Olympic opening ceremony finally sees Brazil tell their own story

The Games in Rio kicked off with a celebration of the history and culture of Brazil

Brazil, Maracana, Olympics 2016

Image: David J. Phillip / AP/Press Association Images

Rio kicked off their opening ceremony with a spectacular display that touched on the diverse history and culture of Brazil as the Olympic Games finally got underway. 

One of the highlights of the celebration was its look back at the outside influences which have created a melting pot in Rio and beyond since the country's "discovery" by Europeans. 

That section was marked by a display of the tribes of Brazil being interrupted by boats from Europe, carrying Portuguese explorers, as both sides regarded the other with suspicion upon their arrival. 

Shortly afterwards, they highlighted the huge impact which the slave trade had on Brazil, paying homage to the millions of people from west Africa who were brought to Rio, Recife and Salvador on the country's east coast. 

The green floor which was illuminated underneath them to represent the fertile and vast expanses of the 'New World' gradually transitioned into images of tilled farmland and latifundia, highlighting the impact of slavery on the country and its people. As one of the last nations in the world to abolish slavery, Brazil's early economic success was based on the slave trade, with nearly four million people being brought to the country by the time it ended in 1888.

That wasn't the only wave of mass immigration to Brazil however; the country boasts a huge Japanese population, while millions of people claim Lebanese and Syrian heritage, which was also recognised as the opening ceremony painted a picture of a diverse melting pot that is modern day Brazil.

The green expanses and farmland turned into an urban landscape as the ceremony progressed, as the skyline of Rio was generated in a beautiful display on the canvas, before an elaborate structure was lit up at one end of the Maracana stadium. 

Given the country boasts architect Oscar Niemayer among its famous sons, it was little surprise that buildings and structures from Brazil formed an important part of the display.

The flight of Alberto Santos-Dumont, an aviation pioneer, was also marked, as a structure representing an early plane took off and flew out of the stadium in what was one of the more impressive set pieces on the night.

Afro-Brazilian culture once again took centre stage as the music of Brazil was celebrated, with rap, carioca and bossa nova all being represented. Daniel Jobim, grandson of musical giant Tom Jobim appeared, giving his rendition of 'A garrota de Ipanema' as Giselle walked through the centre of the stadium, while Jorge Ben Jor sang a rendition of 'Pais Tropical', highlighting the various styles of popular music which Brazil has given to the world.

The final segment, before the athletes began to make their way into the stadium, looked at the effects of climate change on Brazil, with a reading from Carlos Drummond de Andrade's poem 'A Flor e a Náusea'. With the thousands of athletes in attendance all planting a seed before they leave to return home, one of the main themes of the Olympics has been the deforestation and ecological concerns that Brazil has looked to deal with in recent years, as the Games promises to be the most eco-friendly to date.

Although there has been turmoil and trouble in the lead up, from political upheaval to the various problems surrounding the completion of venues and the huge cost of hosting the event, the problems were set aside at least for a short time as the country attempted to retake the reins of its own story at this event. 

Although it was brief, Rio's Olympics has finally managed to tell their story the way they wanted to, highlighting the many environmental wonders and diverse history of the country. Judging by the cheer given to the home team as they entered the stadium, there is a sense that, at least for a short while, the country is glad that the eyes of the world are on them once again.