It may not seem like the gargantuan Olympic festivities in London were four years ago, but just one day after West Ham, the new tenants, played their first game in Stratford’s Olympic Stadium, the Olympic circus is jumping back to life. Though the sport is technically already under way – group stage football encounters began on Wednesday – the action proper kicks off with the opening ceremony tonight at Rio’s Maracanã Stadium from 8pm local time (midnight UK time) and we’ll be bringing all you all the best bits right here.
Hello there! You’re a little bit early, but we’ll forgive your excitement. Join us from midnight if you’re in the UK, 8pm if you’re in Rio, or [INSERT TIME] in your local time zone as we break down every inevitable absurdity from the ceremony.
If every other Olympic opening ceremony of recent times is anything to go by, tonight will have a strong focus on the rich cultural output of the host nation. Though what it’ll contain remains shrouded in mystery, our friends at The Edge recently had a think about which music acts they’d like to see take the stage. Check out their feature while we wait for Question of Sport to finish.
Come on, how great would CSS be in front of an audience of (potentially) billions?
Good news, everyone! Phil Tufnell and friends have finally left our screens, and it’s time for Clare Balding’s dramatic monologue over a picture of Christ The Redeemer.
Steve Redgrave and Michael Johnson join her in their finest check patterns to discuss who will light the cauldron. Will it be Pele? Probably not, it seems.
Zika. State-sponsored doping. Political turmoil. Unfinished facilities. Polluted water.
There’s a fair bit obstructing Rio’s way to success with these games. Let’s hope the opening is as good as the dramatic narration that only Eddie Butler can provide.
I’ve not been paying enough attention to this sequence to know entirely what it was all about but Butler’s voice really is lovely.
“I’m sure it’ll be a night I’ll never forget.”
Andy Murray, delightfully plain-talking as ever, on his impending run with the flag in front of 365 other athletes in Team GB.
We begin with people swimming and skateboarding and generally sportily writhing from above. It all looks a bit sunny.
This is a good use of drone footage.
Inside the Maracanã now for some folks to create lovely patterns with sheets of metallic material, although this seems to be a precursor to the main ceremony as a numerical countdown is projected onto them.
Fireworks! They’re even spelling out the name of the city.
*everybody take a shot*
Our first dose of music – the national anthem of Brazil – comes from a little string ensemble fronted by a man in a blue suit with an acoustic guitar who forgot to bring a tie. Flag-clad children crowd the flagpole as uniformed military men pray they put the thing up the right way up.
The illuminated section of the Maracanã’s floor is very bizarrely shaped. At first with all those shiny scales, it looked a bit like a fish shape. Now, it’s a screen for wobbling microbes and War Horse-esque puppetry.
It seems Brazil has run out of trees. Tonight’s depiction of forestry looks like a bunch of lasers that actually seem to be strings being guided around by silhouettes.
Waiting for confirmation of this being the world’s largest and most interesting maypole dance.
The explorers are here, though their boats can’t help it if they’re tilted – they’re only metal frames that someone forgot to add bodywork to.
Tree visions become sugar cane plantations and agricultural art as the forced migration from Africa is recognised.
Still lots of wireframing going on, as Japanese immigrants dance around with ineffective hats.
Parkour alert! It all gets a bit Mirror’s Edge-ish as projections of growing skylines paint an excellent illusion of everything becoming a bit dangerous for the red jumpers.
Acrobats and climbers are dressed as construction workers, scaling buildings designed for people a third of their height.
Now they’ve stopped jumping around to build a wall that doesn’t look at all flimsy. Honest.
An early plane flies away into the realm of suspicious CGI. Christ The Redeemer himself gets a little cameo amidst the swooping nighttime imagery.
Our first living celebrity appearance is catwalk-less stroll across the pitch for Gisele Bündchen. She gets to the other side to be received by bright colours and contemporary dancing.
The vision now is the kind of blend of fluorescent tones in geometric patterns that would delight lovers of rave Tetris, which is a thing that definitely should exist.
Another thing that should exist is a decent sound output from the various singers’ microphones. All I can make out is Andrew Cotter trying to tell us who it is we can’t comprehend.
