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Opening Ceremony Kicks Off Rio Olympics With Flair And A Message

The Olympic Games got underway Friday amid concerns of the Zika virus, pollution, and security in Brazil. BuzzFeed News reporters Tamerra Griffin and Ryan Broderick are reporting from Rio.

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Here's what's happening:

  • The 2016 Summer Games officially kicked off Friday with the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where 60,000 people inside the Maracana Stadium watched fireworks, the parade of nations, and a plea for global conservation.
  • The Games were formally opened by Brazil's Interim President Michel Temer and Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, who lit the Olympic cauldron.
  • The first-ever Olympic team of refugees received a standing ovation.
  • The Games are happening amid concerns about the Zika virus, lodging, security, and the Russian athlete doping scandal.
  • Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Rio ahead of the opening ceremony, citing the ongoing government corruption scandal and the costs of staging the sporting event.
  • BuzzFeed will have reporters and writers there as 10,000 athletes take part in 300 events over 17 days.

Updates

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With the raising of the Olympic flag and the lighting of the cauldron, Brazil officially opened the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, capping a colorful opening ceremony filled with dancers and performances in Maracana Stadium.

The Olympic cauldron was lit by Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, a former long-distance runner, who carried the last leg of the Olympic torch to officially open the games.

The stadium was lit with an elaborate display of fireworks as the South American country prepared for its first competitions Saturday morning.

—Salvador Hernandez

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One of the loudest applauses of the parade of nations came as the Refugee Olympic Team athletes and coaches walked into the stadium to a standing ovation.

It was the first time an Olympic athletic team was composed of refugees, an effort by the Olympic committee to shine a light on the plight of refugees all over the world.

"Dear refugee athletes, you are sending a message of hope, to all the many millions of refugees around the globe," Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee said after the parade of nations was finished.

The crowd at Maracana Stadium stood up and cheered as the team composed of 10 athletes from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, walked in waving the flag with the Olympic rings.

"You have fled from your homes because of violence, hunger, or just because you were different," Bach said. "With your great talent and human spirit, you are making a great contribution to society."

The opening ceremony was broadcast in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where some of the athletes currently call home.

3am live broadcast of #Rio2016 ceremony here in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya & home to many #teamrefugees! @Refugees

—Salvador Hernandez

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Even as Olympians in Rio prepare to brave polluted waters and compete under threat of the Zika virus, Brazil made saving Planet Earth a key message of its opening ceremony on Friday.

Brazil's moment in the world spotlight started off with an image of a Pau-Brasil tree on the floor of Maracana Stadium. The national tree is threatened, due mostly to deforestation.

The doomsday imagery continued with greenhouse gas emissions swirling in the atmosphere as rising sea levels brought on by a melting icecap overtook low-lying regions around the world: Amsterdam, Florida, Shanghai.

A video also stressed the need to re-forest the planet in order to curb the effect of carbon dioxide emissions.

"The heat is melting the icecap," the video's narrator said. "It's disappearing very quickly."

The Rio Olympics have been beset by pollution problems that only got worse days ago with sewage pouring into Guanabara Bay, which will host triathlon, sailing, and marathon swimming events.

—Jason Wells

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From dizzying array of bright colors, to dramatic reenactments, the opening ceremony was a visual opera. For more photos from Rio, go here.

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From the creation of its lush rain forests, to its sprawling urban cities, the opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics included a brief visual history of Brazil.

The optical presentation started from the growth of the country's vast and lush rain forests, with green lights flooding Maracana Stadium.

Dancers and actors depicted the country's original inhabitants. Actors even portrayed giant bugs that inhabit the landscape.

Acrobats in boats then represented the arrival of Europeans to the South American continent. As the ships made their way through the green ground lighting, it cut through the lights, leaving behind a white path.

Then dancers made their way in with their with their hands attached to poles. Some of them wearing shackles on their feat, symbolizing the arrival of African slaves.

The green-lit floor then began to be depicted in geometric shapes of different colors an sizes, symbolizing growth of agriculture and modern civilization to the country.

Dancers symbolizing African, European, and Asian immigrants continued to dance through the landscape.

—Salvador Hernandez

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The opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics began Thursday at Maracana Stadium, launching the 2016 Games in Brazil.

The ceremony kicked off with visual performances in the stadium and a fireworks show that spelled "Rio" over spectators.

The ceremony won't be broadcast in the US until 7:30 ET, but Team USA already had big fan wishing them well.

Ready to root on #TeamUSA! Our team's unity and diversity makes us so proud - and reminds the world why America sets the gold standard.

—Salvador Hernandez

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Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Rio ahead of the opening ceremony for the Olympics, citing the ongoing government corruption scandal and the costs of staging the sporting event.

The anti-government protesters were met with tear gas after they blocked the torch's path.

The Rio Games have been wrestling with a recession that has angered Brazilians who watched as the government spent millions to put the event together. Suspended President Dilma Rousseff also faces an impeachment trial after being accused of covering government deficits with money from state-owned banks.

Scenes from the protests included people burning flags and paramedics rendering aid after crowd clashed with police clashed about a mile from the stadium.

There were also reports of at least one protestor being struck by police.

Watch footage from the scene shot by BuzzFeed News reporters Tamerra Griffin and Ryan Broderick:

—Adolfo Flores

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Soccer legend Pele says he will not light Olympic cauldron due to poor health

Facebook: Pele

Brazilian sporting icon Pele said he will not light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony due to poor health, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement Friday, Pele, who had hip surgery several years ago, said it was his "own decision" to back out.

"I'm not physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics," he said. "Only God is more important than my health. In my life, I've had fractures, surgeries, pain, hospital stays, victories and defeats. And I've always respected those who admire me."

He apologized for disappointing the people of his country saying, "as a Brazilian, I ask God to bless all who participate in this event."

Tasneem Nashrulla

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The ceremony at Rio's Maracaña Stadium will air on NBC starting Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The games will air on a one-hour tape delay.

Gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps will serve as the US's flag bearer in the ceremony.

A video of the ceremony can be viewed here.

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