Olympic Opening Ceremony

The day that signals the start of competition is just around the corner for many athletes has finally arrived. Opening ceremonies constantly set out to be memorable and impressive for those that are participating, in attendance and tuning in through some form of media.

Some athletes, such as the footballers, will be unable to attend the opening ceremony as teams get announced and enter the stadium with the flag because of needing to be in a different part of the country the day after and not wanting to compromise team performance.

For many people, despite action already happening before the ceremony, the performance and introduction of atheletes to the stadium is the only start of the Olympics that counts. But as somebody that has followed the few previous days closely having the ceremony now seems a little strange but still very exciting.

Of course there have been many issues in the lead up to these Olympics, politically and socially as well as regarding the athletics themselves, but the news of the day that Pele the Brazil football legend seems increasingly unlikely to be able to light the Olympic cauldron comes as a big blow to preperations.

Let us get this show on the road!

23:50 – The BBC clearly made decent bids for locations over the recent years as their commentary box over the beach looks very similar, if not identical, to the one they had for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

23:55  – As the ceremony is costing millions of pounds less than the 2012 Olympics I am expecting the main difference to be less flyovers and less fireworks/pyrotechnics. I find the idea of fireworks a bit of a let down for the people within the stadium watching.

00:00 – The ceremony gets itself underway. The roar and atmosphere of the crowd is loud and sounds full of enthusiasm and anticipation. Will it be as “cool” as they want it to be though?

00:01 – There is an opening clip of lots of people doing different sports in a variety of locations across Brazil. Some music is playing in the background but it does not really seem to coincide with the images at all. Perhaps the video was a filler whilst other countries headed off to a quick advert break.

00:03 – As the opening act gets underway in the stadium we are confronted with people wearing shiny silver costumes looking like they belong in a futuristic space film rather than within an Olympic Stadium. Amusingly one of the silly looking people dropped a corner of their massive cushion whilst using it as a drum that could not be heard over the crowd.

00:06  After that countdown, with some fireworks creating a vortex around the stadium roof, it was time to introduce various officials, raise the flag and have the national anthem of Brazil by a guy in an overly electric blue two piece suit. Is that a common look in Brazil for a white haired guy?

00:10 – As they take us back to the very beginning of Brazil they introduce a structure of a microbe walking across the stage. Initially I thought it was a spider or perhaps even an ant and metal structured thing freaked me out a little. There was no warnings of bugs and beasts in the introduction.

00:12 – Some beauty suddenly filled the screen as it went green and leafy to represent a forest with some form of fabric hanging down to represent the trees. There were sounds of wildlife and wings fluttering around and then Native Brazillians came onto the screen and created criss crosses, patterns and representations of traditional art with the beautiful material.

00:15 – BUT THEN the settlers came. Mechanised boats barged onto the stage to represent Portugal colonisers heading in seeking to take over, rule, be worshipped and to get a variety of resources for trade and export purposes.

00:17 – As well as representing the countries own struggle with having lives changed they also decided to include people representing African slavery being forced to work on the sugar plantations and other developing industry around Brazil. They use this as a chance to link the countries culture to that of the African nations where a lot of slaves were forced from.

00:20 – But Brazil’s culture, according to the interpretation of the opening ceremony, is also linked to places like Syria, Japan and then later swathes of West European immigration. And how at this time a lot of change was happening industrially and agriculturally so they decided to have a flatlay image of planned fields and roads appearing beneath them.

00:23 – They are clearly trying to tell a really important story but it largely gets lost by slow pace and little happening to actually express feelings about it. Without the commentators discussion, from having seen the preview and being briefed, it would not at all be clear what was going on in the last 20 minutes.

00:27 – After the building of the cities came the building of the mega metropolis. Buildings popped up and just carried on getting taller and taller. Unsurprisingly they avoided highlighting the ghetto areas and poverty hit areas of citied like that. Aiming to look like a well developed nation but avoiding the problems, like most Olympic opening ceremonies.

00:29 – They had a guy go on up in a little plane thing because Brazil claim to have had the first proper flyers rather than the Wright Brothers. That lead us to see sites nearby the stadium from overhead during the night team.

