Rio kicks off Games with ode to forests, favelas & funk

Team South Africa were our third, led by 400m runner Wayde van Niekerk with the crowd in good spirits.

Brazil’s Yane Marques leads her delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 5 August, 2016. Picture: AFP.

RIO DE JANEIRO - After a rich show featuring both the cultural history of Brazil and a focus on the sustainability of the natural resources, the Parade of Nations saw 207 teams gather in the Olympic Stadium to open the Games.

A colorful affair that passed largely without incident despite a small protest outside and long queues in getting in.

Team South Africa were our third, led by 400m runner Wayde van Niekerk with the crowd in good spirits welcoming all into the arena.

Along with Van Niekerk the likes of Michael Phelps, Caroline Wozniacki, Andy Murray and Kirani James all had the honour of leading their teams.

Especially, big cheers for Portugal and hosts Brazil deserving is special mentions as well as the refugee team.

While with the doping scandal currently engulfing Russia and the International Association of Athletics Federations ban imposed on them, the team received an indifferent reception from the crowd while the reduced team certainly seem.

BRAZIL READY TO GO

Brazil unfurled a vast canvas celebrating its rainforest and the creative energy of its wildly diverse population to the tune of samba, bossa nova and funk in welcoming the world on Friday to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

In a country of great economic inequality, the opening ceremony celebrated the culture of the favelas, the slums that hang vertiginously above the renowned beaches of Rio and ring the site of Friday's spectacle, the famed Maracana stadium.

There was no glossing over history either: from the arrival of the Portuguese and their conquest of the indigenous populations to the use of African slave labor for 400 years. The clash of cultures, as the ceremony showed, is what makes Brazil the complex mosaic that it is.

Home to the Amazon, the world's largest forest, Brazil used the ceremony to call on the 3 billion people watching the opening of the world's premiere sporting event to take care of the planet, plant seeds and reconquer the verdant land that Europeans found here five centuries ago.

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 organising 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.

The show drew homegrown stars, like supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who walked across the stadium to the sound of bossa nova hit "Girl from Ipanema" and Paulinho da Viola, a samba songwriter who sang the national anthem with a string orchestra. Everyone performed for free.

Loud cheers erupted when Brazil's beloved pioneer of aviation Alberto Santos-Dumont was depicted taking off from the stadium and flying over modern-day Rio.

The joyful opening of South America's first Games contrasted with months of turmoil and chaos, not only in the organization of the Olympics but across Brazil as it endures its worst economic recession in decades and a deep political crisis.

Interim President Michel Temer presided over the opening of the Games inside Maracana with dozens of heads of state. He took over from suspended President Dilma Rousseff, who is facing an impeachment trial and tweeted that she was "sad to not be at the party."

The $12 billion price tag to organise the Games has aggrieved many in the nation of 200 million and in Rio, where few can see the benefits of the spectacle or even afford to attend the Games.

Police used stun grenades against a few hundred anti-Olympic protesters near the stadium, armored tanks lined the streets, and the 50,000 attendees faced two-hour-long lines as Brazil staged its most intense security operation ever.

Additional information by Reuters