What to expect from the Rio Olympics opening ceremony

Whether you’re into sports or not, the Olympics opening ceremony is usually worth a watch

On Friday (August 5) the Olympics – the world’s biggest celebration of athleticism – gets off to its official start in Rio De Janeiro.

If London is anything to go by, one of the highlights is likely to be the opening ceremony, a spectacle of cultural celebration that is bound to have anyone glued to their screen.

To get you up to speed, we’ve compiled everything you could ever want to know about the show.

Team GB flag bearer and Olympic tennis champion Andy Murray – Getty

How can I watch the opening ceremony?

The BBC is once again carrying the UK coverage of the Olympic games this year, and that includes the opening ceremony.

But you’re going to have to pull a late one if you want to catch it all; the four-hour time difference between the UK and Rio means that we won’t get to see the opening ceremony until around midnight on Friday, with the BBC’s coverage getting underway at 11.40pm.

So how long does it go on for?

Cancel your Saturday morning plans because the expected running time for the curtain raising party is an epic four hours, which will take British viewers right through to 4am.

Adventure Time Tired

You can take comfort in the fact that most of that time will be taken up by the procession of the athletes, which comes after the main show.

With 207 nations represented – some sending teams of over a thousand competitors – it’s going to take a heck of a long time for them to file into the stadium.

But look out for Team GB flag bearer Andy Murray.

Who’s directing this opening ceremony?

When the games descended upon London, we were treated to an amazing show that was not only wonderful to watch, but packed in hundreds of years of British history, music and culture.

That was thanks mostly to director Danny Boyle, who was drafted in to lead the stunning show.

This time around, it’s in the hands of Fernando Meirelles, the Brazilian director behind gritty slum-drama City Of God.


Will it be as impressive as London’s show?

Apparently not. Meirelles has tried to make sure none of us get our expectations too high in recent days.

It seems that Brazil’s recent economic collapse has had a direct, knock-on effect on the ceremony. Speaking at a recent press conference, the director said:

“When we started we were rich, we had an international crew, we watched some shows in Vegas, we were very ambitious with the technology we wanted to use.

“We were looking at a budget of $113.9 million… But little by little it has been cut.

“I think it is 12 times less than London… this makes it very challenging. You lose ideas, you lose toys, where you had 3000 people you now have 700.”

Titanium Fireworks London Olympics 2012

They’ll be getting the audience involved next…

Well, yes, they are actually.

The ceremony has been described as an “analogue” experience – presumably just marketing speak for “not as flashy as the London ceremony” – and one particular section on the Amazon rainforest will call on the 80,000 strong audience’s participation.

They’ll be asked to imitate monkeys, macaws and the sound of rain (by tapping fingers on their palms) during the segment.

What’s all this about a ‘racist skit’?

Ahh, so you saw that too.

Controversy erupted a couple of days ago when it was reported that the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony included a skit in which star of the show – Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen – suffers an attempted mugging from a black boy, a scene chock full of racially insensitive imagery.


Organisers have rightfully decided to cut the moment from the show which, although featuring a positive outcome, would have just reinforced racist stereotypes.

What stars can we expect to see in the ceremony?

As previously mentioned, the star of the show appears to be Gisele, with early reports indicating she will feature predominantly throughout, perhaps with a loose narrative wrapped around her.

Elsewhere, Dame Judi Dench will deliver a reading as part of the proceedings, being one of the only non-Brazilian celebrities to make an appearance.

Judi Dench

The Oscar-winning actress will read a poem by the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade during a section of the ceremony dedicated to Brazil’s natural environment.

Aside from that though, the ceremony’s line-up of famous faces will be comprised of Brazilian stars.

But at least London is getting a look in, right?

You’d think so with Dench’s inclusion, but early reports so far suggest that the ceremony will not be officially referencing the London games of four years ago.

Can we expect any progressive talking points?


Model Lea T will be the first transsexual to play a prominent role in an Olympics opening ceremony.

What exactly she’ll be doing as part of the show has not been confirmed just yet, but she said of her role:

“The message is very clear – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, colour, race or creed, we are all human beings and we are all part of society.”

You can watch the Olympics’ opening ceremony on August 5 on BBC One (11.40pm)


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