What to expect from the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

The Rio 2016 opening ceremony begins 8pm local time at Maracana and will be heavy on history and environmentalism. 

Rio 2016 officially opens on Friday with the traditional Olympic Games opening ceremony which begins at 8pm (local time) and will be seen by three billion people around the world. More than 35,000 professionals will be involved on the night with the show featuring 12 samba schools and over 5,500 costumes.

The creative team gathered at the Main Press Centre on 4 August to tease out a few more details about the opening ceremony, which has been in the works over the past three years. The production is the creative expression of Brazilian directors Fernando Meirelles (City of God), Andrucha Waddington and Daniela Thomas.
What to expect from the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
The moment has come
"This is the moment we were waiting for," said Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada. "There is an important tradition that a good opening ceremony is a good sign for the rest of the Olympics. It is beautiful, it is very Brazilian. The people involved are very proud."

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The creative team behind the celebration have promised "to deliver a message for planet earth" that will kick off the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

To emphasise the message each athlete will be given a seedling to plant in what will become "the athletes' legacy for Rio de Janeiro," said Meirelles.

"They will leave a tree in Brazil. Hopefully in two years' time we will have a wonderful Olympic forest. We will celebrate humanity and we wil celebrate Rio," said Marco Balich, the show's lead producer.
'The last natural garden in the world'

Three main themes drive the opening ceremony and its powerful message of peace and the environmental: the garden, diversity and joy.

"We are the last natural garden of the world," said Abel Gomes, who was responsible for set design. "We will give a message to the future of the world. The garden is a very important pillar that we will be embracing during the ceremony. It is our passion, it is our drive." 

Rio 2016 opening ceremony: the musical stars who will get the Olympic Games started.

On the second pillar of diversity, Gomes said, "The Brazilians living in this country, they have incredible race diversity. We will be speaking about these Brazilians and they are the ones who will embrace and welcome the world that is arriving here for these Games."

The third pillar, inspired by the joyful spirit of the carioca, lives in "the way we smile, the way we welcome, the way we hug," said Gomes.

Purchase your Olympic tickets for Rio 2016

Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen will make an appearance at the Maracana (Rio 2016 / Alex Ferro)
Celebrating the athletes

The opening ceremony is, at its very core, a celebration of the more than 11,000 thousand athletes, added Waddington.

"We made the whole ceremony for them, to praise them, to celebrate them," he said. "They are the heart of the Games and the ceremony is for the them."

The director said the only non-Brazilian featured in the production is the voice of English actor, Dame Judi Dench, who reads a poem by Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade together with the 86-year-old Oscar-nominated Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro.
Brazil's rich musical history explored

The music will run a rich gamut of Brazilian styles, histories and artists. In a nod towards representation and inclusion, three black women from three generations are among the numerous live performers who will play original hits and also pay tribute to carioca legends — exactly whom remains a surprise.

Legendary singer Elza Soares will be representing Rio's most famous musial genre, samba, while Karol Conka and MC Soffia will be the voice of Brazil’s hip hop scene. At 12 years old, MC Sofia announced herself with incredible style and gravitas with music videos that speak out against racism, including her track 'Menina Pretinha,' which translates to 'little black girl'.

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