Capoeira, the “world heritage phenomenon,” is swept aside for more pyrotechnical wizardry. This time, it’s fire dancing.
Not content with fuzzy audio, flashing lights and mass dancing creates a muddled visual too. Excellent.
Just spotted an Ozzy Osbourne impersonator with a body-length silver wig. He’s a human pompom.
This is all a bit Butlins-gone-wild.
Some chap with a backpack has just wandered into the centre of the stadium. They’ve cut to a visualisation of growing carbon dioxide emissions and some rather attractive infographics on global warming.
There’s also an English narration to it to teach us all about Amsterdam’s impending doom, but again it’s almost impossible to tell what is being said with the echoing and the silence.
Backpack Man found a plant. Could they not clear the floor before the ceremony?
Judi Dench has started talking, or at least that’s how it seems to my uncultured ears. A tape of plants being planted in slow motion accompanies.
Ooh, the English reader of that poem was indeed Dame Judi.
Apparently we’re at athlete time already. It’s French announcement time.
Greece is led out by a wonderful green bicycle with a rotating sign bearing the nation’s name. Hazel Irvine talks about the Greek debt crisis.
Afghanistan’s flag bearer looks determined. Some in his wake wave two flags in one hand.
South Africa brought its finest discount tracksuits for the occasion.
Germany’s Timo Boll was picked to wave their flag in a public vote. Ich stimme mit euch, Deutschland. Wir lieben Tischtennis.
The first time I’ve legitimately used A-level German skills in a year, there.
Angolan outfits are so beige I’d expect the New Zealand cricket team to break out a game of Twenty20 in them. I love it.
Hadn’t noticed this until a moment ago, but each country’s flagbearer seems to be accompanied by a small child with a sprig of greenery in a tall pot. Are they planning to replant the Maracanã pitch once the night is out?
Armenia’s bicycle guy looked like an emotional Chris Woakes. Since he’s become the true -kes superhero of English cricket in the past few weeks, my advice is to bet all your life savings on them being great.
Austria’s child has the most forced grin of the evening.
2016 Summer Olympics or 2012 Eurovision Song Contest: if you were a country, which would you rather host?
For me, definitely Eurovision. You won the real prize, Azerbaijan.
I’M FINALLY HERE. As is the… Boring part of the opening ceremony.
Welcome, Carly-May! The Belarus side came right out of Topshop to say hello.
Thoughts so far: why giant cheese graters? Why do Australia look like they’re in private school? Could Rio 2016 actually be more hipster than I am? *sips indie coffee while wearing dungarees*
Belize, whose delegation I had previously been promised would contain LEAVE.EU’s Arron Banks, passes in a flash. *grumblegrumble*
No sudden movements when Russia come out.
voteleavetakecontrol you mean, Xav?
ARE BERMUDA WEARING BERMUDA SHORTS?!
Will there even be anyone left in the Russian colours? Apart from France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, of course.
The theme so far seems to be ‘LOOK WE CAN USE DRONES!’
Bermudan sport will never top Dwayne Leverock’s catch in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
First Rio event: speed space blanket folding. The Russians will love it I’m sure.
If you think this is droning on, you should have seen the intro.
This must be where The Hunger Games got its inspiration.
Yeah you plant that seed.
“If international banking were in the games, [the Cayman Islands would] be right in the hunt for medals.”
The BBC commentary is ALL STEREOTYPES.
We need to give out a few awards to break the tedium of the parade of nations. First up, Chad: the most likely nation to pass as one man who doesn’t sound like he should be there.
Cyprus has what looks like the first selfie stick I’ve actually spotted. MAKE IT STOP.
Award giving gives me MUN flashbacks Xav you are not best delegate.
I thought Rio banned selfie sticks from the Olympics?
Surely when you’re an athlete you can do what you want. Then again, they should all be stopped from using their phones whilst walking out because it looks silly and there are perfectly good photographers out there.
Those trikes are my new favourite thing.
Dinamarca: Best translation of a Scandinavian country’s name into Portuguese.
How exactly does one go about becoming a ceremonial tricyclist?
Here comes the Estados Unidos, who NBC wanted to push back from their Portuguese running order slot to keep people watching despite broadcasting the ceremony on an hour delay and with all possible ad breaks.
