Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony: 'Proud' Brazil welcomes the world

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The Olympic cauldron is lit by former former marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima after tennis legend Gustavo Kuerten - affectionately known as 'Guga' in Brazil - entered the Maracana with the Olympic torch, before passing it to ex-basketball player Hortencia.

Interim Brazilian President Michel Temer declared the first Olympics in South America open on Friday, kicking off the Rio de Janeiro Games after a more than three-hour opening ceremony.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach made an appeal for unity in a troubled world Friday as the opening ceremony for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games got under way.

Bach, who has faced criticism in recent weeks for his decision not to ban Russia from the Games over a doping scandal, said the August 5-21 sporting extravaganza would send a message of hope to the watching world.

"We are living in a world of crises, mistrust and uncertainty," Bach said.

"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, we see that the values of our shared humanity are stronger than the forces which want to divide us."

Bach said the presence of the IOC's Olympic refugee team - comprising 10 athletes who have fled war or poverty to compete in Rio - was a riposte to a world "where selfishness is gaining ground, where certain people claim to be superior to others."

"You are sending a message of hope to all the many millions of refugees around the globe. You had to flee from your homes because of violence, hunger or just because you were different," Bach said.

"Now, with your great talent and human spirit you are making a great contribution to society."

Bach meanwhile said the first Olympic Games staged in South America had helped transform Rio de Janeiro.

"You have transformed the wonderful city of Rio de Janeiro into a modern metropolis and made it even more beautiful," Bach said.

☝Olympic rings explode in the sky of the Olympic Stadium #OpeningCeremony #Rio2016 #olympics 😍 pic.twitter.com/D6LgS9RWLH

 

 

Bach concluded his remarks by presenting the Olympic Laurel to Kipchoge Keino, a two-time gold medalist from Kenya who went on to open an orphanage in his homeland.

Bach's speech was preceded by one from Rio Organising Committee President Carlos Nuzman, who said "a new world is born today."

Welcome to Rio

Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman adressing the world said: "I am speaking to the whole planet, five continents, we welcome you to Rio, the Olympic city. The Olympic dream is now an Olympic reality. The best place in the world is here and now. Brazil welcomes the world with open arms."

Brazilian Olympic Committee chief Carlos Nuzman meanwhile attracted jeers - swiftly drowned out by applause - after praising the contribution of Brazil's scandal-hit federal government.

"Rio is proud to be the Olympic capital of the world," Nuzman said.

Drug-tainted

Russia's drug-tainted Olympic team entered the Rio 2016 opening ceremony here Friday to applause from Brazilian fans.

The Russians, who had faced calls to be kicked out of the Olympics after a World Anti-Doping Agency report detailed a state-backed drug scheme, were led into the Maracana Stadium by Sergey Tetyukhin.

Shooter Abhinav Bindra leads the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony. (Reuters)

Andy Murray has Olympic gold, two Wimbledon titles, a US Open crown and is currently the No. 2 player in the world.

But even for someone with his resume, Friday night stood out.

Murray was the flagbearer for Britain at the opening ceremony for the Rio Games, and says it will go down as "the proudest moment of my professional career."

Murray says he's been blown away by the flagbearer title, noting that "it doesn't get much bigger than a chance to lead out your country."

The most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps is the flag-bearer of United States as he takes parts in his fifth Games.

After 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall in his storied Olympic career, 31-year-old Michael Phelps has finally entered an opening ceremony.

Rafael Nadal, Spain's flag-bearer for a second time, was grinning behind the scenes before walking into Maracana.

He is pleased to return to the Olympic Games after missing out of London 2012 because of injury.

For the first time in Australia's Olympic history, the delegation comprises more women than men to the Olympic Games. There are 215 women and 206 men at Rio 2016.

Germany was one of the first teams to enter the opening ceremony, much to the delight of one fan in particular.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach - a 1976 gold medalist in fencing for his native country - stood and waved with both hands as the Germans walked into Maracana Stadium.

The parade of nations has started, and as always Greece is leading off. Two-time Olympic sailing medalist Sofia Bekatorou is the flagbearer.

The nations will be entering in alphabetical order based on the spelling of their names in Portuguese.

For the first time, the opening ceremony athletes are being given an extra job. They will each be handed seeds and a small cartridge to plant a tree.

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.

The show drew homegrown stars, like supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who walked across the sands 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.

Gisele wore a floor-length gown designed by Alexandre Herchcovitch.

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

The creative minds behind the opening ceremony were determined to put on a show that would not offend a country in dire economic straits but would showcase the famously upbeat nature of Brazilians.

It started with the beginning of life itself in Brazil, and the population that formed in the vast forests and built their communal huts, the ocas.

The Portuguese bobbed to shore in boats, the African slaves rolled in on wheels and together they plowed through the forests and planted the seeds of modern Brazil.

