Flagbearer Md Fakhri Ismail leads the Brunei contingent during the opening ceremony in Rio De Janeiro on Friday. Picture: Reuters
His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah (2nd row, 1st R), the president of the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council (BDNOC) with the vice-president Hj Muhd Zamri Dato Paduka Hamdani (2nd row, 2nd R) in attendance during the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics. Picture: Courtesy of Secretariat of Brunei Contingent to the 2016 Olympics
THE build up to the Rio Olympics haven’t been a good one but it didn’t stop Brazil from welcoming the rest world to the first ever Olympic Games in South America yesterday (Friday night Brazil time).
The Rio Olympics officially began with a four-hour long opening ceremony featuring a celebration of Brazilian culture and fireworks but also served as a reminder of the troubled backdrop to the quadrennial Games from health worries (Zika virus) and economic recession as well as political turmoil.
Present to witness the ceremony at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro was His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, the president of the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council (BDNOC), who mingled with the athletes and Brunei Team officials on Tuesday.
The hosts then took the opportunity to send a message about climate change and athletes were also asked to plant seeds that will grow into trees to be planted in Rio in the next couple of years. The athletes’ parade followed and the Brunei contingent was led out to the venue by sprinter Md Fakhri Ismail to over 60,000 spectators present and an estimated three billion worldwide television audience.
Fakhri was all smiles while waving the Brunei flag proudly and felt that it will be a moment he will remember for the rest of his life. “I feel really proud and nervous at the same time facing so many people inside the stadium,” said Fakhri, who is set to compete in the men’s 100-metre event, yesterday.
“It will be a beautiful memory for me that I will never forget in this lifetime,” added the 25-year-old. National shuttler Jaspar Yu Woon Chai felt that it was a dream come true to be part of the world’s largest sporting extravaganza.
“It is amazing!” exclaimed Yu, who will contest in Group D of the men’s singles event. “Waving my country’s flag in the world’s biggest sporting event is just any dream an athlete wishes for. I’m enjoying it,” he added. On the other hand, sprinter Maizurah Abd Rahim was left speechless by the opening ceremony. “It’s… very nice and amazing,” said Maizurah, who will take part in the women’s 200m event.
“I’m left speechless by the performances and I won’t forget that moment,” she added. The loudest cheers were for the last two teams entering the stadium: the first Refugee team in Olympic history and, of course, the Brazil contingent.
Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer then declared the Games open despite some jeers and boos around the venue.
The first ever Olympic Laurel award was then presented to Kenyan runner Kip Keino before former Brazilian marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima, who served as a last minute replacement for an unwell Pele, lit the Olympic cauldron.