Rio Olympics poised to start with colourful ceremony

Rio de Janeiro: The 31st Olympics, the first to be held in South America and only the third to take place in the southern hemisphere, were due to formally open on Friday with a colourful ceremony, dedicated to history and the planet Earth, at the Macarana stadium here. The huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, that dominates the skyline of the Brazilian capital and where the Olympic torch was lit at dawn, was specially lit up ahead of the opening ceremony due to start at 8 p.m. local time (4.30 a.m. IST). However, legendary footballer Pele, who was widely expected to light the Olympic cauldron at the end of the four-hour ceremony, pulled out a few hours before due to ill-health. The ceremony, which has famed Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, known for crime drama "City of God", Andrucha Washington and Daniela Thomas as creative directors, has large component devoted to Brazil's vibrant music, especially samba. Among the star performers are legendary singer Elza Soares (samba), Karol Conka and the 12-year-old M.C. Soffia (hip hop), will also be representing Brazil's black community, as well as the veterans Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, who pioneered the post-bossa nova musica popular brasileira and tropicalia, performing alongside Carioca (slang for natives of the city) singer Anitta. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who has retired, will be appearing in the ceremony and was reportedly due to enact a mugging victim, while her younger colleague Lea T will become the first transgender person to have a major role at an Olympic opening ceremony. Among the VIPs expected to view the ceremony are UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande, Argentinean President Mauricio Macri, King Phillipe of Belgium, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Princess Anne of Britain and Qatari Prince, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The Parade of the Nations, or the march past of the participating contingents, will see 207 including Kosovo and South Sudan who are making their debut. Also participating for the first time is the 10-member Refugee Olympic Team comprising refugees from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Congo.  The Indian contingent will be led by Olympian medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra.