RIO DE JANEIRO – The Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics featured 60,000 fans, 207 teams, one supermodel and countless memorable moments on Friday night.
On an evening filled with music, dance, flags raised high and tides rising higher (more on that in a moment), here are 12 of the most memorable moments of the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremonies from Maracana Stadium.
Please note that your humble reporter was inside the stadium for this, and thus there may be some things listed that didn’t make the NBC broadcast back in the U.S.
1 – Jiffy-Pop!
Our program began with the stage filled with silver-clad performers waving these weather balloon-type things in sync. They slowly inflated into cushions filled with air, which they then repurposed into drums. Even if they looked like those steaming hot foil pillows filled with delicious Jiffy-Pop popcorn, the popcorn you make in a jiffy.
2 – Nature Vs. Ships
No Opening Ceremony is complete without a tour through the nation’s history, and Brazil’s was one that showed the beauty of nature and the eventual arrival of Europeans, African slaves and immigrants from the Far East that infringed on it. The innovative use of hundreds of elastic bands as a projection screen was the nature; the different representations of ships was the human invasion. It told a stirring story.
3 – A Plane Takes Off In The Stadium
As we reach the modernization of Rio, it included a replica of a 14 Bis T-Wing plane that took flight inside the stadium. And then it flew to the ceiling. And then through the top of the stadium, and into the night air, and all around Rio. (Well, sorta … there was the miracle of CGI at work as the plane actually flew to the other side of the arena.)
This was, by the way, part of Brazil’s continuing efforts to claim Alberto Santos-Dumont invented flight rather than the Wright Brothers, which we, as Americans, know is a bunch of gosh-durn bunk.
4 – Work It, Gisele!
Called “the world’s most successful model” by the Rio Games, Gisele Bundchen was a star attraction at the Opening Ceremony and did what does best: Looking stunning while walking a significant distance to music.
Here, it was “The Girl From Ipanema.”
And later, she became “the girl in the middle of the crowd.”
The Rio Games said it’s her “last catwalk” as she is retiring from modeling.
Well that makes us feel deflated.
5 – Plushies Vs. Tinselmonsters Dance Party
While the Opening Ceremony as a whole really could have used more creepy mascots, it did feature a battle between Plushies and people covered in Christmas tinsel …
… that eventually morphed into a freaky psychedelic awesome dance party carnival that was one Wayne Coyne away from being a Flaming Lips show!
Now that’s the Opening Ceremony crazy that we love.
6 – The Somber Segment
OK, let’s bring it down a little …
The ceremony’s producer vowed that there would be a segment on the show that might infuriate Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and we imagine this was it: a heart-on-their-sleeves, full-throated plea to end global warming by reducing greenhouse gases.
It included NASA projections of coastal cities flooding — including Rio — and a segment on stage that involved a boy searching around a maze of mirrors to find a small sapling thriving in the “heat.”
Striking stuff and bold politics for an event that allegedly veers away from them. (And it carried over to the Parade of Nations, which had teams place “seeds of hope” in small pots that “blossomed” at the end of the parade.)
7 – The Bikers
The parade of athletes had a carnival theme, and each nation’s nameplate was located on the back of a large tricycle. Expect this look to be adopted by hipsters back in the U.S. by Sunday at the latest.
8 – Those Mongolian Suits
There were many memorable looks in the Parade of Nations – and a whole lotta blazers – but from our vantage point, no one was more impeccably dressed than the athletes from Mongolia, in bright yellow suits and matching hats.
But obviously, there was one thing missing that would have completed the look:
A curious monkey.
9 – Super Hot Shirtless Flag-Bearer From Tonga
Pita Taufatofua is a 32-year-old Taekwondo competitor who was the first Tongan athlete to qualify for the Rio Olympics this year.
He also held the flag shirtless and covered in baby oil and got a huge ovation from the appreciative crowd and is it hot in here or is it just us …
10 – The Refugee Team Arrives
The team we called the “heart and soul of the Rio Games” entered second-to-last, walking behind the Olympic flag. The first all-refugee team in the history of the Games was given one of the longest ovations of the night, and rightfully so: Their journeys to these games involved risking everything, and this moment will go down as one of the best of the Games.
“With the greatest respect, we welcome the Refugee Olympic Team,” said IOC president Thomas Bach. “In this Olympic world, we don’t just tolerate diversity. In this Olympic world, we welcome you as an enrichment of your diversity.”
11 – Brazil!
Could it be anything but a part when the host nation brought up the rear?
The crowd roared when they first saw the flag, and continued as the athletes came out, eventually breaking out into soccer chants as their athletes made their way around the stadium. Everything you wanted from a moment that was hours in the making … although the REAL carnival fun, complete with dancers and confetti, didn’t arrive until after the Olympic flag was raised.
12 – Finally, The Flames Is Lit
Tennis great Gustavo Kuerten ran the torch inside the stadium. He handed it off to basketball great Hortência Marcari, who handed it off to distance running great Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, who finally lit the caldron around 11:49 local time, igniting fireworks.
But the real highlight of the Olympic flame being lit?
The trippy glass chandelier they have spinning back of it, creating an optical illusion that its circles spinning.
You are getting sleeeeepy…
Well, there we are. The Opening Ceremony. Now, let the Games begin!
Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski reports live from the streets of Rio: