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RIO 2016 the Games of the XXXI Olympiad

By Kevin Cain

The Olympic circus rolled into Rio on August 5th 2016, representing elite athletes from every country in the world battling and trying to outwit each other as well as the clock. The facts and figures of this year’s games are: 205 countries attending, 37 venues and 306 sporting events in 42 sporting disciplines.

The games were formally opened with typical Brazilian flavoured, colour, passion, music and dance at Rio's Maracana stadium, it simply could have not been anywhere else in the world.

The broadcast of the opening ceremony was estimated to have been seen by three billion people, that is almost half of the world's population, which just shows the attraction of this colossal event.

After the drums, choreography and pyrotechnics had faded, in sauntered Gisele Bundchen to dazzle and stupefy viewers. The amazing supermodel came out of retirement one last time to bring bling to the whole affair, with one final catwalk. Looking resplendent in a thigh-split, silver sequined dress, that adorned her like syrup on a stack of very curvy pancakes. The bossa nova music “Girl from Ipanema” was perfect as the Brazilian strutted across the packed and captivated stadium. This was not just sport it was pageantry meets razzle-dazzle, and the crowd loved every high-heeled step of it.

The opening ceremony was a distraction from the undercurrent of feeling that has preceded this highly controversial event. The build-up to Rio 2016 has been played against a deep recession and political protests in Brazil.

The first South American games ever in history, has also been disrupted by concerns over the Russian doping scandal, the Zika virus and problems with Rio's security, infrastructure and venues.With the economy struggling so badly the budget for the opening ceremony was slashed but it still managed to deliver on all counts, sometimes simplicity is best, and in this case that was certainly the case.The Russian contingent was cut down to 271 athletes from an initial 389 following accusations of state- sponsored doping in the country, were at least spared any obvious negative reaction from the crowd.

It still remains a puzzle to how Putin's “Hole in the Wall Gang” were actually allowed to compete at all.

Perhaps the largest welcome, almost ovation, of the evening was given to yet another Olympic first. Ten athletes from four countries will compete together as the Refugee Olympic Team. The team comprises of two swimmers, two judokas, a marathoner and five medium distance runners.The International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said the team were sending “A message of hope to millions of refugees around the globe.”

However, whilst the opening celebration was taking place there were other less celebratory events occurring all over Rio. All along the boulevard alongside Copacabana beach thousands of protesters were calling for the removal of president Michel Temer, smaller demonstrations took place from Saens Pena square to the stadium.A Greek athlete, and not a Russian, was expelled after failing a drug test, and over at Copacabana around the Beach Volley Arena, a robot difused a suspected bomb.

Certainly things were not all sugary around the Mountain, even the interim president was booed as he declared the games open.

However, Thailand had a marvelous first day of competing, when Sopita Tanasan blew away the opposition to grab the first gold medal of the weightlifting competition. Favourite Hou Zhihui of China had to withdraw, but Thailand's pint sized battleship took full advantage.The 21-year-old simply dominated the women's 48kg, lifting 92kg in the snatch and 108kg in the clean and jerk, for a total of 200kg, to finish first in weight lifting's lightest category.

With all the hullabaloo surrounding Rio's Games, it is easy to get distracted from the fact that 10,500 athletes have been training all their lives for the opportunity to compete in Brazil. Even though amongst those thousands a minority will try to Vladdywell cheat let's not fool ourselves, these are without doubt the top athletes in the world.

As well as the battle for Olympic medals taking place in 32 venues in Rio de Janeiro five football co-host cities ; Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Salvador and Sao Paulo were also selected.Rio 2016 also brings a host of firsts and a catalogue of interesting facts:

  • 2,488 medals awarded

  • 2 new sports – Rugby 7's & The return of Golf

  • 450,000 condoms handed out to athletes, 42 per person

  • 380,000 foreign tourists in Rio

  • The Olympic Village dining hall is as long as four Olympic swimming pools

  • The youngest competitor Nepal's Gaurika Singh who is 13 and competing in 100m backstroke

  • The oldest competitor New Zealand's Julie Brougham who is 62 and competing is dressage

  • The smallest team Tuvalu, their sole competitor Etimoni Timuani in the men's 100m athletics

  • Bhutan is the only nation whose team was comprised only of women

The very ethos of the Olympics is triumph through adversity, athletes have to overcome so many obstacles just to compete. And so it is with Rio 2016, it is equitable that such a prestigious event has finally come to South America, and fitting that it is glamorous Rio de Janerio that hosts the event. I for one am glad that Bossa Nova Brazil is showing the world how to compete and just as importantly how to have fun. Today's world has enough troubles and challenges, so a little light relief and serious competition will prove just the tonic.