00:30 – The favelas did get a mention in the cermony though as dancers appeared in front of the high rise building, surrounded by bright lights and put on a traditional favela style dance for a few brief minutes in an attempt to show the bright and lively action in the favelas rather than the commonly associated crime.

00:33 – A string of singers appear including a really old woman and then a guy in a terrible white suit does a bit of weird pop music. The music on offer so far is missing the mark a bit for me so far and I feel I have encountered better Brazillian music in the past.

00:36  As a representation of, to quote the BBC commentator, “black people on Brazillian culture” they suddenly cut to a woman doing some rap with a guy doing a bit of breakdancing. It seemed like they wanted to get it in somewhere but it was a little forced between the last scene and a piece about the difficulties and controversies the country has recently faced.

00:40 – The crowd were encouraged to join in and dance in their seats whilst the dancers on the video display had a right little boogie but apart from a lot of colour and big wigs I have no idea what is happening right now. It seems to be like being in the O2 in Islington on cheesy pop night and just wanting the cheesiest song to end.

00:43 – Turns out that despite wanting to save money and being concerned about pollution levels they are really keen on fireworks coming out of the roof and top of the stadium. They just keep making everything smokey and no doubt making the place stink of gunpowder for miles. And then they decide to highlight global warming and the damage it is doing to the country and the globe. Laughable.

00:47 – A sort of normality resumes and they go about growing a variety of seeds and them turning into trees and flowers and how they are trying to save the rainforest and all of the nature around them. It is a simple message but the imagery of a young person looking after a plant and cherishing it, with the spoken story about growth and video of things sprouting, growing and flourishing that goes with it is rather beautiful and relaxing to witness.

00:51 – Once upon a time the name of the country would just be held. This time people are cycling in on a rickshaw with the name written on a spinning device attached to it. A carbon neutral idea (because walking just is not carbon neutral enough so they decided to construct a machine??)

00:54 – They are using the Brazil alphabet and names for countries so South Africa and Germany have already had their go at walking out and waving the flag despite still being on the letter A.

00:56 – There is a smallish child with each of the teams flag bearers carrying a small plant which will all be artfully displayed and planted in time. It seems that the organisers are suggesting that the only people that can be trusted with the plants are the young people and not Olympic athletes. Each athlete has a seed that they are to plant in little tubes attached to acrylic holders which will later be planted into the wild as part of the nature project Brazil claim to be undergoing.

01:00 – The Independent Olympic Team enter the stadium. This is a different team to the Refugee team and instead made up of athletes with no representing body or with a banned representing body. This team is made up of 13 athletes.

01:02 – The less said about the official outfits of Azerbaijan the better. White suits with what looked like autumnal shades of leaves across the bottom of the suit jacket. Honestly a little bit strange as it looks like something your Gran might wear to your Cousins wedding. But then again there have been far stranger.

01:10 – Burundi enter the stadium in very traditional outfits and whilst they look out of place for not wearing tracksuits as athletes it is a lovely representation of the country and people they are representing.

01:21 – Some teams have outfits designed by celebrities and big brands. Whilst we are far from seeing the USA they have had their outfit designed by Ralph Lauren so it should be good when they do make it out (edit: they turned up about 01:35 in the end). Others have focussed more on practical aspects such as the South Koreans that have a mosquito repellent woven into the outfits to help protect them against the Zika virus.

01:28 – As has happened during pretty much every Olympic opening ceremony in my lifetime (okay I only remember watching since 2004 but might have watched some in my ten years prior to that) I am getting fairly bored of all the athletes trickling out at a speed that would see them forever mocked in the majority of sporting events.

01:32 – The amount of tennis players being allowed to carry the flag is really stressing me out. So many of them actually receive publicity and are known throughout chunks of the world that it would be nice for really good but barely known athletes to hold the flag so that they can be discussed by commentators of various broadcasters.

01:38 – Another bad outfit comes into the stadium thanks to Fiji. The men’s football team will no doubt be looking and pleased to see that they have dodged having to wear a poor patterned product. Although given their football kit it would probably not have phased them at all; perhaps they are just largely keen on odd patterns after all.

