Rio kicks off Games with ode to forests, call for peace

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RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil unfurled a vision of its vast rainforest and the creative energy of its wildly diverse population in a low-tech, vibrant Olympic Games opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

The opening ceremony in the city’s famous Maracana football stadium retraced the history of Brazil, from the arrival of Portuguese colonists through to the introduction of African slaves and the immigration of Arab and Japanese communities.

The ceremony’s opening themes were world peace and the environment. A gigantic green peace symbol dangled over the center of the arena, before a dazzling projection depicted the birth of the Amazon rainforest.

Unlike the opening ceremonies in Beijing in 2008 and London 2012, a financially constrained Brazil had little choice but to put on a more “analogue” show, with minimal high-tech and a heavy dependence on Brazil’s Carnival party traditions.

The joyful opening of South America’s first Games also contrasted with months of turmoil and chaos, not only in the organization of the Olympics but across Brazil as it endures its worst economic recession in decades and a deep political crisis.

Interim President Michel Temer presided over the opening of the Games with dozens of heads of state. He took over from suspended President Dilma Rousseff, who is facing an impeachment trial and tweeted that she was “sad to not be at the party”.

The $12 billion price tag to organize the Games has aggrieved many in the nation of 200 million, especially in Rio where few can see the benefits of the spectacle or afford to attend the Games.