Samba de Janeiro

While the first day of competition is in full swing, let’s recap for a moment what we witnessed tonight. It was a ceremony that was in many ways quite different from those in London or Beijing. The organizing committee and especially the ceremony’s directors had to deal with significant budget cuts, and, in a way, that was the best thing that could have happened…

No, it was not a spectacular, overwhelming, never before seen, superlative-loaded show. But maybe exactly because of that, everybody just had a really good time. The audience was singing along to every single tune they played, and it didn’t take long until the entire stadium was just dancing and singing and enjoying the night. The athletes joined in immediately. Many of them, including several flagbearers, made their way into the arena dancing.

There were a number of beautiful ideas that had been woven into the show. First and foremost the idea of giving each of the 11,000 athletes a seed to plant was quite a nice move. The seeds will later grow into an athletes’ forest at a different location in Rio de Janeiro. Another absolutely beautiful part was the stunning rendition of Brazil’s national anthem, sung by Paulinho da Viola.

Of course, there were those inevitable speeches, which are usually far too long, regardless how long they actually are. I have to say that this is very true for the speech of IOC-president Thomas Bach. In comparison, his opening speech in Sochi was quite inspirational. This one, well, not so much. And the one quote that stood out was ‘In this Olympic world we are all equal.’ With the ‘Russian affair’ on my mind, I couldn’t avoid thinking of that famous quote from George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ at that point… On the other hand he did not mention one word that has been a part of every IOC-President’s opening speech since Juan Antonio Samaranch: Doping…

The speech of the OCOG’s head Carlos Nuzman was in a way quite enjoyable. Not so much for its content, but he was so much into it and got so emotional about it. And his ‘outstanding quote’ was even better than Bach’s: ‘Thomas Bach always believes in the sex… ehm, success…’

At the end it was on Vanderlei de Lima to light the Olympic Flame, who was so tragically robbed of an Olympic Gold Medal in the Marathon of Athens 2004 and who reacted to that seemingly bitter defeat, immediately afterwards, with so much decency and character. In my opinion, he was a perfect choice. Even if Pelé, whom I wish all the best and a speedy recovery, had been available, I would still have given that honour to de Lima.

And now, the flame is burning, the Games have begun! Let’s make history!

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