Dancers will add carnival-like air
RIO de Janeiro's top samba troupe will bring a carnival flavour to the opening ceremony - and help build the anticipation in 40,000 spectators for a journey into the night sky, courtesy of Jean-Michel Jarre.
Together, they will emphasise the international flavour of celebrations tonight and tomorrow night that will cap years of planning and building that have brought together the best minds from around the world.
Rio's exotic dancers will sway to pulsating music during the opening parade, which will also feature marching bands from the Black Watch, the Gurkhas, the Royal Hong Kong Police, a flashcard display by secondary school students and a dragon dance.
But before Jarre ignites the skies and fills the stadium with his signature synthesised music and the harmony of a Chinese orchestra and choir, Governor Chris Patten, the chairman of the Urban Council, Ronald Leung Ding-bong, and the chairman of the Stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, John Swaine, will officiate at the handover ceremony.
The troupe of 20 samba dancers and musicians and artistic director Claudia Maldonado have been flown into Hong Kong by Varig, the Brazilian airline.
''In Brazil, the samba is much more than just a form of song and dance,'' said Varig general area manager Rino G. Vitale. ''It is a whole way of life.'' Each year for four days during February or March, Brazil goes carnival crazy with huge street parades, fancy-dress balls, samba spectaculars and costumes of creativity and beauty.
''There is intense rivalry among the samba schools to outdo each other,'' he said.
Among the colourful outfits worn by the troupe tonight will be the six costumes awarded prizes at the recent Rio Carnival. The outfits, which took up to a year to make, were put together with painstaking detail and an eye for the weird and wonderful: theresults are stunning.
''Many of the costumes are so complex they take hours to put on and weigh what feels like a ton,'' Mr Vitale said.
The sounds of the samba are the culmination of a musical melting pot: African and European influences combine to create uniquely infectious rhythms.
''It is, without a doubt, the finest dance music in the world, and reflects the many diverse aspects of Brazilian culture and philosophy,'' Mr Vitale said.
''The Rio carnival is known as the world's greatest party, and the troupe will bring that same spirit to the celebrations.
''They will certainly help to make the opening of the new stadium an exciting and memorable event.'' Those who know Jarre's style of entertainment will remember its mix of synthesised harmonies, melodies, lights and lasers.
His promise for tonight's show is to capture the essence of Hong Kong.
To do this, Jarre will involve seven musicians, a 50-piece Chinese orchestra, a choir of 10 to 100 people, a Chinese percussionist and 90 technicians.
''I want to involve different Hong Kong communities, Chinese traditional orchestras, choirs and graphics to try to create a real link between hi-tech and tradition,'' he said.
''For me, the image of Hong Kong is that of very futuristic buildings, of glass and steel, with bamboo scaffolding all around.'' Jarre is no stranger to such extravaganzas: he brought the night skies above Beijing and Shanghai alive, the first in his field to do so.
Tonight's opening gala starts at 7.30; Jarre's show will be the last on the bill. Tomorrow's two-hour Super Music Century by TVB starts at 8.30 pm.