The mega-cities of Brazil formed in a dizzying video display as acrobats jumped from roof to roof of emerging buildings and then on to the steep favela that served as the front stage for the ceremony.

From the favela came Brazilian funk, a contemporary mash-up of 20th century rhythms, sung by stars Karol Conka and MC Soffia.

Before the entry of hundreds of the 11,000 athletes that will be competing in the Games, the playful rhythms of the ceremony gave way to a sober message about climate change and rampant deforestation of the Amazon.

Each athlete will be asked to plant seeds that will eventually grow into trees and be planted in the Athletes Forest in Rio in a few years.

Still to come, Brazilians waited to see who had been selected to light the Olympic cauldron after soccer great Pele declined to take part because of health problems.

The moment everyone was waiting for.

The Rio Olympics opening ceremony started with fireworks and laser lit choreography on Friday as Brazil sought to forget seven years of troubled preparations and the Olympic movement to temporarily put aside its doping crisis.

Under the gaze of Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue, 78,000 packed packed into the iconic Maracana Stadium to watch four-hour party with Michael Phelps and other sporting superstars taking centre stage in South America's first Olympics.

Brazilian singer Paulinho da Viola sang the national anthem with children to set off the show of laser lights and elaborate dances before the athletes' parade.

France's President Francois Hollande and Argentina's Mauricio Macri were among a handful of state leaders in the VIP box with Brazil's troubled interim leader Michel Temer.   

Organisers said the opening ceremony aimed to send a message of tolerance and respect.

The ceremony launches 17 days of sporting drama led by a cast of elite athletes including sprint king Usain Bolt and swimming superstar Phelps which wraps up on August 21.

At most Games the lighting of the flame is a highlight.

And the secret of the Rio flame returned ahead of the ceremony when Brazilian football great Pele, 75, said he could not carry the torch because of poor health.  

The first gold medal should be awarded on Saturday in shooting.

All eyes will be on American swimming star Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, when he returns to the pool in the first week.

Track and field will see Jamaican star Bolt aim to defend his 100m, 200m and 4x100m crowns by clinching all three for the third straight Games.

Gymnastics, meanwhile, could see the world find a new darling with America's teenage star Simone Biles while new sports making their debut in Rio will include seven-a-side rugby and golf.

Fireworks explode above the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. (AFP)

The Opening Ceremony marking Rio 2016 is underway as a video screen beamed into the Maracana as they audience is taken on an aerial tour of the city.

A football game played on a high-rise building, swimmers doing laps of a rooftop pool, a run through the city streets that eventually leads us high above the forest surrounding Rio de Janeiro. A city where sport and nature are part of the fabric.

The Rio Olympics opening ceremony got under way at the iconic Maracana Stadium on Friday, kicking off a four-hour celebration to herald the 31st Olympiad.

One of the themes of the evening is the gambiarra, described as “the Brazilian talent for making the most out of nothing.”

Performers take part in the opening ceremony. (Reuters)

Dozens of heads of state were among a crowd of thousands  as the ceremony started with fireworks and a dance by performers.

Brazilian tennis great Gustavo Kuerten has been selected to light the Olympic Cauldron at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after soccer great Pele declined to take part because of health problems, the UOL Internet news service reported on Friday.

Kuerten's spokeswoman told Reuters her client has not received an invitation. There was no confirmation from ceremony organisers, who have kept details of the event under wraps.

Kuerten, 39 is from Florianopolis Brazil, participated in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens, is a former No. 1 ranked player and won three French Open titles.

Poor health

Brazilian soccer legend Pele will not light the Olympic cauldron at Friday's opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics due to poor health, a spokesman for the three-time World Cup winner said.

"Right now I am not in physical condition to take part in the opening of the Olympics," the 75-year-old said in a statement published by Brazilian media.

Pele, who in 1999 was elected by the International Olympic Committee as the Athlete of the Century and whose full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is considered by many as the greatest soccer player of all time.

Pele, 75, underwent hip surgery at the end of last year and his rehabilitation has been difficult.

Pepito Fornos, a Pele spokesman, confirmed to Reuters by telephone that Pele would not light the cauldron, saying that "the muscles in his leg that is being rehabilitated are not sufficiently strong enough".

"He is walking with a cane. The problem is that if he sits in a chair you need a winch to get him out of it," Fornos said. "His doctor thought it best that he continues physiotherapy, that he rests and we hope that he will be able to appear at the (Olympic) closing."

Pele said earlier this week that he had been asked to light the cauldron, but also said he needed to consult some commercial sponsors on whether he contractually would be able to do that.

Organisers have kept light-tipped about the details of the ceremony and had not confirmed whether Pele would take part, repeatedly refusing to comment on who might light the cauldron - the symbol of the Games that remains lit until the closing ceremony.

Despite being named Athlete of the Century, Pele never actually competed in an Olympics.

Pele has often joked that Brazil has never won an Olympic gold medal in soccer because he never played for the team.

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