RIO DE JANEIRO: The 31st Olympics officially began today with Acting President of Brazil Michel Temer declaring the Games open amidst glamorous opening ceremony here at the Maracana Stadium.
Unlike the previous editions of the Summer Games which used to impress the world with glittering ceremonies, the Brazilian organisers of the first-ever Olympics held in South America made it a simple yet fascinating function that was used to reflect the history, culture and tradition of the country. High-ranking officials from various countries attended the ceremony.
Tennis legend Gustavo Kuerten, popularly known in Brazil as Guga, brought the Olympic Torch into the Maracana and handed it over to former basketball player Hortencia. Former marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima took the Torch from Hortencia and lit the Cauldron.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach handed over the Olympic Laurel to legendary Kenyan athlete Kipchoge Keine, who has been taking care of orphans in his home country. The award was established this year to recognise notable contributions to the Olympic movement.
Hundreds of children ran into the stadium with white kites, which carried the messages of the kids across the world about their ambitions for a peaceful and safe world. Legendary duo Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil teamed up with carioca singer Anitta to pull the curtain down but not before bringing the crowd to its feet by singing Ary Barroso’s classic ‘Sandalia de Prata’. The Maracana was literally lit up under the fireworks.
Judoka Phupu Lhamu Khatri carried the national flag of Nepal at the march past as 12 players, coaches and officials entered the stadium. National Sports Council Member Secretary Keshab Kumar Bista led the contingent as the Chef-de-Mission of the Games. Nepal have fielded seven players in five sports disciplines. Judoka Khatri, archer Jit Bahadur Muktan and taekwondo player Nisha Rawal earned the wildcards for the Games, while swimmers Shirish Gurung and Gaurika Singh, and athletes Hari Rimal and Saraswati Bhattarai were picked under Universality Places. Among five coaches, three are Olympians — Pushpa Raj Ojha (athletics), Sangina Baidya (taekwondo) and Debu Thapa (judo). Ishwor Karki (swimming) and Deepak Gurung (archery) are the other coaches.
Nepal, who are yet to win medal in official events, have something to rejoice in Rio. The whole of the country celebrated when the news broke out that swimmer Singh is the youngest participant at the Games. The 13-year-old Singh, who moved to England with her parents when she was two years old, will be the youngest player when she hits the water at the aquatics centre in Barra on Sunday. Taekwondo player Bidhan Lama holds the honour of winning medal in the Olympics, albeit in an exhibition event.
Nepal Olympic Committee has sent a total of 27 delegates in the Games. Shiwani Air Managing Director Manindra Ranjit is the NOC guest for the opening ceremony, while President of Non Resident Nepalis Association (NRNA) Shesh Ghale is the closing ceremony guest. The NOC signed a deal of one million rupees with NRNA, while it is set to sign the two million rupees agreement with Shiwani Air.
Among the seven participants, Nisha Rawal will take part in the above-67kg weight category of women’s taekwondo, while judoka Phupu Lhamu Khatri will participate in the women’s 63kg event. Archer Jit Bahadur Muktan has already played the ranking round and earned the round of 64 clash against Indian player Atanu Das. The trio of Rawal, Khatri and Muktan have entered the Rio Olympics through wildcard.
Swimmer Gaurika Singh is scheduled to take part in the women’s 100m backstroke event, while Shirish Gurung will swim in men’s 100m freestyle event. Likewise, athlete Saraswati Bhattarai will run in women’s 1,500m race, while Hari Kumar Rimal is scheduled to take part in the men’s 800m event. Except for swimmer Gurung, all other six athletes are making their Olympics debut. Gurung had participated in the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Khatri won gold medal in the 12th South Asian Games in India earlier this year, while Singh stole the limelight by claiming four medals – one silver and three bronze medals – in a single meet and also becoming the first-ever Nepali swimmer to win individual medal in swimming. Rimal won the lone medal in athletics. Swimmer Gurung and athlete Bhattarai returned empty handed from Guwahati, while Rawal and Muktan were not in the Nepali team for SAG. Out of the seven players selected for the Games, Gurung, Rawal and Khatri were training for the last one year under Olympic Scholarship Programme.
More than 10,500 athletes from 206 nations and refuge team are scheduled to participate in the 17-day extravaganza. The Games feature 306 events in 42 sports disciplines at 37 different venues across the city. The International Olympic Committee allowed the refugee team under its flag for the first time. The 10-member refugee team entered the stadium amidst a huge round of applause just before the Brazilian contingent. IOC introduced the refugee team, which included five players from South Sudan, two each from Syria and Congo and one from Ethopia, in June. They are scheduled to compete in athletics, swimming and judo. The United States of America have the biggest squad of 554 athletes in Rio, while Tuvalu have sent just one athlete, 100m runner Etimoni Timuani.