The 2016 Summer Olympics officially kicked off with a colorful and heart-pounding ceremony at Rio’s Maracana Stadium on Friday night.

Rio Olympics Begin With Colorful Ceremony At Maracana Stadium

Broadcast to an estimated audience of three billion, the ceremony celebrated Brazil’s history and culture with a beautiful light and sound display, before former marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima lit the Olympic cauldron.

The months leading up to the Games have been marked by deep turmoil in Brazil. A recession, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff– who has been suspended over allegations she covered up federal budget gaps with funds from state-owned banks during an election year–political protests, security concerns, polluted waters, and fears over the mosquito-born Zika virus have all caused several notable athletes to avoid participating.

Wimbledon champion and 2012 gold medallist Andy Murray led Great Britain’s team into the stadium. Murray said representing Britain as the flag bearer would be the proudest moment of his career.


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The Games, the first to be held in South America, have also been plagued by the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal, as well as problems with the infrastructure and venues.

However, organizers now hope the attention can be brought back to the competition, which will feature over 10,000 athletes, 28 sports, and 207 national delegations.

The cauldron was lit by de Lima, who won bronze for Brazil in the marathon at the 2004 games after he was grabbed by a spectator while leading the race.

Brazilian soccer legend Pele had said he would not perform the honored task, saying he was not in the right “physical condition.”

The budget for the opening ceremony was believed to be significantly lower than the £30 million ($39.2 million) spent at the London Games in 2012.

Although Rio’s opening event did not equal the spectacular ceremony directed by filmmaker Danny Boyle four years ago, Friday’s show did prove to be a brilliant show that combined light displays, fireworks, dancing and music.

Following a sensational rendition of the Brazilian national anthem, sung and played on acoustic guitar by singer-songwriter Paulinho da Viola, video projections beamed on to the floor of the stadium traced the history of the country.

Beginning with images of micro-organisms dividing– representing the origin of life– the ceremony highlighted the contributions made by Brazil’s indigenous peoples, by Portuguese explorers, by African slaves and by Japanese immigrants to Brazil’s history and culture.

Performers pirouetted and danced across projections of giant buildings, symbolizing the different cities of Brazil, while a recreation of a 14-bis biplane – the invention of Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont – drew one of the biggest cheers of the evening as it flew out of the arena.

The Russian team, which was reduced to 271 athletes from an initial 289 following revelations of state-sponsored doping in the country, did not elicit any sort of particularly negative reaction from the audience.

A team made up of refugee athletes– the penultimate to enter the Maracana–received the warmest welcome.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said the team were sending “a message of hope to the millions of refugees around the globe”.

The crowd of 60,000 erupted with noise when the Brazilian team, with 2012 modern pentathlon bronze medallist Yane Marques flying the nation’s flag, appeared in the stadium last of all, to chants of “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil”.

Meanwhile, thousands of protestors lined the boulevard alongside Copacabana beach, calling for the removal of interim president Michel Temer. President Rousseff will face a Senate vote on Tuesday that will decide whether an impeachment trial will begin.

There were smaller demonstrations near the Maracana, with about 200 protesters marching from the Saens Pena square in Tijuca to the stadium.

IOC president Bach talked positively about the Games, despite organizational problems in the build-up.

“All Brazilians can be very proud tonight,” he said. “With the Olympic Games as a catalyst, you have achieved in only seven years what generations before you could only dream of.

“You have transformed Rio de Janiero into a modern metropolis and made it even more beautiful. You managed this at a very difficult time in Brazilian history. We have always believed in you.”

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