Rio’s Olympic Games are fully under way with road cycling, beach volleyball, boxing and several swimming events held Saturday, among various other competitions.
American shooter Ginny Thrasher, a 19-year-old competitor in the women’s air rifle event, took gold – the first of the 2016 Summer Games – edging out two Chinese competitors, Du Li and Yi Siling.
The American swimming squad led by Katie Ledecky took silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle. Australians set a world record in the event to win in 3 minutes, 30.65 seconds, taking a third of a second off the record set by the Aussies two years ago.
Another world record in the pool was set by Hungary's Katinka Hosszu in the women's 400-meter individual medley, earning gold with a time of 4 minutes, 26.36 seconds. Maya DiRado of the U.S. took the silver medal, 2.72 seconds behind Hosszu.
American tennis star Venus Williams lost in the first round to Kristen Flipkens of Belgium. While Williams has a record of four Olympic gold medals, Flipkens celebrated the first-round victory as if she won her first top medal.
“This is just one of the most epic matches in my life,” Flipkens said, adding, “They [spectators] just enjoyed my game because, I think, I’m a little girl trying to do some special stuff to get a chance to beat a champion like that.”
In women's handball, Brazil upset defending champion Norway 31-28 in the opening fame. Twelve goals for Brazil scored by Ana Paula Rodrigues led the team to victory in a sport in which Brazil has never earned gold.
In a group stage football (soccer), U.S. women won 1-0 in a match against France at Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte.
The American men's basketball team romped over China 119-62 in their opener.
The competition Saturday followed Friday’s colorful opening ceremony, which embraced Brazil’s cultural diversity as well as its social and economic challenges.
Interim Brazilian President Michel Temer presided over the opening of the games inside Maracana Stadium, with dozens of heads of state in attendance. He took over from suspended president Dilma Rousseff, who is facing an impeachment trial and tweeted she was "sad to not be at the party."
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Despite the political unpleasantness, a huge throng of spectators attended the ceremony at Rio's Maracana Stadium, among them French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, both of whom have cities in the running for the 2024 Olympic Games.
Also in attendance, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon along with nearly two dozen other representatives of national governments.
Fireworks and dozens of dancers set the show in motion with bright colors, shiny fabric and plenty of the passion for which Brazil is famous.
Brazilian Grammy winner Gilberto Gil wrote the song Aquele Abraco, that began the ceremony. Gil spent several years living in exile in London when Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship. His song expresses love for his homeland, and specifically for Rio.
Mohamed Daud Mohamed, left, and Maryam Nuh Muse, second from right, are pictured with another member of their contingent during team-welcoming ceremonies for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 4, 2016.
The song was a part of Brazil's long, proud musical history, which was on full display during Friday's ceremony. From funk to samba to hip-hop, it was all featured as the opening built toward the entrance of athletes from around the world. Among the featured artists were Ludmilla, Cristian Do Passinho, Lelezinha, Elza Soares, Marcelo D2 and Karol Conka.
Video screens around Maracana Stadium showed some of the lyrics, mostly in Portuguese, as fireworks went off and dancers clad in huge, multicolored wigs and red, yellow, white and orange outfits performed on the stadium floor.
After the nearly four-hour ceremony was over – about 45 minutes longer than scheduled – Brazilian spectator Amanda Ramos Amore shared her thoughts with VOA.
Brazilian spectator Amanda Ramos Amore told VOA that the opening ceremony left her "speechless." (P. Brewer/VOA)
“I loved it. It was like perfect. I've never seem something like that before.” She added that it exceeded her expectations.
“I don't have many more words. I am speechless. I had some American people around me and some Colombian people and they loved it too.”
As could be expected, there were huge rounds of applause for South American countries, particularly Argentina, Chile and Colombia.
The United States, typically with the biggest delegation at the Olympics, also received a loud ovation. Other countries with audibly large numbers of supporters in the crowd were Mexico, Jamaica, Portugal, Italy, Spain, France and Japan, with Cuba and Puerto Rico both fondly welcomed by the crowd. The Russian team, with many members barred because of the country's doping scandal, received polite applause.
But the noise when the Brazilian team began to march in was thunderous. And shouts of “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil” continued until the entire team was in position on the Maracana Stadium floor.
Hours before the start of the ceremony, riot police broke up a small protest in Rio. Police used tear gas and stun grenades to subdue the group of a few hundred people who were denouncing what they said was corruption and overspending in preparation for the games.
Multi-gold medal winner in swimming Michael Phelps carries the flag of the United States as he leads the U.S. team during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 5, 2016.
Protester Henrique Mena told The Associated Press: "People are using the Olympic Games as a justification to exclude people, the poor people, in the city. We have a very unequal city, a very divided city, and after the Olympics we are going to have an even more divided and segregated city."
The 2016 Games, protesters say, provide benefits to a few while leaving those who are most in need without proper pay, education and health care.
Still, organizers say the budget for the games is only one-tenth that of the amount spent on the 2012 Games in London.
In some cases, budgetary woes caused high-profile problems. The Australian Olympic team initially refused to move into its housing, citing clogged toilets and exposed wiring in the dormitories. After several days' delay, the problems were corrected and the team moved in — only to have to evacuate briefly, two days later, because of a fire scare.
Olympic facilities have been plagued with other problems, such as the collapse of a boat ramp a week ago that still has not been fixed, and worries about sanitary conditions, such as water pollution and the threat of Zika virus transmission through mosquito bites.
And even the torch relay hit a rough patch Friday, as organizers diverted its course away from the famed Copacabana Beach to avoid crowds of protesters and Olympic fans.
Some information for this report came from AP and Reuters.
Scenes From 2016 Rio Olympics: Athletes
- South Korea's Kim Woo-jin releases the arrow during the men's team archery competition at the Sambadrome venue during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Japan players follow the game during men's water polo preliminary round match against Greece at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Spencer Turrin and Alexander Lloyd, of Australia, compete in a men's pair heat in Lagoa during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Judges watch Germany's Andreas Bretschneider perform his floor routine during the artistic gymnastics men's qualification at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Germany's Andreas Toba reacts after falling while performing his floor routine during the artistic gymnastics men's qualification at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- France's Caroline Ladagnous, scores a try during the women's rugby sevens match between France and Spain at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Timea Bacsinszky, of Switzerland, returns to Zhang Shuai, of China, during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Canada's Mo Zhang returns a shot to Hana Matelova, of the Czech Republic, during their table tennis match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Cameroon's Stephanie Fotso Mogoung bumps during a women's preliminary volleyball match against Brazil at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Brazil's Sarah Menezes, white, competes against Belgium's Charline Van Snick during the women's 48-kg judo competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
- Britain's Adam Peaty goes on to break the world record in a heat of the men's 100-meter breaststroke during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.
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