On tap today:
7:30 p.m. ET
Opening Ceremony (tape delay)
5 p.m. ET
Olympic Preview Special
5 p.m. ET
Olympic Preview Special
Well, now that we’ve had a couple of days of appetizers, it’s time for the main course.
After two days of men’s and women’s soccer, the Rio Olympics officially kick off with the Opening Ceremony at 7 p.m. ET. Unfortunately for American viewers, they won’t see anything until the broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET thanks to NBC’s tape delay.
Have to maximize those eyes on NBC and their sponsors, right?
“It’s hard to put commercials in a live show and not miss something,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said at a pre-Olympic Press event regarding the tape delay. “We are a for-profit organization, and we spend a lot of money to put on the Olympics, and I think [we have] the right and duty to our shareholders to make some revenue from that.”
At least he’s honest.
Like Lazarus said, one advantage to having a tape-delayed show is the ability watch the entire Opening Ceremony without missing a moment. That means never missing a moment of the parade of nations, athlete uniforms, and the cultural artistic program.
What should I be watching?
The Olympic Opening Ceremony not only acts as a launching pad for the Games, it also gives a look into the culture of the host country. Leading up to the Olympics, there hasn’t been a lot of positive news coming out of Rio, but an impressive Opening Ceremony can make people forget all the struggles the country has had organizing the Games in the past year.
With a stunning Opening Ceremony, Beijing was able to distract from the human rights issues that were plaguing China coming into the 2008 Games. Rio has the opportunity to do the same this year.
Fernando Meirelles, director of the film City of God and creative director of the Opening Ceremony, explained that the artistic portion of the ceremony will give a vision of what he hopes Brazil will become. He also revealed that the ceremony won’t be as high-tech as past ceremonies have been because “the beauty of Brazil comes from the roots.”
Andrucha Waddington, another creative director, promised that the ceremony will include every part of Brazilian history, including the 5 million slaves that were brought over from Africa. Other details have been kept top secret under threat of death by Guanabara Bay water exposure (unconfirmed).
Also, you can’t expect a Brazilian celebration without some good Brazilian music. Local artists Anitta, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil are all slated to the perform during the Opening Ceremony. Anitta is a platinum certified artist, and became the youngest Brazilian to ever perform at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2014. Veloso has two Grammys to his name, and is joined by fellow musician and political activist Gil.
The highlight, however, might be legendary samba artist Elza Soares, who will be performing Rio’s most known musical genre. Joining her are hip-hop artists Karol Conka and MC Soffia. The three stars will be representing the black community in Brazil, a community that has faced poverty and racial strife in the host country.
Speaking of Brazilian strife, be on the lookout for supermodel Giselle Bundchen, who will reportedly be mugged during her portion of the Opening Ceremony. Theft has been a huge problem for locals and athletes alike, so it will be interesting to see where the directors go with it since host cities tend not to broadcast their struggles.
Once the artistic section is finished, the athletes will march around the track in the parade of nations. It might as well be known as the parade of fashions as every country will be bringing something a little different to the table.
The United States athletes will be wearing outfits provided by Ralph Lauren. Unfortunately for them, the color scheme is a little more Russian than it is American.
Another Russian hacking job? Team USA opening-ceremony shirt looks like Russian flag. pic.twitter.com/Gnw1hjBsBP
— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 29, 2016
Leading the American athletes out of the tunnel is 18-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, who will be the flag bearer for the United States. The five-time Olympian will not only be carrying the stars and stripes, but he will also be wearing this battery-powered jacket just in case people don’t recognize the red, white and blue.
Ralph Lauren says US flag bearer’s jacket will light up with “USA” during Olympic Opening Ceremony pic.twitter.com/IRPDdoKAR5
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 29, 2016
But he and the Americans might not be the biggest stars of the parade of nations.
Also marching in the Opening Ceremony is the Refugee Team, a team of displaced athletes who have no country banner to compete under other than the Olympic Flag. They are the first team of their kind, and you can be sure that Rio’s biggest ovation may be for this team that features some of the most heart-wrenching stories of perseverance in the Olympics.
The lighting of the Olympic cauldron will end the night, and it didn’t seem like it was going to happen for the last couple months. Protesters have targeted the torch on its journey through Brazil, extinguishing it at some points in order to show their discontent with the country’s struggles economically and socially.
Nevertheless, the show will go on. The torch will make its way to the Brasilia National Stadium with an estimated 900 million pairs of eyes fixed on it. But who will help the torch reach its final destination?
Soccer legend Pele is said to have been asked to do the honors, but a sponsorship commitment has his availability up in the air. If he is unable to do it, bronze medal marathoner Vanderlei de Lima, World Champion Sailor Torben Grael and three-time French Open winner Gustavo Kuerten are rumored to be in the running for the prestigious honor.
How the torch gets lit is another question. Many countries have done their own take on it, and Brazil should not be any different in bringing a different flavor to the ritual. Although, they have a lot of live up to.
How should I be watching?
Most viewers will have heard a lot about Brazil and Rio in the lead-up to the Olympic games. Whether it’s shoddy plumbing, dirty water, striking police or high crime rates, Rio and Brazil did not do themselves any favors in the eyes of the international audience.
That being said, fans should be watching these ceremonies with an open mind. There may be some preconceived notions about Brazil that have been built, but it is still a beautiful country with a rich culture that is now at center stage for the world to see.
Really pay attention to what directors Meirelles, Waddington and Daniela Thomas are trying to say with this presentation. It may be the music, or the revelation of social issues that need to be resolved. Either way, there’s a message that will be sent.
Also, thousands of athletes will be present for the parade of nations. Many of them have been working their entire lives and have overcome long odds to get to this point in their career. Appreciating that kind of commitment and hard work will go along way in enjoying the Opening Ceremony regardless of what country you may root for.
No matter what happens, good or bad, one thing is for certain: the 2016 Rio Olympics will be officially underway.