This ceremony needs more cricket.
Or maybe I just need more sugar.
As if by magic, Cotter talks about the French medalling in the cricket in 1900.
You can stay.
Grandma, having been woken up by my hunt for yogurt: “There was a chap playing the guitar at the beginning.”
Me: “Oh yes, the one playing the anthem.”
Grandma: “It was awful.”
Yes, I happened to go on a yogurt search right as the British strode out in their lovely coats.
Honduras: most prepared for their signage trike not actually having the correct spelling of their name.
Iran: best flagbearer, choosing an archer in a wheelchair who has also qualified for the Paralympics.
Carly-May seems to be awake but silent: this just appeared in our message thread without context.
Liberia, even though we’re not quite there yet: best county flag system
Japaõ: most onomatopoeic Portuguese translation
Kiribati: most exuberant flagbearer who in all likelihood will stumble over through dizziness when out of shot.
Frank Ocean: most unreleased album.
Monaco: easiest to confuse with Poland if you’re not listening.
Xavier Voigt-Hill: silliest person for committing to liveblogging the opening ceremony even though he knows just how slow the parade can be.
These Olympics will be so much better when we’re actually watching people fall over in the BMX races. All Olympic events should be replaced by BMX races. It’d be like You’ve Been Framed with people at the height of their physical capabilities.
Look at these fancy coats. If it wasn’t for the shorts, I’d fully approve.
Portugal: worst scarves. Seriously, why is blue smudged onto each end of their flag?
Syrian Arab Republic: best arm gestures from trike rider.
Suécia: best gold medal costumes designed by H&M.
Switzerland: most noticeable lack of Roger Federer.
Chinese Taipei: most turquoise.
Timor-Leste: smiliest flagbearer.
Tonga: oiliest flagbearer.
He was oily.
Uruguai: most unnecessary translation.
What’s the value per barrel for this guy?
British Virgin Islands: most likely to remind you that Iyaz exists.
Refugee Olympic Team: biggest cheer.
Also best dancing athlete with a tiny flag.
Brazil: most alphabetically out-of-place.
It’s been almost three hours. Finally we have mirrored cabinets coated in fingerprints being wheeled around with seeds/cheese graters on the sides.
It’s tree time: the interlocking rings of the Olympics are constructed in tree form and then turn into confetti cannons. As you do.
“It’s my pleasure to hand over to…Thomas Bach, who has always believed in the sex.”
A successful trilingual speech and he fluffs up in the last line.
Kip Keino of Kenya is awarded the Olympic laurel. He jogs in trailed by children as Cotter and Irvine return from their 20 minute silence through the IOC/host nation speeches.
Keino is the first recipient of the award, which will be given at every subsequent opening ceremony “to those with achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport.”
And now the Brazilian head of government or lack thereof has declared the games open. It’s time to bring the flag in and set this place on fire.
Robert Scheidt takes the Olympic oath for all the athletes. The flag is hoisted. The end is, mercifully, in sight.
Oops, maybe not. A carnival has broken out.
Now singing: a Brazilian Bob Geldof.
Just when you think this ceremony might, after 4 hours, be nearly finished, it finds away to add more drumming as skimpily-dressed people parade bright colours through.
I see fire! Inside the Maracanã.
I see fire! Burning with Guga.
I see fiiiiiiiiire! Spun round in circles.
I see fiiiiiiiiiiiiiire! Lighting the scene.
And I hope we’re almost done with he (who actually lit the cauldron).
Our flame is, of course, a restrained non-gas-guzzler, though it looks quite snazzy in a sculpture of shimmering spirals
Whilst the organisers exercise their right to wake up an entire continent with eruptions of light and fireworks, it is time for us to bid farewell.
With 235 minutes of ecological consciousness, national diversity, shimmering blankets, cheese-grating seed racks, projected parkour, comedic tricycle decorations, selfie stick-wrangling, garish colours, panoramic drone shots, inaudible stadium microphones, dodgy hats, oily Tongans, trilingual monologues, and wind-powered fire now out of the way, the 31st modern Olympic games are now under way. Thank you for joining us through this late-night rambling, and we’ll see you very soon live from almost-Rio to bring you the best of the actual sport that now may begin.