TEAM Nigeria, on Friday night made its 17th appearance at the Olympic Games and table tennis star, Funke Oshonaike, who is making her sixth Olympic appearance was Nigeria’s flag bearer during the march past at the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro
An elated Oshonaike, also made the official list of flag bearers released by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), thereby making the initial appointment of John Mikel Obi a ceremonial Team Nigeria captain.
However, the appearance of Team Nigeria during the parade later elicited criticisms as the tradition of using the Games to showcase the rich culture of Nigeria was abandoned this time.
Team Nigeria marched with tracksuits because the official kits did not arrive in Rio in time.
According to Alexander Wolff, a sports journalist covering the Games, “Nigeria, marching in sweats because official outfits didn’t make it to Rio. Can we agree that they’re a country to pull for these two weeks?”
Team Nigeria athletes were expected to be in outfits reflecting the culture of the nation during parade, but many were surprised to see the athletes in tracksuits during parade.
The athletes resorted to tracksuits as the attires made for the opening ceremony could not be available.
The reason for the unavailablity of the attires could not be ascertained as of the time of filing this report, but could not be unconnected with the problem of funding which hampered the preparations of Team Nigeria in the first instance.
Some Nigerians took to social media to express their disappointment at the make up of Team Nigeria during the Rio 2016 parade.
One Chris Adetayo through his twitter handle @chrisadet said: “The #OpeningCeremony gives every nation the chance to display its fashion culture to the greatest audience. Nigeria came out in track suits!” while one Bim Amoako @BimAmoako tweeted “So I stayed up for Naija to wear tracksuits? I don’t know who is more stupid – me or them. #Rio2016 #OpeningCeremony #Nigeria #fail.
One Alice @alice2096 also tweeted “I’m for UK, USA, Jamaica and Nigeria but Nigeria have already let me down with the tracksuits so that gets an F #OpeningCeremony.”
However, it was gathered that the outfits that could not be used for the parade at Rio 2016 opening ceremony did not portray the rich cultural values of Nigeria.
Instead of the different types of native attires, the female outfit would have been a flowing gown, while the male outfit is believed to be a black long coat, complimented with a hat and green pants.
Meanwhile, burdened with the most beleaguered Olympics forecast in history, Brazil opened its Games on Friday night with a carefully planned, prolonged response featuring a powerful two-syllable proclamation. “Par-ty!”
With the world around them wringing its hands over fears of dirty water, street violence and the Zika virus, the Brazilians responded with heartfelt singing, nimble dancing, a stadium-rocking entrance scene, and one outrageous strut into opening ceremony legend.
Early in the show, out of nowhere but apropos of everything, tall and tan and young and lovely Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen s-l-o-w-l-y strolled the length of the Maracana Stadium floor in a long silver gown to the piano strains of the iconic song, “The Girl from Ipanema.”
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It would have been corny, except the music was played and sung by Daniel Jobim, grandson of the song’s late composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. It would have been silly, but many of the 60,000 spectators emotionally clapped and sang along in Portuguese.
It was Brazil being Brazil, a poignant moment of pride that matched any victory celebration from Bundchen’s husband Tom Brady, and just one of many scenes from an evening filled with unbridled joy.
There was a hometown march like no other, the swaying and skipping Brazilian team entering the stadium waving straw hats and shedding blue blazers, the legendary Brazilian song “Aquarela do Brasil” filling the air and thousands of spectators doing some form of samba.
There was a caldron lighting that was missing a big name but contained a huge heart. It did not involve the ill Pele. Instead the honour went to runner Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the 2004 marathon in Athens when he was attacked by a spectator. He lost his lead, but refused to quit and finished third.
The evening ended with the usual fireworks, more wild dancing, and an impromptu song by thousands of Brazilians who didn’t want to leave, and who can blame them?
The competition officially begins on Saturday morning, and it could be messy. There could be issues with drugs and sewage and local apathy and a continuation of a general chaos that has thus far enveloped the overmatched Brazilian organizers.
But give that crazy bunch credit, at least for this night they created pure fun, even when it wasn’t supposed to be fun.
“The best place in the world is here and now,” announced the furiously gesturing Carlos Nuzman, president of Brazil’s Olympic committee, during his traditional speech. “Those who do not know us, have doubted. Those who do, are happy.’’
Yet those doubters became happy moments later when Nuzman stumbled over his words and congratulated the International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach because he, “Believed in the sex … success of the Rio 2016 games.”
Organisers running on a budget warned that it wasn’t going to be fancy, and it wasn’t. There was none of the science fiction that marked the memorable Beijing opening ceremony in 2008, or the elaborate staging featured in London in 2012.
Organisers claimed it would reflect the, “low-tech spirit, the richness of Brazilian culture,” and it did that exactly, in the most brilliant of ways, trading flashy for soulful, and techno for real, and somehow it worked.