RIO DE JANEIRO, August 5. /TASS/. The 31st Summer Olympics will start in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro within several hours. Athletes from 206 countries and members of the refugee team performing under the Olympic flag will compete for 306 sets of medals at the first-ever Olympics to be held in South America.
Rio was awarded the right to officiate the 2016 Olympics in October 2009, outbidding three other hopefuls - Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago. Brazil has by now firmly established itself in the club of the leading world sports powers. In 2014, it hosted the World Soccer Cup finals. Sports facilities in what is now the Olympic Park and the city’s transport network have required more than $9 billion to upgrade. The costs were split evenly between the government and private businesses.
The listed sports events at the Rio Olympics are as follows: rowing, badminton, basketball, boxing, wrestling, cycling, water polo, volleyball, handball, sports and rhythmic gymnastics, golf, kayaking and canoeing, rowing slalom, judo, equestrian sports, athletics, table tennis, yachting, swimming, beach volleyball, diving, trampolining, rugby-7, synchronized swimming, modern pentathlon, shooting, archery, tennis, triathlon, taekwondo, weightlifting, fencing, football and field hockey.
Rugby-7 and golf are the two new sports on the Olympic schedule. In contrast to the London Olympics, the number of medals to be vied for has been ramped up from 302 to 306. The name of the first Olympic champion - in women’s air rifle shooting - will become known on Saturday.
The Barra Tijuca Park, on the shores of Lake Jacarepagua, west of the city center, will hold the main events. The three other major sports sites are Deodoro, Maracana and Copacabana.
The main stadium - Maracana - will host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the decisive football matches.
The Olympic Games will bring together athletes from all of the 206 countries whose national committees are affiliated with the International Olympic Committee, as well as those who are commonly referred to as refugee athletes, who will be competing under the Olympic flag. Kosovo and South Sudan will participate for the first time ever. The US team - 554 athletes - will be the largest. An impressive group of 465 athletes will represent Brazil.
Russia will have a representation of 271 athletes, according to the IOC-approved list, which may still be expanded somewhat. Some athletes’ cases are still being considered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Originally, the Russian Olympic Committee presented a list of 389 athletes, but some of them have failed to match access criteria.
In November 2015, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) suspended a member of the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF), which eventually barred Russian track-and-field athletes. The ARAF was punished on the basis of a report by a commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which contained claims about multiple cases of anti-doping abuse by Russia’s track and field athletes.
The final list of Russian athletes was made public as late as Thursday. The number of Russian participants has been reduced by nearly a third, including 67 track-and-field athletes, the whole weightlifting team and nearly all rowers - the sports where the number of exposed doping abuse cases was the largest.
The Olympic Games’ opening ceremony will be held at the Maracana stadium on August 5. The Games will close at the same venue on August 21.
As usual, the organizers prefer to keep the details of the opening ceremony’s scenario shrouded in secrecy. The traditional procedures are a statement by the leader of the host country, who is to declare the Games open, a statement by the head of the International Olympic Committee, a march-past by athletes, Olympic oaths and the lighting of the Olympic Flame.
Acting President Michel Temer will represent Brazil. In May, he replaced Dilma Rouseff, who has been suspended and is facing impeachment proceedings. Neither Rouseff, nor Brazil’s former president Inacio Lula da Silva will show up at the ceremony, although invitations have been sent to both of them.
The name of the person who will light up the Olympic Flame remains under wraps for now. Most Brazilians are certain, though, there can be no alternative in this capacity to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, commonly known as Pele. Last century’s phenomenal football star has said that he has received an invitation from the organizers, but remarked that he had some important duties to attend outside the country.
The heads of more than 50 states will gather for the opening of the Olympics, including President Francois Hollande, of France, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama will be absent. Secretary of State John Kerry will lead his country’s delegation at Maracana.
Brazil’s difficult financial situation has forced the country to cut corners and avoid a lavish show. Executive Producer Marco Balich said, "It does not have the grandiosity of Beijing, the huge special effects of Athens, the eccentricity and technological skills of London. It is a very contemporary ceremony. Even without special effects, it talks to people about the future. It is not a display of how good or modern Brazil is."
The show has been co-authored by Brazil’s film director, Fernando Meirelles and producers Daniela Thomas and Andrucha Waddington. Stage director and choreographer Deborah Colker is responsible for the dance show, featuring 6,000 volunteers and 300 professional dancers. Samba performer Paolinho da Viola will sing Brazil’s national anthem.
The site selected for the opening ceremony - the Maracana stadium - was built specifically for the 1950 World Football Cup finals.
Over the past three years, Maracana has been upgraded and refurbished thrice. Currently it seats no more than 79,000 spectators. The stadium, named after Brazilian journalist Mario Filho, hosted the final match of the 2014 World Football Cup, where Germany beat Argentina 1:0.
That said, the 2016 Olympics Opening ceremony will begin at 20:00 local time.