Summer Olympic Games declared open in Rio de Janeiro | News | DW | 05.08.2016
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Summer Olympic Games declared open in Rio de Janeiro

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro have officially been opened by Brazil's Acting President Michel Temer, amid protests and heightened security. Over 16 days, athletes from 206 nations will compete in 28 sports.

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, who was denied victory at the 2004 Athens Games marathon when he was attacked by a spectator, lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday night in the Maracana stadium. It was lifted into a beautiful, moving sculpture with spirals to represent the sun, suspended high above the stadium.

Three-time French Open winner and former world number one tennis player Gustavo Kuerten carried the Olympic flame into the stadium. He then handed it to Brazilian basketball legend Hortencia Marcari who gave it to de Lima to take it up the stairs to the cauldron.

Brazil's interim President Michel Temer declared open the first-ever Games to be held in South America. He was jeered by some of the 60,000 crowd in the stadium, a reflection of ongoing political repercussions from the impeachment proceedings against suspended President Dilma Rousseff.

President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach said: "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."

Sea, forests, cities, culture and environment

The ceremony began with images of the sea which defines the location of the games. Rio de Janeiro is famed for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

It then centered on the Maracana Stadium, where dancers turned into drummers, using giant air cushions that formed a huge silver vortex lit up by fireworks.

A soldier raised the national flag as the anthem was sung.

Representation of the forests of Brazil

Representation of the forests of Brazil

The history of life in Rio was presented beginning with a first image of water as the floor of the stadium was used as a huge video screen. The second image was of a jungle forest with sounds and sights of birds. Indigenous people from Amazonia then created a huge artistic display made out of long lines which they then twisted to make into huts.

Ships arriving with sailors from Portugal

Ships arriving with sailors from Portugal

The arrival of three Portuguese ships in 1500 during a storm represented the coming of the first Europeans to the shores of Brazil. African slaves were seen to arrive with sticks and weights, representing shackles and wheels, representing agriculture.

Representations of the arrival of slaves from Africa

Representations of the arrival of slaves from Africa

The building of Brazil's cities was shown on a three-dimensional video on the stadium floor with dancers taking representations of bricks from building to building.

Brazil's pioneer of aviation Alberto Santos-Dumont was shown taking off from the stadium and flying over modern-day Rio.

Building the cities of Brazil

Building the cities of Brazil

The dancers from the city's favelas or slum districts then took to the stage with songs legendary Rio artists.

Lights and flares represented the world and its disputes.

There were dances and songs from all parts of Brazil performed by hundreds of dancers dressed in vivid colors.

A presentation on global warming and the effects of rising sea levels on cities around the world, and on Rio, was read - in English by actor Judi Dench. Each athlete participating at the Olympics is being given a seed which will be planted at the end of the games to represent renewal.

Dancing takes center stadium at the Maracana

Dancing takes center stadium at the Maracana

Then the athletes walked into the stadium, following the flag of the nation they represent. Germany's team was led by 5-time Olympian Timo Boll.

The German team, led out by Timo Boll who won the honor in a 300,000 popular vote

The German team, led out by Timo Boll who won the honor in a 300,000 popular vote

The parade of athletes included the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team of ten athletes who had been displaced from Syria, South Sudan, Congo and Ethiopia. Flag-bearer Rose Nathike Lokonyen fled war in South Sudan and ran her first race in a refugee camp in northern Kenya.

The Refugee Olympic Athletes team

The Refugee Olympic Athletes team

The mirror boxes where the athletes had placed their tree seeds were placed at the center of the stadium and then opened in the form of Olympic rings to reveal trees and flying leaves. The seeds will be planted in a park after the games as part of the Olympic legacy and as an environmental statement.

Fireworks at the Maracana stadium

Fireworks at the Maracana stadium

IOC leader Thomas Bach announced the first-ever Olympic Laurel award. He handed it to Olympic runner, two-time Olympic gold medalist and mentor for young runners and orphans in Kenya, Kipchoge Keino.

Keino said: "Join me and support all the youth of this world to get the basics of humanity: food, shelter and education. Education not only empowers our youth to bebetter citizens and leaders of the future, but it will also help them make a positive change and a mighty difference."

Kip Keino receiving the first-ever Olympic Laurel award

Kip Keino receiving the first-ever Olympic Laurel award

Hundreds of athletes

The 2016 Summer Games mark the first time the Olympics are being held in South America. From August 5 to August 21, 10,500 athletes from 207 teams will compete, including representatives from Kosovo and South Sudan, countries that are participating for the first time in the Olympics.

At 554 participants, the United States has the largest Olympic team. Germany will be represented by 423 athletes.

Millions of viewers from around the world were expected to watch the three-hour opening ceremony. But Brazil's most famous athlete, soccer legend Pele, was not able to take part in the event due to poor health.

"Smile is the approach the Brazilians have toward life," said Marco Balich, the executive producer of Friday's show. "Brazil is not a grand nation. They're saying in this ceremony, we are who we are, with a lot of social problems, a lot of crises in the political system," he said.

Protests and political turmoil

Hours before the start of the opening show, thousands of Brazilian protesters angry at political upheaval, corruption and the cost of the Rio Olympics blocked traffic on the streets.

Supporters of suspended President Dilma Rousseff were among the protesters. The leftist president is set to face an impeachment trial on charges of corruption.

The demonstrators also took aim at the Summer Games, saying a huge amount of money had been spent on staging South America's first Olympics.

The money, they say, would have been better spent on development projects.

jm,shs/cmk,mk (AFP, AP)

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