2016 Olympic Games begin in Rio

It’s a major worldwide sporting event that happens every four years. Over 11000 athletes representing over 200 countries participate in the Summer Olympics.

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are the 31st Olympiad in the modern era and they are certainly the games for firsts. These are the first games to be hosted in a South American country, with the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil being the city of choice. This will also be the first Olympic Games to feature a Refugee team. The Olympic Refugee Team sees 10 athletes competing who have fled countries such as Syria, Ethiopia and The Democratic Republic of Congo in three sports- swimming, athletics and Judo. We will also see South Sudan and Kosovo debut as delegations.

From the beginning of the opening ceremony, it was clear that this will be an Olympic Games like no other. They will be all about celebrating culture, equality and inequality amongst all the nations competing and the opening ceremony definitely was like no other. It may have been the spectacle that London and Sydney were, but it was definitely amazing in its own merit.

In typical Olympic fashion, fireworks ignited the Maracana Stadium, indicating the beginning of the ceremony. Brazilian singer Paulinho da Viola sang the Brazilian national anthem. From there, the ceremony was filled with culture and history featuring the good, the bad and the ugly moments for the host nation. Spectacular laser lights and dances were used to highlight some key moments in history- From the birth of life represented by stick-figured animals; to the natives frolicking in the forest; through to the arrival of the Portuguese and the invasion of the Europeans; the African Slaves brought to Brazil by force. There was an acrobatic and dance spectacular depicting the move to an urban rooftop scene which led into the building of an aeroplane. In Brazil’s history, they flew the first plane which they recreated during the ceremony. Although unpolished in some areas, the entertainment provided was engaging, educational and just a taste of what these Olympic Games will bring.

Following the spectaculars of the dancing and lights and the replica plane flying above the stadium, Supermodel Gisele Bundchen closed the entertainment component of the ceremony, taking her final catwalk to the song “Girl From Impanema”. Then, in true Olympic tradition, Greece began the march of the athletes.

The march of the athletes, although long and tedious, depicts exactly what the Olympic spirit is all about- representing your country. There are 207 delegations represented in total at this year’s Olympics. Each nation that marched, no matter how large or small were excited, happy and proud to be in that stadium. Brazil were the final team to march, resulting in a roar of cheers and emotions from the nearly 80,000 strong crowd.

From lone competitor Etimoni Timuani, the only athlete from Tuvalu, to one of the largest teams Australia, it certainly brings joy to every athlete to be in that position. And it makes a nation proud to see their representatives marching with their flags. Australians were left beaming after watching Anna Meares carry our flag followed by some 400 plus competitors wearing our national Green and Gold. And it brings a smile to my face to watch the other countries, no matter how many competitors they have, march out. Each country was given a different plant seed, as part of Brazil’s plan to combat deforestation, with each athlete planting that seed at the end of their country’s march. Brazil is sending a message loud and clear this Olympic games- the Earth matters and they will do all they can to help preserve it.Anna Mears.jpgSource: Getty Images

Following the march and the formalities, the Olympic flag was raised and a brief celebration of the party culture of Brazil was had. Finally, the cauldron was officially lit, in spectacular style. Although simple, the final effect of the lit cauldron was mesmerizing. Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, a marathon athlete, was the man for the job.

After travelling through more than 25 places in Brazil, the Olympic torch was carried into the stadium by Gustavo Kuerten, a Brazilian tennis player. Kuerten passed the flame onto Women’s Basketballer Hortencia Marcari. Hortencia then passed the flame to de Lima who carried the torch up a flight of stairs before igniting a flower-esque pot. The pot ascended into a hybrid cauldron, with the flame backdropped by a sculpture created by Anthony Howe. The rotating sculpture was lit to represent the sun, and looked truly amazing. Another mini-cauldron will be lit in the centre of Rio, as the Maracana stadium will only be used for soccer semi-finals and finals.

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The lighting of the cauldron and fireworks closed out the show, but only marked the beginning of the next two exciting weeks in sport.