A grandiose spectacle meant to unite the globe while serving as a powerful mouthpiece for national pride and history, Brazil officially kicks off the 2016 Summer Olympic Games with the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro Friday night at the famed Maracana Stadium.
The games mark the first time in history a South American country will serve as host, and Brazil has reportedly spent the last five years and 400,000 hours preparing for a ceremony that will feature the traditional Olympic fare like the Olympic Oath, the hoisting of each nation’s flags, and the parade of athletes, as well as Brazil’s rich cultural history.
“It will be a reinterpretation of Brazil,” director Leonardo Caetano told BBC Brazil. “We will have a moment in which we will show...the Brazilian way of receiving people. The second is the 'Garden'. Brazil lives on the largest green reserve in the world and this is an important issue for us.”
Renowned filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, best known for the intense 2002 film about the Rio slums “City of God,” leads an all-star cast of artistic directors that also includes Andrucha Waddington, Rosa Magalhaes, and Daniela Thomas with choreographer Deborah Colker managing 6,000 volunteers to dance in front of an expected capacity crowd of 78,000 and the millions watching at home.
"I am bringing a lot from the studies that I had been carrying out," Colker, who’s been running rehearsals since May, said to the Games official site. "There will be new things, a new space that I have invented and that we are working on here. I think it will be a masterpiece. We are producing very good results. I love it when we manage to tell a story in a new, totally unexpected way. The ceremony is full of protocol but I am very proud of what we are doing. We are working with a lot of passion."
Caetano also confirmed that actresses Judi Dench and Fernanda Montenegro will read a poem during the ceremonies, while singers Caetano Veloso, Elza Soares, Gilberto Gil, and many others also participate. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen and transgender model Lea T. will also play roles.
Bundchen, a former Victoria Secret model who hails from southern Brazil, will reportedly be part of a sketch that’s already drawing some criticism.
During the ceremony, Meirelles will use the world stage to showcase Brazil’s culture but won’t shy away from the nation’s issues with crime and poverty, Daily Mail reported leaks from inside a closed rehearsal.
An actor will mug Bundchen as she goes down the catwalk with “The Girl From Ipanema” blaring and a chase will ensue around the stadium with police officers pursuing the “suspect.” The performance will end with the “mugger” being caught, showing how "good" prevails.
The show will also include a call for peace with music, dances, and 3D projections following Brazil’s history from its jungles and indigenous tribes to its monolithic cities.
In the United States, NBC, beginning its planned 2,084 hours of coverage over 11 channels, will air the Opening ceremony beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.