic values which make the Olympic Games unique for you and for the entire world.”
After that, President Bach awarded the first-ever Olympic Laurel to the great Kenyan athlete Kipchoge Keino, double Olympic champion in 1968 and 1972, “in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the fields of education, culture, development and peace through sport”.
At 11.27 p.m., Brazil’s acting President, Michel Temer, declared the Games of the XXXI Olympiad open. The Olympic flag then entered the Stadium carried by Marta Vieira (football), Ellen Gracie (Brazil’s first female Supreme Court judge), Sandra Pires Tavares (beach volleyball), Oscar Schmidt (basketball), Joaquim Cruz (athletics), Rosa Celia Pimentel (cardiologist and founder of the Pró-Criança hospital), Torben Grael (sailing) and Emanuel Rego (beach volleyball).
The Olympic oath was pronounced by legendary Brazilian sailor Robert Scheidt for the athletes, Martinho Nobre for the judges and officials, and Adriana Santos for the coaches.
The Carioca samba schools entered the Stadium for a brightly coloured celebration to the music of artists Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. Finally, the three-time French Open tennis champion Gustavo Kuerten entered the Stadium with the Olympic torch. He handed it to basketball player Hortensia Macari, who passed it to marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro, who proceeded to light the Olympic cauldron. This then rose up to form part of an astonishing metallic structure which turned like the sun. Amazing! A gigantic firework display lit up the sky to conclude it all. Let the Games begin!