THE 31st Olympic Games began ceremonially on Friday in Rio with Nigeria also among the countries which displayed its flags at the Maracana Stadium, Brazil during the opening ceremonies.
Actions at Rio 2016 had commenced during the week with the host men’s soccer team led by Barcelona star, Neymar settling for a barren draw with South Africa.
Team Nigeria is featuring in eight events at the Games- football (men), basketball, canoeing, table tennis, athletics, weightlifting, boxing and wrestling with 86 athletes.
Table tennis star, Funke Oshonaike, who is attending her sixth Olympic appearance, was made the flag bearer for Team Nigeria during the opening ceremonies, but the official Team Nigeria Captain happens to be John Mikel Obi, as announced by the Minister of Youth Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung.
Dream Team became the first team to put smiles of the faces of Nigerians at the Games following their 5-4 hard fought victory over the Samurai Blues of Japan, in the early hours of Friday in Manaus, a result which placed Nigeria on the ladder of men’s group B soccer table as other group opponents, Sweden and Colombia settled for a 2-2 draw.
However, for the first time since Nigeria made its debut in boxing at the quadrennial Games in 1960, only one boxer, Efe Ajagba, qualified this time and will fight in the superheavyweight class.
Three boxers, including a woman, Edith Agu-Ogoke, it will be recalled, represented Nigeria at the London 2012 Games, but only Edith got to the quarter-final.
Also, reigning Commonwealth Games +75kg champion, Maryam Usman, remains the only weightlifer who will hoist Nigeria’s flag at Rio 2016.
Maryam, who is making her third Olympic appearance, believes she has what it takes to come back with a medal this time.
“The preparation is nothing to talk about; but I am not discouraged, rather I’m taking it up as a challenge to increase the tempo of my training outside the national camp.
“We have been in camp for the past two months training seriously, this will enable me to win a medal this time round and I know that almighty God will support my effort.
“I was in Beijing and London Olympics in 2008 and 2012 respectively, but couldn’t win any medal.
“However, this is another opportunity for me and I must make the difference this time.
“Thank God for exposure at previous Olympics, continental championships and series of trials that has helped me to garner the basic points that earned me this Olympic ticket,” Usman told NAN before the team’s departure.
Meanwhile, Friday night’s opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was no shortage of Brazilian samba and showmanship.
An estimated three billion TV viewers around the world watched the three-hour ceremony on Friday night held at the world-famous Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
A total 5,000 volunteers, 500 musicians and 200 professional dancers took part.
“Athens was classical, Beijing was grandiose, London was smart – ours is going to be cool,” said creative director, Fernando Meirelles
“The world is very tense and so is Brazil. We are also willing to tell the world to stop attacking our home. The world is threatened because of global warming. We are calling for action,” Meirelles continued.
“Smile is the approach the Brazilians have toward life,” said Marco Balich, the executive producer. “Brazil is not a grand nation. They’re saying in this ceremony, we are who we are, with a lot of social problems, a lot of crises in the political system, etc.”