Opening spectacle hits a few home truths for the Marshall Islands
After being officially welcomed into the Athletes’ Village on Thursday, Team Marshall Islands made their Olympic bow to the 2016 Games by parading round the Maracanã stadium in the centre of Rio de Janeiro.
The ceremony showcased Brazil and the city of Rio de Janeiro in a way only they know how, with a spectacular light show and fireworks mixed in with the traditional sounds of the Samba ringing out around the iconic stadium.
The ceremony also featured a number of Brazilian sporting heroes bringing the crowd to their feet as they welcomed in the Olympic flame for the grand finale.
However, despite the show consisting of the traditional Brazilian values, there was an underlying message throughout the ceremony which the masterminds of the show were keen to get across. The problem of climate change has continued to pose an increasing threat to the future of the planet, and the effects of climate change are felt none more so than on the Marshall Islands. Therefore, the idea of providing a sustainable games provided an important connection to Team MHL.
The idea of producing a sustainable Games was further embedded when each marching athlete was given a seed to cement their place in the creation of the athletes’ forest, an initiative to replenish the diminishing rainforest in Brazil.
After the spectacle, it was the turn of the athletes. And after some three hours, the blue, orange and white appeared at the athletes’ entrance to the stadium. It was time for the selected representatives of the Marshall Islands to enter the arena to the sound of yet more samba and choreographed dancing. Flagbearer, Mattie Langtor Sasser and 100m runner Richson Simeon led the Pacific nation into the arena in traditional Jobwa dress, followed by fellow athletes Giordan Harris, Colleen Furgeson and Mariana Cress.
In a show performed in a city where diversity is extremely important, the athletes were told to “share their similarities, and celebrate their differences”, by actress and presenter Regina Casé, often labelled Brazil’s “Queen of diversity”. It was clear to see that the athletes weren’t going to take this message lightly as Sasser and Simeon were about to find out, due to the vast amounts of attention they and their attire were receiving, with continuous ‘selfie’ requests from participating athletes of the globe.
After this, the crowd were entertained by the passionate words of President Carlos Nuzman of the Rio 2016 Committee, who encouraged the athletes to “always believe in your dreams”, as he further added, “Rio is ready to make history”. With this, the games of the 31st Olympiad were declared open for business, and the citizens of the “Marvellous City” went off into the Rio night full of fiesta. For the athletes, it’s a lifetime of hard work and preparation that has led to this fortnight.
Mattie Langtor Sasser gives lift-off to the Marshall Islands Olympic campaign on day three of Rio 2016 in the Women’s 58Kg Weightlifting.
By Simon Thompson