Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony à la Brazil

At time of writing only a few days left till the magic over. But I wanted to reflect on the fascinating and spectacular opening ceremony in Rio few weekends ago. Did you happen to watch it? I had a relaxing Saturday morning starting off my weekend in front of television watching live cast (yes I skipped my usual morning run).

So why the event was special?
• Rio is the first city in South America to organise and host an Olympic Games.
• The live performances combined with samba and salsa – thanks to music being central part in Brazilian culture. And the first time I heard the song that famous internationally – Garota De Ipanema.
• It was great to see performances that highlighted the vibrancy people of Rio including the immigrants that came and be part of the city dwellers.
• The themes or messages each hosting city of nation trying to convey message across. For Rio 2016, issues on global warming, climate change (yes my Dubai was highlights as one of cities will be flooded due to rising sea level), and care for rain-forest.
• Each athletes has given a seed (about 11000 in total) from 300 native Brazilian species which they planted in capsule when they entered the stadium. Can you imagine the legacy of Athletes Rainforest for future generation as these seeds being planted in Rio’s urban park?
• Then, the moment of unforgettable Olympic cauldron being lit up – ended our guessing on who’s selected one to carry the famous torch. So I thought Pelé going to be the one, instead Vanderlei de Lima the marathon bronze medalist did the honour.
• Olympic Laurel Award – Kipchiego Keno, Kenyan four Olympic medals winner who ran since aged 8 to and from his school, now the 76 years was the first award recipient for his contribution in community. He said, we came with nothing and we’ll leave with nothing except love, peace and unity.”

In fact it has been my routine for many years – how could anyone miss out on one in four years chance to check out athletes entering the well-lit stadium among joyful crowds? No I didn’t fancy watching parade at all. But as a sport lover and passionate traveler I found these few hours very exciting and inspiring. Seeing athletes from all 5 different continents marched proudly no matter how small or big their contingents are definitely moment of treasure. This is when I envy a friend on Facebook just ‘checked into’ Rio’s Maracana Stadium.

So what can we learn from the contingents and the countries? Plenty of facts to keep my travel bug and sense of discovery alive. Inspiring story of athletes representing small countries when they received invitation from International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bring universality and encourage sport development in less developed nations. As below in chronology of countries announced in French (being the official language of IOC) are some remarks as I listened to the live commentary:
1. Bermuda – can’t looked more dashing in their Bermuda shorts
2. Bhutan – sent 2 archeries out of 3 athletes being the national and most popular sport.
3. Belize – Second largest coral reef system behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
4. Congo (or Republic of Congo) vs Democratic Republic of The Congo (DROC of simply The Congo) – the first one, a French colony situated in West Africa and the latter (a Belgian colony) in Central Africa. Fascinating read here about the tale of two.
5. Croatia – note to self to visit beautiful Split (second largest city after Dubrovnik), the city proud themselves as the most Olympic medal winners per capita.
6. Mongolia – less densely populated country in the world ( in bucket list for sure)
7. Macedonia – hard to believe this country features the most mountain and peaks in the world. Perhaps I spent most time in Lake Ohrid during my trip there.
8. Kosovo – first Olympic since joining IOC in 2014 and won first medal thru judo, gold of course!
9. Spain – great to see Rafael Nadal carried the flag for second time which he did previously in London.
10. Nauru – smallest island country in the world of 21 square metres in South Pacific with only 2 athletes which one of them was the flag bearer.
11. Iran – the female flag bearer in wheeled chair competes in archery apparently qualified both for Paralympic and this Rio Olympic.
12. Palestine – the largest team of 6 ever sent including 2 females (swimmer and marathon runner).
13. Kenya – how about a javelin thrower learning to throw from You Tube? Salute to self-taught one and only Julius Yego.
14. Chinese Taipei – this designated name used by Republic of China to participate in sporting events. The common name which are Taiwan or Republic of China are not being used due to opposition by People’s Republic of China.
15.Tuvalu – this Pacific Island sends only one athlete competing in 100 metre.
16. Zimbabwe – last country by alphabet before Republic of Refugee and the hosting nation.
17. Brazil – did you know Rio claimed to be city with the world largest urban forest?
18. Countries never heard of – Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Liechtenstein, Moldova, and Palau.
19. Separate Olympic Teams:
•Independent Olympic Athletes – made up of Kuwait athletes since the country has been suspended by OIC due to their government interference in election of sporting organisations.
Republic of Refugee – the first ever team of 10 which IOC selected to compete under the Olympic flags. Each amazing athletes had to face their life struggle being forced to leave their own home (this more than enough to shut me up, train harder and then repeat). Here I also learnt about Syrian swimmer, Yusra Mardini who rescued a vessel of 20 people off Turkey coast to Greek island.

United In and For Sport
I experienced this myself being amateur athlete. Heard it many times but to witness it in Olympics that is reassuring and surpass all negative forces. The president of IOC, Thomas Bach in his speech summarised below could not amplified more on the critical values despite the current world environment of heighten crisis, mistrust and uncertainty:

• We are all equal, values we shared are stronger than forces that want to divide us
• Urge athletes to respect Olympics value for own selves and entire world
• Selfishness around us and feeling of superior to other but Olympic provides answer through solidarity
• Refugee sending message of hope that they can give great contribution to society
• In Olympics we do not only tolerate diversity but the refugees give enrichment to our diversity
• Sport as service to humanity

Hope you’ve made the most of this Olympic Republic à la Brazil. Few days left to feel the awe of the camaraderie, sportsmanship and spectacular spirit of each athletes. I am so looking forward for relay 100m and 200m – the events I represented my school a long time ago. What is your favorite moment during this past weeks in Rio?

Live To Thrive,