The 2016 Olympic Games were formally opened in a colourful and pulsating ceremony at Rio’s Maracana stadium.
Broadcast to an estimated audience of three billion, the ceremony celebrated Brazil’s history and natural beauty, before former marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima lit the Olympic cauldron.
The build-up to Rio 2016 has been played out against a deep recession and political protests in Brazil.
“These have been difficult years and months leading to this moment. And so the mood was one of relief that it was actually here, that the scandals and scares that have blighted the build-up at last have something more life-affirming to crash up against.”
The Games, the first to be held in South America, have also been disrupted by concerns over the Russian doping scandal, the Zika virus and problems with the city’s security, infrastructure and venues.
But organisers will hope the focus can now shift to the action in 28 sports, with 207 teams, after the Games of the 31st Olympiad were officially opened.
The cauldron was lit by De Lima, who won bronze for Brazil in the marathon at the 2004 Games after he was grappled by a spectator while leading the race.
Football legend Pele had ruled himself out of performing the role saying he was not in the right “physical condition”.
After a simple but emotional rendition of the Brazilian national anthem, sung and played on acoustic guitar by singer-songwriter Paulinho da Viola, video projections beamed on to the floor of the stadium explored the history of the nation.
Starting with images of micro-organisms dividing and giant sculptures of microbes – representing the beginning of life – the ceremony showed the contributions made by the nation’s indigenous peoples, by Portuguese explorers, by African slaves and by Japanese immigrants to Brazil’s history and culture.