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Boisterous ceremony silences the doubters

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Perched at the peak of Mount Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer peered on approvingly from high above the Maracanã Stadium during last night's Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Visible from almost everywhere in Rio, the outstretched arms of the iconic statue welcomed more than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries to the first Olympics to be held in South America.

The fluorescent glow emanating from the symbol of Christianity, fittingly in Brazil's yellow and green colours, seemed to dissipate the gloom that has enveloped the build-up to these Games.

Swarms of virus-carrying mosquitoes, construction delays and filthy water containing “drug resistant” bacteria are among the carnival of challenges to have faced Rio.

Only time will tell whether the savage skewering from the sharpened pens of the world's media was justified or simply pre-competition bashing of Olympic proportions.

One thing is for certain, though: if ever there was a Games in need of a boost in self-esteem, it was this one.

For Rio is a very different city to the one awarded the Olympics seven years ago, with the scaled-back ceremony reflecting the harsh economic realities of the country, costing about half of the $42 million spent by London in 2012.

Fortunately, Rio does not require riches, or an excuse for that matter, to throw a seriously wild party.

If anything, the absence of grandiosity, special effects and technological wizardry felt appropriate considering Rio's renowned “gambiarra” — the ability to keep functioning with makeshift fixes.

That is not to say there was an absence of stardust.

The heavenly Gisele Bündchen saw to that, with the Brazilian Übermodel and wife of NFL star Tom Brady embracing her inner “Girl from Ipanema” in typically elegant fashion in her last, long catwalk.

Much like the Cariocas who inhabit “the Magnificent City”, Tyrone Smith is someone who does not appear to need a reason to let his hair down.

Smith will look to “fly” when he competes in the long jump next week, although his wings were slightly clipped by his flag-bearing responsibilities during the Parade of Nations.

Proudly holding the island's colours aloft meant the beaming Smith was forced to rein in his trademark dance moves that turned him into a Twitter sensation at London 2012.

Still, he managed to celebrate his individuality by sporting an extravagant blond-flecked hairdo styled especially for his third, and perhaps, final Olympics.

With his uniform failing to turn up in Rio, Smith also entered into the “do more with less” spirit of the ceremony, cobbling something together in time for the curtain-raiser.

The only Bermudian absentee was Flora Duffy, with the medal hopeful arriving at the Olympics next week ahead of her triathlon competition.

No doubt she joined in at home with the chorus of cheers from the 50,000 spectators as her team-mates marched through the heart of the famous football stadium in their unique red Bermuda shorts.

The boisterous ceremony, superbly put together by City of God director Fernando Ferreira Meirelles, came to a close when Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, a marathon bronze medal-winner in Athens in 2004, lit the Olympic flame.

Maybe the divine intervention critics believed was necessary to turn Rio 2016 into a success will not be required after all.

Even so, if this Olympics is in need of some salvation, last night's quintessential Brazilian party certainly provided a drop of the good stuff.

The nod of approval from Christ the Redeemer was almost tangible.

We have lift-off: fireworks explode during the opening ceremony at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last night (Photograph by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/AP)
Impressive start: fireworks explode during the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio (Photograph by Lee Jin Man/AP)

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Published August 06, 2016 at 3:54 am (Updated August 06, 2016 at 12:56 pm)

Boisterous ceremony silences the doubters

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