Wednesday’s party was by far the biggest party I have ever been to. The Opening Ceremony for the Rio Paralympics Games 2016 was held at the famous Maracana stadium which by itself is an icon for me. There were big worries that it will be a flop, since the hangover from Olympics put a bit of a pause on ticket sales and budget. It was not!
If you didn’t watch it on TV (hint, buried somewhere on bizarre cable channels at 2 am- you didn’t catch it?) here are a few highlights – I won’t go through the program itself, you can watch it – more of a “what I noticed”:
- Packed but very friendly metro ride. Love the metro here – reminds me of Prague, except people are chatty, friendly and helpful. Talked to a few volunteers and got some scoop. And apparently, this is not crowded.
- Size of the stadium – just huge. Security – huge too, army, police, state, city, anyone in uniform with weapons, literally everywhere.
- Kick off? A wheelchair going on a huge skateboard ramp out to the stadium – yes, with an athlete in it!
- Who got the biggest ovations for parade of athletes? The stadium of 70K people went absolutely nuts when their own team Brazil entered. Second, probably Portugal, France, Italy, neighbors. Yes, the 4 of us were the only ones screaming for Czechs. But there was an Irish party behind us, French in front of us, Argentinian to the left…. you name a country and someone was screaming.
- Most touching moments – when small paralyzed kids walked, legs tied to the pants of their parents so the movement was of the parents’ legs and carried the flag. Also, when the torch bearer fell as it was pouring then – the stadium gasped, and gave her amazing applause.
- Parade of athletes – so much fun to watch countries that I never thought had resources to take care of their Paralympians to participate. Stadium colors changed to the flags of the country entering. The country names were on pieces of puzzle that then got recreated on the floor as a human heart, filled with athlete pictures – the symbolism that everyone has a heart, we are all the same.
- Party – just a one big party – dancing music, everyone singing – there is no stopping or quiet time – breaks filled with just standing and dancing. See for yourself!
- If you saw the Olympic fire this was similar – beautifully done
- Lots of beer – in great souvenir cups (yes, have about 12!)
- How do you fit 70K people to 1 metro station on the way back – you just say its free, no payments to move the crowds along – that’s customer service and flexibility.
- I really miss the TV commentators to explain what is going on! -You have no clue who is who and the hidden meanings and symbolism
- Politics is very divided here, just like in the US. Everytime a speaker mentioned government, thew whole stadium went “boo” and a bit beserk.
- Brazilians are super friendly to everyone and talk to everyone – around your seats, in metro, everywhere…
- The Paralympic families are amazing to watch – we had a French family in front of us whose daughter competes in judo – 10 people were there to support her. They are so justifiably proud.
More pictures coming soon! If you want to party – do it with the Cariocas!