The Real Heroes of the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony
The 2016 Summer Olympics have officially begun!
It was the usual heart-swelling experience, watching the hardest-working athletes in the world file into Rio de Janeiro’s Maracaña Stadium during tonight’s Opening Ceremony, from the 550-strong delegation of the United States to the proud one-man contingent of Tuvalu.
But there’s no such thing anymore as a major global extravaganza that doesn’t have at least a dozen sideshows simultaneously stealing the show out from under the main event. Not every distraction is immediately apparent, though, with some garnering live notice in prime-time, others standing out upon reflection and yet still others completely the result of viewers at home whipping themselves into a frenzy.
All are part of what makes the Olympic Opening Ceremony such a can’t-miss event. But in case you missed these parts of the show, may we present the real heroes of the 2016 Rio Games so far:
Alexandre Herchcovitch: Of course all of Gisele Bündchen‘s glam squad deserves a standing ovation, the Brazilian supermodel a vision of perfection tonight as she walked what’s been rumored to have been her last catwalk ever, across the stadium and into her future. But the fact that no one saw too much despite her fierce strut is thanks to the immaculate construction of her gold-sequined column dress, with a slit up-to-there, by the Brazilian designer.
Nostalgia Hometown hero Pele, one of the most revered athletes in the world, was rumored to be Brazil’s choice to light the Olympic flame at the end of the night; but the 75-year-old soccer legend pulled out of participating entirely, saying he had his health to consider and, “I’m not in physical condition to take part in the opening ceremony.”
Kinetics: Still, it was a stunning sight as always to see that cauldron send fire exploding into the night sky. Tennis player Gustavo Kuerten carried the Olympic torch into the stadium, where he passed it off to basketball player Hortência Marcari, who gave it to marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, who in turn lit the flame!
“Bolivian Crying Boy”: Or so Twitter initially dubbed swimmer José Alberto Quintanilla, who visibly wept with joy as the 12-person Bolivian delegation made its way through the stadium—a touching picture of what the Olympic Games are really about.
The Refugee Team: And this is the picture of heart. Ten athletes from war-torn nations who have been verified as refugees by the United Nations will be competing in track, swimming and judo without the backing of a specific country. Every athlete’s Olympic journey is different, but these men and women represent a level of determination that should serve as an inspiration for all. They deservedly basked in a standing ovation, waving small white flags simply stamped with the Olympic rings.
Souvenirs: This woman was hardly the only attendee wearing every piece of Olympic memorabilia that’s for sale outside the stadium.
LSD: Acid was the prevailing key word on Twitter throughout Brazil’s dazzling presentation of its origin story (from the giant mechanical spider and insects and the formation of the Amazon’s incomparable ecosystem to the nation’s onetime status as a primary destination for African slaves to the rise of the urban favelas to ongoing class warfare, climate change and beyond). Audiences both wondered whether or not they, in fact, had already dropped it or mused as to whether they should drop it…
Baby Oil: It keeps Tongan abs glistening, as seen here on flag bearer and now breakout opening ceremony star Pita Taufatofua, who will compete in taekwondo.
Christoph Waltz: When you watch live TV, you gotta watch commercials, and if you’re gonna watch commercials, you may as well get to see two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz as a European trying to understand Americans’ love of multitasking.
The Visionaries: Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Mereilles coordinated the entire spectacle with co-creative director and production designer Daniela Thomas. “Here, in Rio, we wanted to create a ceremony for the world,” Mereilles told NBC News. Moreover, choreographer Deborah Colker managed the 6,000 dancers who performed tonight.
Foliage: London had rings of fire, but Brazil—home of the rain forest when you think of rain forests—made its Olympic rings spring from the earth, the fruit of the seeds the athletes “planted” into metal towers as they made their way into the Maracaña. Moreover, the children who accompanied the delegations during the Parade of Nations carried small versions of the 207 species of plants represented by those seeds. The trees will form the Athletes’ Forest in Deodoro’s Radical Park.
Because really, at the end of the day, the Olympics are all about making this entire planet a more beautiful place to be.