01:43 – Eventually the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team make their way out. Andy Murray held the flag with just one arm and, much to my disappointment but no doubt his joy, did not end up dropping it or losing balance whilst waving it.

01:47 – The Honduras team had shirts on with a bit of colour and the country name.done in rainbow writing. They very much looked like something you might buy there, in the airport, as a last minute memory of your trip. In many ways they looked just as bad as the flower shirts you might associate with Hawaii.

01:57 – A camera is placed just by the entrance of the stadium and as a result all the athletes keep getting distracted and veering off too it to stick their face into it with a big grin. When the overhead camera gets used you can then see all the athletes awkwardly returning to the centre of the walkway afterwards.

02:05 – The ground in the stadium is starting to look rather busy and full of athletes awkwardly standing around and making small talk whilst remembering some of them have competitions tomorrow to prepare for. We are still only on the letter M and have just less than two hours to go before the whole thing is expected to be over.

02:06 – The Mexican team entered the stadium and got the biggest cheer of the night so far despite the USA and Japan teams already entering. I mention Japan because Brazil has the most Japanese migrants out of anywhere in the world.

02:16 – Palestine enter the stadium and get a massive cheer in support for them (and no doubt the struggle the area faces). Whilst not an official independent country they have had an Olympic Committee since 1995 and have competed in their own right at each Olympics since.

02:18 – The Poland team entered the stadium and it was discovered they had a rather unusual choice of outfits. The women had long wavy multi-coloured skirts whilst the men had bright red chino style trousers. Not too unusual but a little different, perhaps even trendy and suitable for the warm humid Brazil weather.

02:20 – All the previous cheers and noise was blown out of the competition when Portugal entered the stadium. The crowd went completely wild and it sounded like it would really have rocked a lot of stadiums.

02:33 – Somalia decided to have outfits that matched the flag with a piercing light blue tracksuit with a large white patch in the middle. Not quite as in your face as an early country entered covered head to toe in bright yellow but certainly still enough to get yourself seen.

02:34 – South Sudan went for full on class with their outfits and entered fully suited and with a tie too. They danced into the stadium directly behind Sudan and will no doubt be delighted to competing in the Olympics for the first time as South Sudan after getting Olympic eligibility confirmation 2013.

02:38 – Thailand too had suits but they were more the sort you might wear to a party than to look smart. A mixture of bright blue and shiny gold for the guys really was not a very good luck. The women looked very elegant though in a velvet style two piece and generally wonderful hair and makeup. The women certainly get the co-ordinated glam award so far.

02:43 – Just a thought but imagine having to be the person that makes these outfits because designing them is easy but that is a lot of measurements to have to take. And then trying to do measurements of athletes must be a real challenge because some of them no doubt change body shape a fair amount so going for something properly fitted is risky.

02:46 – Somehow I have only just realised that the silly volunteers at the sides of the parade, wearing a multicoloured rectangle thing, actually have an arrow on them to ensure people walk in the right direction. Let us hope none of them end up getting displaced and end up confusing things.

02:51 – The 12 Refugee athletes enter the arena and get a massive cheer and ongoing clap from a very respectful crowd before the host nations of Brazil enter to an absolute eruption of noise, colour and music. The team dance and jump into the stadium as the crowd keep on clapping them in.

02:57 – After the Brazil athletes have finished making their entrance the people in silly grey and silver costumes re-enter the arena and show off the cabinets of seeds that the athletes have put in there to have planted after the ceremony comes to an end.

02:58 – All the athletes are congratulated and welcomed to the Olympic games whilst the mirrorer cabinets line themselves up, have lights shone on them with plants bursting out of them followed by green confetti to form the Olympic rings.

02:59 – There is a short burst of fireworks around the stadium to show an end to the procession part of the ceremony but it lasts as a simple short burst before a variety of officials are welcomed onto the stage in the centre of the stadium. The main person introduced is an ex-volleyball Brazil pro that helped to get the Olympics to Rio and with that there was a speech of welcoming and celebration.

