The first days of the Olympic Games have passed with relatively few problems, as Freek Huigen discovers, the opening ceremony was well received and Colombian athletes in the village have reported mixed experiences
The Olympic Games opened with a spectacular ceremony that made reference to the world’s largest ‘lung’, the Amazon rainforest. The show’s director, Fernando Meirelles – better known for directing the film City of God – highlighted various aspects of Brazil’s history; from the impact of European colonisation and import of slaves, to modern Brazilian pop music and capoeira.
The country’s struggle against environmental change, deforestation and global warming were also emphasised as Meirelles sought to draw attention to the wider consequences for mankind. Every athlete was given a seed which will be planted to create a new forest around some of the grounds.
As expected, Acting President Michel Temer was roundly booed as he officially opened the Games; before three-time Roland Garros champion Gustavo Kuerten carried the famous flame into the stadium. He passed it on to Vanderlei de Lima to light the cauldron – the man who was denied a gold medal in the marathon at Athens 2004 when an Irish priest broke through security and bundled de Lima off the course while he was leading the race. Colombia came in as country number 47, with Judo gold medal favourite Yuri Alvear given the honour of carrying the flag.
Ahead of the games there were doubts about whether the country would be behind the games, but the scene around the park shows that those doubts did not penetrate the event locations. Journalist Alex Marrow, is at the Olympic venue and tells us “There is a lively atmosphere around the park. Lots of Brazilian football shirts are on show as the host nation come out in force to support their athletes.”
“Venues are complete and functional. Surprisingly few reports of any incomplete works within the Olympic Park.” Countering the worries ahead of the Games that the big delays in finishing the venues would have negative effects on the Games. What Rio de Janeiro boasts, and has been one of the unique strengths, is the location, “It is a gorgeous setting, with mountains on three sides of the park and the ocean stretching off in the distance on the other.” Marrow says
He does admit that the wind plays an important role on the venues “It is a blustery area, as the wind blows in from the Atlantic Ocean.”
The venues look good and the Colombian delegation want to take advantage of that. The atmosphere in the athletes’ village for the Colombians is a positive one, as they are sharing an apartment block with fellow Latin Americans Chile, Mexico and Venezuela. An insider told The Bogotá Post that there were concerns for cyclist Sergio Henao after his crash, as it took a long time for news to filter through to the village as to what had actually happened.
A string of disappointing results at the start of the tournament did impact upon Colombia’s contingent, but the gold medal from Óscar Figueroa made up for a lot of that. Judoka Yuri Alvear was in the weightlifting stadium to cheer on her fellow athlete and close friend. She would go on to make the final in her weight class but was beaten on the day and ended up taking home the silver medal.
By Freek Huigen