Sunday, August 7, 2016

2016 Summer Olympics: The Opening Ceremony

Hollywood Reporter:
President Barack Obama spoke to NBC ahead of the opening of the Rio Games., saying the Games build a sense of "common humanity" as countries pursue the ideal of sending their best to compete "in a spirit of goodwill."

Before the show, in a video broadcast, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the games "celebrate the best of humanity" and appealed for an Olympic truce, calling on "all warring parties to lay down their weapons" during the two weeks of sporting achievement.

The President of the International Olympic Committee said the Rio Games will promote peace. Thomas Bach said all Brazilians "can be very proud tonight," then went on to talk about the importance of these Olympics.

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."

Bach added that in this Olympic world, "we are all equal" — words that were met with applause.

Greece, the historical and spiritual home of the games, led the march by athletes from 205 nations and territories into the stadium.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, led Team USA, the largest with 549 competitors. After 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall in his storied Olympic career, Phelps as the flagbearer led the contingent of red, white and blue-clad American athletes. History's greatest Olympian will be looking to add to his record haul of 22 medals, in three individual swims plus relays.

More than 500 Americans are on the Olympic team, though as was the case with Phelps in past years, not all of them marched in the opening. Phelps' competition schedule kept him from attending the first four openings of his Olympic career, and many athletes from around the world — if they're competing on Saturday — tend to pass on the ceremony.

Tennis star Andy Murray — who has Olympic gold, two Wimbledon titles, a U.S. Open crown and is currently the No. 2 player in the world — was the flagbearer for Britain. He will play both singles and doubles in Rio, the latter alongside his brother Jamie.

Iran picked a woman, archer Zahra Nemati, as flag-bearer for its team made up overwhelmingly of men. Nemati, who is competing at the Olympics and Paralympics, where she's a defending gold medalist, had a big smile and a wave for the crowd as she carried Iran's flag into the opening ceremony in her wheelchair.

Russia is paying the price in the shape of a smaller team, whittled down from a 389 athletes to around 270. Yet the International Olympic Committee decided not to ban the entire Russian Olympic team despite a detailed report last month by the The World Anti-Doping Agency that found evidence of systematic, state-sponsored doping in Russia dating back to 2010. The report last month found there were recurring cases of "disappearing positive samples" at the Moscow lab where athletes and para-athletes were tested. That investigation produced 35 names of Russian para-athletes who had disappearing samples, the IPC said.

Now, Russia's entire Paralympic team is banned from next month's Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro as part of the same doping scandal that also cost Russia a large part of its Olympic team. The Olympic Games, which opened Friday, run through Aug. 21 in Rio, while the the Paralympics will be held in the city from Sept. 7 through 18.

With fireworks forming the word "Rio" in the sky, hip-wiggling dancers and supermodel Gisele Bundchen shimmering to the tune of the "Girl from Ipanema," the 78,000-seat Maracana Stadium welcomed the world to the first Olympic Games in South America with a serious message: Let's take better care of our planet.

The ceremony, which was a showcase for Brazil's history, culture, diversity and hopes, was something the opening ceremony creative director would be "a drug for depression in Brazil." Fernando Meirelles, the Oscar-nominated and renowned Brazilian director of 2002's City of God, took to Twitter earlier on Friday to say the GOP presidential nominee "will hate the ceremony." Meirelles said their budget was slashed by half as Brazil's economic recession bit ever harder.

The show wasn't all frivolous and fun. Images showed swirling clouds of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in the Earth's atmosphere and images of world cities and regions — Amsterdam, Florida, Shanghai, Dubai — being swamped by rising seas. The peace symbol, tweaked into the shape of a tree, was projected on the floor of the stadium where Germany won the World Cup in 2014.

"The heat is melting the icecap," a voice intoned. "It's disappearing very quickly."

The athletes were being given tree seeds, plus cartridge of soil. When they sprout, they will be planted in a Rio park. There's 207 species of trees being planted, one for each delegation at the games. Years from now, organizers of the Rio Games hope there's 11,000 new trees in Brazil — one for each athlete at the Games.


"Perhaps it was fitting that Brazil chose to raise awareness about climate change when the world was tuned into the opening moments of the Olympics. The country is home to about one-third of the world’s rainforests, and more than half the Amazon rainforest lies within its borders, according to Climate Central. Significant chunks of that land has been lost to deforestation, and drier, hotter weather is expected to stress the rainforests only more in coming years."

Daily Beast:
0: The number of times the Brazil men’s soccer team has won Olympic gold. Led by Neymar and guided by new coach Rogerio Micale, the team hopes to change that—and redeem themselves after a truly substandard Copa America performance in June.

1: The number of Olympic Games hosted in South America (including this one). Rio de Janeiro won the bid in 2009 beating out Tokyo, Chicago, and Madrid.

3: As of April, Rio had three times the number of identified Zika cases of any other city in Brazil. Due to the high infection rate, over two months ago scientists made the recommendation that the Olympics should be postponed or relocated due to the threat of Zika.

3 teaspoons: The volume of water open-water athletes would need to ingest to be “almost certain” of contracting a virus. Bob Costas advised athletes competing in the open water swimming competitions: “Try to keep your mouth closed.” Seems like solid advice.

10: The number of athletes competing for the Refugee Olympic Team. They will compete under the Olympic flag. The team includes two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the DRC, a marathon runner from Ethiopia, and five runners from South Sudan.

112: The number of years since there has been an Olympic golf tournament. The IOC decided to reinstate it after its extended hiatus, and commissioned American architect Gil Hanse to design the course. Golf was only in the official Olympic program in 1900 and 1904. 41 countries will compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic golf tournament.

480: The number of Olympic-size swimming pools that would be required to hold the sewage that flows into Rio’s waters every day (that’s approximately 1.2 billion litres of raw wastewater daily).

450,000: The number of condoms the IOC will provide for the 10,000-plus athletes staying in the Olympic village. According to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, the IOC will provide 350,000 male condoms, 100,000 female condoms, and 175,000 packets of lube. That’s approximately 42 condoms per athlete.

More information:
» The Atlantic: "The Olympics Haven't Always Been an Economic Disaster"

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