03:04 – Is there a limit on how long an Olympic speech can be by just one person? He seems to be saying little in rather a lot of words and being a touch repetitive. They keep switching between Portuguese and English and it is really incredibly difficult to keep track of what he is on about. Also he is shaking like a leaf with what I can only presume to be because of nerves of being broadcast in front of millions of people.

03:10 – It keeps sounding like the speech is going to be over but “we never give up” keeps on being repeated and it iis increasingly making my want to give up because I am sure this could be a very motivational speech but I am so terribly bored of him after ten whole minutes.

03:11 – Eventually the first speech is over and he passes the podium over to the IOC’s Thomas Bach. It seems like his speech is going to be a lengthy and rather dull one too. Hardly good for the night crowd trying to stay awake. I have had less dry Christmas turkeys to eat.

03:16 – Bach makes it clear how much the refugee team is welcome and how important it is for all nations to work together whilst in the Olympic village and under the Olympic national anthem. It is genuinely a good thing for the refugee team to be involved but he is making it come across like a publicity stunt *sighs heavily*.

03:19 – A video suddenly comes up about the history of one specific person but I feel like I missed the link to it in the speech so it took a little while for me to figure out why it was happening. It involved a Kenyan runner wanting peace, love and unity and having devoted his life to protecting children and developing athletics. The man, Kipchoge Keino, received the first ever Olympic Laurel for his contribution to the games and sport throughout the years after being brought into the stadium surrounded by running children dressed in white with kites to represent doces of freedom.

03:24 – Keino does a thank you speech and pleads for everybody to unite to ensure children can have basic humanity; food, shelter and eductation. This statement gets a huge cheer from the crowd. He says “I believe we came into this world with nothing. We leave this world with nothing” but stresses the importance of education amongst youth and finishes with “thank you and may god bless you in this world”. 

03:27 – More fireworks zoom up and pop around the stadium just before the Olympic flag is carried into the stadium by a collection of Olympic athletes. The walk is rather slow as they walk past all the people in funny costumes with arrows for direction. All the countries are still standing around so any needing to use there legs tomorrow might be regretting their decision to attend.

03:32 – Afrer what felt like an absolute lifetime the flag made its way to the flagpole and was able to be raised to the Olympic anthem being sung by a group of 40 Brazilian children, though I would say more teenagers on the whole, from a project aimed at improving children’s lives throughout the country.

03:34 – There seems to be Olympic Oaths happening which I was not even aware was a thing. This may be a sign that I have normally fallen asleep out of boredom by this point in an opening ceremony. They read out statements on an Olympic piece of card whilst holding a corner of the games flag. A rather obvious thing that is clearly just one of those rather strange traditions.

03:38 – I thought the lighting of the Olympic cauldron was about to happen but instead there seems to be a few people on the stage having a sing along and getting everybody into the carnival mood. 12 groups from 12 schools then enter the stadium all with drums to add to the noise and atmosphere with extrodinary costumes.

03:43 – After rather a lot of drum banging and what I, as somebody that hates loudness, can only describe as noise the tone settled back down and became a lot more enjoyable to the ears. Machines were blowing out multi-coloured confetti all across the stadium floor and crowd which people will no doubt keep finding in the most unexpected of places in weeks to come.

03:46 – At last the moment is here. The torch is brought into the Olympic Stadium with a run by a three time French Olympic medallist. He pauses and passes the flame on to a female Brazil basketball legend. She then gives it to a man that got silver in the Athens marathon after being taken down a pensioner and it is he that puts the torch to the cauldron and lights it before it is lifted up into the air.

03:50 – The cauldron stops just in front of an item covered in mirrors and large silver balls that starts to spin, thanks to wind power, as it does so the flame light reflects off it and it becomes a truly beautiful representation of the sun against the night sky. Perhaps the best bit of the entire opening ceremony.

03:52 – Gentle music plays out around the stadium as a proccession of fireworks of all colours and styles erupt into the Rio night sky. The simplicity of the firework display combined with the music is a greatly enjoyable display to watch and with that the opening ceremony comes to an end.

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