It was glitz and glamour at the launch ceremony of Rio Olympics on Friday as 78,000 people were under the gaze of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue at the Maracana Stadium watching the four-hour party live with Michael Phelps and other sporting superstars taking centre-stage in South America’s first Olympics.
Brazilian singer Paulinho da Viola sang the national anthem to set off the show of laser lights and elaborate dances highlighting Brazil’s history and rise as an emerging power.
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen strutted into the arena to the iconic “Girl From Ipanema” before Greece, home of the ancient Olympics, took its traditional place at the head of the athletes’ parade.
France’s President Francois Hollande and Argentina’s Mauricio Macri were among a handful of state leaders in the VIP box with Brazil’s troubled interim leader Michel Temer.
Organisers said the ceremony aimed to send a message of tolerance and respect. But it came as Brazil battles a crippling recession, double-digit unemployment and rising crime, and as Temer fights off political turmoil.