The Best Lessons From the 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony

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It is a rare occasion that I cover, or even pay attention, to sports. I think we can all agree that the Olympics is no regular sporting event. The largest, oldest, most welcoming sporting event in the world has made its way to Rio for the summer of 2016. Before the actual games can get fully underway, the host country must officially welcome the world to their stage during the Olympic Opening Ceremony. The point of the opening ceremony is twofold. First, it’s a welcome to all the athletes, delegates, and fans who’ve come to enjoy or participate in the games. Secondly, it’s an opportunity to show the world exactly what the host country is all about; the country’s history, it’s beliefs, the culture, the people.

As Brazil didn’t have the budget, a little creativity had to be input. Producers utilized local talent and impressive projection effects to take the world on a journey of Brazil’s history. The rich tribute to indigenous groups of the country with elements of the Amazon rainforest were stunning. Matt Lauer’s reaction to Brazilians thinking that the Wright Brothers were not in fact the first to invent flying, not so much. At least we got stunning views of the city out of that.

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Gisele Bundchen walked her last ‘catwalk’ as she walked to center stage as “The Girl From Ipanema” played. If I’m honest, the moment might have been more poignant had Helo Pinheiro, the woman who actually was the girl from Ipanema, had made an appearance.

You can’t talk about Brazil without picturing the favelas of Rio. The poorest area of the city has the richest modern culture, especially when it comes to dance and music. Several fusions of old and new styles of Brazilian music fused as one against the backdrop of favela reminiscent structures which rose from the floor. This scene included one of the most impressive displays of rap music I’ve heard in years, greatly rivaling that of our American-born rappers I’d say. Maybe this will inspire all of us to learn a little Portugese? (A lesson in Linguistics: Spanish, Portugese, French, and Italian are all rooted in Latin.)

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An hour in the tone changes a bit. The music and dancing becomes sharper, illustrating and recognizing the conflict that Brazil has. It’s a way to show that Brazil is just like every other country, a unique way to reach out to the world and welcome them to Brazil and say “we’re not so different”.

A scary, but too real to be ignored PSA about global warming was prominent during the show. It’s a message that needs to be heard, and the idea for The Athlete’s Forest was the perfect positive step. Each Olympic athlete will plant a seed in what the country hopes will someday be known as The Athlete’s Forest.

The Parade of Nations was a mix of tradition and new excitement. Greece lead the way, thereafter countries were introduced in alphabetical order according to the Portugese alphabet. Each delegation was lead in by a flower-pot bearing bicycle with seeds for the Athlete’s Forest. Michael Phelps lead the way for Team USA, the largest delegation in the world, with a higher percentage of female delegates than men. An element that is very 21st century Matt Lauer note of, that he’s probably never seen so many selfie sticks.

The games are really trying not to let politics interfere with the games. Countries in turmoil like Libya and France held their heads up high marching into the stadium, as did Russia whose recent doping allegations have clouded some of the country’s excitement, though there weren’t really smiles from North Korea. Hmmm. Many countries like South Sudan competing for the first time in these Olympic games. However nothing compared to the cheers that filled the stadium for the Refugee Olympic Team, which could only have been drowned out by the cheers for Brazil.

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The closing of the Olympic Opening Ceremony concluded with the country’s take on the Olympic rings, a shower of green shooting up into the sky out of large reflective boxes made into the shape of the rings. This ancient, unifying symbol was backed up by IOC President, who talked at length about the ‘Olympic World’ being an example for hope for a better world in general. When the Olympic Torch finally lit the cauldron it was against the backdrop of what could only be described as a golden, rotating chandelier structure which has earned its place in a modern art museum when the Olympics are over.

Those are my favorite moments. What are yours from the ceremony? How did Rio’s Opening compare to that of Olympics’ past?

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