Hong Kong join biggest party in the world on a night of unity
Brazil’s woes forgotten as opening ceremony casts spell at fabled Maracana Stadium
If there’s one thing the Brazilians do know how to get right, it is how to throw a party. And for invited guests it would be downright rude, if not folly, to refuse to join in.
And so Hong Kong’s 41-strong delegation – 22 athletes and 19 officials – for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games opening ceremony willingly indulged in probably the greatest party they’ve ever attended, and watched by a global audience of close to 3 billion people.
“You can always trust the Brazilians to put on a great party, that’s what we did – joined a flamboyant party today,” said Hong Kong chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong.
“Our athletes enjoyed themselves, took pictures, mingled with others and danced together. It was a great experience.”
Looking smart in their white jackets, Hong Kong were represented by six sports – aquatics, badminton, fencing, rowing, table tennis and windsurfing.
The remaining athletes sat out the ceremony, a stunning spectacle that attacked senses right from the start with digital imagery previously unseen on such a massive and grand scale.
Swimmer Stephanie Au Hoi-shun led the Hong Kong contingent into the legendary Maracana Stadium, the cathedral of world football where for decades Brazilian gold was forged.
WATCH: Highlights of delegations’ parade and lighting of the Olympic cauldron
Hong Kong were 91st to enter the arena because the order was done in Portuguese alphabetical order instead of English. In keeping with Olympic tradition, Greece were the first country to walk in and hosts Brazil were last.
The home team as expected received the biggest cheer, a sustained roar that shook the stands where more than 60,000 people had gathered.
There was also a hearty cheer for the Refugees team – the first time such a squad had been assembled to compete in the Olympics.
The Chinese team, led out by flag carrier Lei Sheng, were given a rousing welcome by the Brazilian crowd, as the stadium cameras focused on the country’s vice-premier Liu Yandong.
The mainland athletes, decked out in their familiar red and yellow outfits, have sent their largest delegation in Olympic history – outside the Beijing Games in 2008 – of 416 competitors, of whom 35 are back to defend their Olympic gold medals.
Fencer Lei breaks the Chinese tradition of having a basketball player as the flag-carrier for the opening ceremony.
The Taiwanese team walked into the stadium without incident. Earlier, they had complained about being forced to use the name “Chinese Taipei” in international sports competitions.
But they received a warm welcome from the Rio fans. Taiwan must also use the Olympic anthem in international sporting events as well as the Olympic flag.