Thomas Bach, the IOC president, is introduced – he’s not booed like Sepp Blatter was at World Cups in his days of ruin. And then a lovely rendition of the Brazilian national anthem by Paulinho Da Viola, as the Brazilian flag is raised with athletes draped in the flag looking on. A simple, classy opening.
As it’s an Olympics opening ceremony, we start with a lot of people – 1,000 we are told – holding up tiles to create some pretty shapes, and a countdown from 10 to 0. Then we’re hit by another opening ceremony favourite – drummers – who help create a storm of noise and movement out of which rises the peace symbol. But wait! It’s inverting! Has Brazil used this ceremony to covertly usher in the apocalypse? No – phew. The symbol actually looks like a tree upside down, and this is a sign of the environmental message we’ll be getting in this ceremony. That or the end of days, anyway.
at 7.13pm EDT
We’re close now, the stadium is bathed in a blue-purple light and the noise in the Maracańa is rising. We’re treated to early shots of the ocean breaking on Rio’s beaches. And then, inevitably, football. Not the 2014 World Cup semi-final, mind.
at 7.02pm EDT
If you’re expecting a comparable experience to the Beijing or London opening ceremonies then you may be disappointed. Because the Rio organisers have decided shipping in 12 millions drummers may be a waste of money. Tonight’s ceremony is estimated to cost something like 5% of the Beijing opening ceremony and 10% of the London one.
It’s a little known fact that the Olympics isn’t just about various officials from around the world getting free tickets to sporting events. There are athletes here too. And we’ve compiled a handy list of the 100 most compelling ones to watch over the next few weeks:
The streets of Rio are quiet tonight so far, despite some predictions of strife. Here’s Jonathan Watts on the ground:
A protest in Cinelandia had been called on Facebook (the usual medium to rally the disaffected to demonstrations) but nobody showed up. Another called at Maracana also appears to have come to naught. So far this evening’s threatened anti-government or anti-Olympic activity has been less than a damp squib.
Our own Bryan Graham is at the stadium, and says security is tight:
If the Maracanã Stadium is not the most safeguarded public space in the world right now it certainly feels like it. The atmosphere around the 66-year-old ground, one of only two venues to host two World Cup finals, can best be described as a demilitarized zone: roads have been closed throughout the area with only official vehicles granted clearance through security checkpoints. As our bus from the main press center in Barra made the final approach, uniformed officers from a various forces and agencies could be seen scattered throughout the area: positioned on ramps and nearby rooftops, inspecting trash bins, moving about in loose formations.
And Jonathan Watts, out Brazil correspondent, says there have been outbreaks of trouble around the city but not as bad as the last time the country hosted a major event:
The demonstrations do not seem as big or as violent as those before the World Cup in 2014, but there is still clearly a lot of frustration.
The latest in Saens Pena has just been broken up by Military Police shock troops, apparently using percussion grenades. Families in the main plaza were sent running, according to Chris Gaffney, a senior researcher at the University of Zurich. He said the police response was disproportionate because the crowd was peaceful and the demonstration had begun winding down from a peak of about 450 people to about 150 – and were outnumbered by almost twice that number of police.
The biggest protest so far was at Copacabana earlier in the afternoon, when several thousand people – many wearing the red of the ousted Workers Party government – called for the removal of the interim president Michel Temer with chants of “Fora Temer” (Temer Out). It mostly passed peacefully, though there were reports of police using pepper spray.
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Who is going to light the Olympic cauldron?
Unfortunately it won’t be Brazil’s most famous athlete,
Pele. The football legend will be unable to attend tonight’s ceremony due to ill health. “At this point I’m not physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics,” the 75-year-old said in a statement. “As a Brazilian, I ask God to bless all who participate in this event and to make it a great success.”
Sources confirm that Robinho is still available though, although three-time French Open tennis player Gustavo Kuerten is many people’s tip to step in.
at 6.21pm EDT
Tonight’s creative director
At London 2012 we got Danny Boyle who is best known for Trainspotting, a film about people having a good time on drugs before it all goes wrong. Tonight we have Fernando Meirelles who is best known for City of God, a film about people having a good time on drugs before it goes REALLY wrong. Any Japanese directors who fancy a go at the Tokyo 2020 ceremony may want to start thinking about a project involving the Japanese underworld right about now.
What tonight has in store
Rumours are that tonight’s ceremony will contain environmental themes, warning of the dangers of deforestation and climate change. Expect, therefore, Donald Trump to deny the ceremony is taking place.
at 6.57pm EDT
Let the Games begin
Hello, and welcome to live coverage of the opening ceremony of the [checks year] 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The Beijing ceremony in 2008 gave us the most impressive choreography this side of a One Direction concert, while 2012 gave us the sight of the Queen parachuting out of a helicopter with James Bond as she played warm-up to the most important person in Britain, David Beckham.
So what have Brazil got in store for us? Well, apparently they’ve been channeling the spirit of … MacGyver, the 80s TV spy who would spend each episode desperately trying to get himself out of trouble by cobbling together every day junk:
“Our budget was not on a par with expectations and we got used to this – makeshift improvising, being MacGyver,” said Daniela Thomas, a film director on the team who also oversaw Rio’s contribution to London’s ceremonies in 2012. “We have to do it with the resources we have but this is not a problem. Out of this MacGyver-ing came what was basically pure creativity.”
Let’s hope this doesn’t end up being a metaphor for the entire Games.
at 5.07pm EDT