10 Best Moments from the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony
If there's one thing the people of Rio know how to do, it's throw a party the whole world wants to attend. And the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics was just that. But it was also much more than a party. It was also a reflection on economic inequality and the fragile state of the environment. And of course, there were plenty of fireworks and innovative use of a projection system that constantly transformed the stadium floor. But it also put attention where it belongs -- on the shoulders of the athletes from more than 200 countries. Here are 10 of our favorite moments from a memorable Opening Ceremony.
1. Gisele's Long, Last Walk
It's almost 1,000 miles between the State of Rio Grande do Sul, where Gisele Bündchen was born, and Ipanema. But the supermodel made the beach town entirely her own on during the ceremony. Brazil's favorite daughter took what is purported to be her final catwalk on the largest stage possible. Wearing a silver gown and a mile-wide grin, she effortlessly strutted the length of Maracana Stadium. (She called it, "the longest runway I have ever been on.") The joyful way she commanded the attention of the stadium, not to mention the rest of the world, made us wish she had kept her epic catwalk going a little longer. But after her epic catwalk, she headed out into the crowd, where she danced and partied like a true Brazilian.
2. Environment Takes Center Stage
It's hard to remember any other show of this size taking on the perils of global warming with the kind of bluntness displayed at the opening ceremony. "The heat is melting the ice cap," echoed a voice inside the stadium over projections that showed the effects of sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions. But rather than mere doomsaying, the ceremony took a proactive approach: The more than 10,000 competitors who marched in the Parade of Nations were given tree seeds to plant and packets of soil. Overall, it was a welcome reminder that there's no time that isn't a good time to address one of our planet's most pressing crises.
3. A Nod to Brazil's Dark Past
One of the things that made the Rio Opening Ceremony stand apart -- certainly from the spectacles in Beijing and Sochi -- was its willingness to look at the darker aspects of its county. The organizers showed tremendous bravery by acknowledging Brazil’s 400 years of slavery in what proved to be one of the most reflective moments of the ceremony. Performers wore block-like shackles while projections transformed the stadium floor into the fields and plantations where slaves toiled. It was a necessary and moving moment in what turned out to be a ceremony full of them.
4. A Friday Night Flight
Watching a replica of a 14 Bis T-Wing plane that looked liked it was made by a giant fourth grader during art class take flight inside the stadium was thrilling in the moment. (It was made more so by the magic of CGI, which made it seem like the flimsy thing flew into the Rio night sky). But it was also an epic bit of shade thrown toward the United States and the deeply held contention that Americans were first in flight in 1903. As was made clear at the opening ceremony, Brazil believes that the Wright brother's air-born excursion shouldn't count and that their own Alberto Santos-Dumont invented flight three years later.
5. Accessories Worth Their Weight in Gold
Forget the medals. The best fashion accessories at this year's Olympics were on display at the opening ceremony. From perfect-for-the-weather straw hats worn by athletes from Aruba and host country Brazil, to lovely scarves worn by the dlegations from Mongolia, Benin and Barbados, to the perfect vest worn by the lone male athlete representing the Caribbean island of Dominica, Friday night was a Fashion Week's worth of perfect accessories.
6. A Team Without a Country
A year ago, Yusra Mardini was in the frigid Mediterranean desperately trying to push to safety a disabled dinghy overcrowded with refugees. On Friday, she was in the Parade of Nations, a member of a team comprised entirely of refugees, the first of its kind in Olympic history. The team, which included athletes originally from Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Congo, were met with a standing ovation in the stadium and the admiration of the world, including President Obama, who tweeted his support. "Tonight, the first-ever #TeamRefugees will also stand before the world and prove that you can succeed no matter where you're from."
7. Tonga's Oiled Up Flag Bearer
Here's a little geography refresher: Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands located in the South Pacific between Hawaii and New Zealand. It boasts a population of 105,323, slightly more than that of Billings, MT. But now it will certainly be known as the place where that super oiled up dude from the opening eremony is from. By appearing shirtless and covered in enough oil to keep well-defined muscles glistening the whole night, Tongan flag bearer and taekwondo competitor Pita Nikolas Taufatofua set Twitter ablaze during the Parade of Nations Friday. No matter how he does in his competition, Taufatofua is already a winner. And so are we.
8. Michael Phelps' Joy
Yes, the 31-year-old swimmer has already competed in four Olympics and netted a backbreaking 22 medals. But has the ultra-competitive, Baltimore-born dynamo ever really enjoyed himself? This year -- "My potential last Olympics," he joked -- he is seemingly making a point to do so. He not only marched in his first Parade of Nations but also served as his county's flag bearer. At 6'4" and sporting a smile as wide as his legendary wingspan, it was a task Phelps was ideally suited for. Now, if only he could have been shirtless and covered and in baby oil...
9. The Lighting of the Olympic Flame
Talk about a tough journey: The torch was passed between some 12,000 torchbearers and traveled through 26 Brazilian states, often met by protesters hoping to either block its progress or extinguish its flame. So there was a noticeable sense of relief when it finally lit the cauldron. The job of bringing it there fell to Vanderlei de Lima, a marathoner best known for being jumped by a defrocked Irish priest near the finish line in the 2004 Olympics. De Lima got back up and finished third that year, a symbol of resilience that ended a to be a perfect capper to an Olympics that is all about finding something positive out of a seemingly impossible situation.
10. A Carnival Only Rio Could Throw
What would the Olympics in Rio be without a carnival? With more than 1,500 dancers on the stadium floor and samba music filling the air, it was a party that had everyone at home dancing, too. There were colorful costumes and dancers with such great moves even the NBC announcers were jealous (and scrambling to look up YouTube tutorials on how to samba). It was certainly the best (and funnest) way to kick off the 2016 Olympics. Let the Games begin!
What Do YOU Think?
Did you watch the opening ceremony? What did you think? What were some of your favorite moments? Did they make the list? What ones would you add? Will you be watching the rest of the Olympics? Which sports are you most looking forward to? Share your thoughts and answers in the comments section below!
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