August 22, 2016

Rio Olympics ceremonies: thoughts and memories

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Another four years have gone by, and this year we had the Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro.  I've long been a seller of the Rio Games, and didn't think they could actually manage to pull it off.  They did.  So kudos to the Brazilians for getting their act together (mostly).  They overcame plenty of obstacles, not the least of which was fear of the Zika virus.

As usual, I made an effort to watch the Opening Ceremony, which meant dragging my ass out of bed before 7 a.m. on a Saturday.  But it's usually worth it, and I gotta say that I really enjoyed it this time.

Opening Ceremonies have featured stories illustrating the histories of their host countries, and this year I particularly liked this segment at Rio.  They did it from the narrative of different races: starting with the indigenous people in the rainforests, followed by the white explorers who began colonizing the land, then the Africans who were brought in as slaves by the Europeans, immigrants from the Middle East, and finally the Asian immigrants - represented by the Japanese who started arriving in 1908.  Each group of people brought with them their unique cultures and customs, which combined to make what Brazil it is today.  It is a multicultural society, and I liked that they highlighted this.

The end of the history segment introduced the world to Alberto Santos-Dumont and 14-bis.  I'll bet most of us have been taught that the Wright Brothers were the first to achieve flight in an aircraft, but the Brazilians recognize Santos-Dumont as the father of aviation.

Of course we were gonna hear Antonio Carlos Jobim's iconic Girl from Ipanema tonight, played by grandson Daniel Jobim.  Not too surprised to see Brazilian supermodels make an appearance here, and tonight the Maracana Stadium floor would be Gisele Bundchen's last catwalk as she sashayed from one end to the other, playing the role of the girl in the tune.

A few things I loved about the parade of athletes this time around: I loved those tricycles with the potted plants, and I also loved the children who carried the potted plants as they marched with each team.  I loved the fact that Iran's flag bearer was Zahra Nemati, a woman.

I was a little disappointed that Michael Phelps was the flag bearer for Team USA.  Yes, he is the greatest Olympian of all time and fully deserving of the honor, but a stronger and more meaningful message would have been sent had the Stars and Stripes been carried by Ibtihaj Muhammad while wearing her hijab - especially in the year of The Donald.  Of course, the Olympics aren't supposed to be political...

And finally, the Refugee Olympic Team.  It's incredibly sad that these athletes had to go through what they did in their lives, but it's incredibly inspiring that nothing dampened their will to compete.  Few, if any, of them are at the very top level of their sport, but it didn't matter.  I'm glad that they were given the opportunity to come to the games.

This was the green Olympics, so the five Olympic rings turned green instead of their traditional colors.  Each team also were given seeds to insert into the shiny, metallic "cheese graters", and those seeds were supposed to be planted after the games.  This I really liked.  And there was a video presentation on climate change and how it would affect different parts of the world, including the coastal city of Rio.

The olympic flame this year was another memorable one, with the small cauldron being placed in front of a kinetic sculpture by Anthony Howe, which moves with the air flow generated by the heat and is meant to resemble the sun.  A beautiful work of art.

Two weeks later I was at it again.  Glued in front of the TV for a few more hours.  It was windy, and it poured.  Not the best weather to put on a spectacular show.

Undoubtedly the most memorable moment for many from the closing ceremony was the segment on Tokyo 2020.  The ante was upped after the surprising and entertaining participation of Queen Elizabeth II in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games, and it was Japan's turn to answer...

After the Games were declared closed, Mariene de Castro took to the stage in front of the cauldron and sang beautifully as "rain" fell all around her - eventually giving the impression of dousing out the Olympic flames.  What a beautiful moment!

Now I'm really looking forward to the Tokyo 2020 Games...

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