Pulsating. Vibrant. Spectacular. Just three of the words that were used to describe the Opening Ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium on Friday evening, as Rio de Janeiro welcomed the world to the Olympic Games. And for nine athletes who have competed at the YOG, you could add the word unforgettable to that list, as they were chosen to be flag bearers in the athletes’ parade.
Rio 2016 put on a sparkling show that celebrated Brazil’s culture and history, as drummers and performers danced to the samba beat, while also promoting the messages of sustainability and peace. Then it was the athletes’ turn, with Greece the first of 207 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and teams to enter the stadium.
For Uruguayan sailor Dolores Moreira Fraschini, the experience has been a dream come true, ever since her mother and sister burst into her bedroom last month to break the news that she would be a flag bearer.Speaking before the Opening Ceremony, the 17-year-old – who competed in Nanjing in 2014 and will take part in the women’s laser radial in Rio – said: “I was the (Uruguay) flag bearer for the Youth Olympic Games (in Nanjing). This will be the senior Games and much bigger.
“I believe it's the result of the hard work I've been putting in with my coach and my team. Today means all that effort was worth it.”
As well as carrying the flag, Moreira was thrilled about walking alongside her countryman and fellow sailor, Alejandro Foglia Costa, who is taking part in his fourth Games.
“After the London Games [Foglia] went to my town and gave a speech, and then I said, ‘OK, I want to get to an Olympic Games.’ He talked to us about his preparation and the feelings he had at the Olympic Games. Now I’m sharing the Games with my idol.”
Joining Moreira as flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony were YOG athletes Vahan Mkhitaryan (Armenia), Nicole van der Velden (Aruba), Luguelin Santos (Dominican Republic), Ana Sofia Gomez (Guatemala), Julia Hassler (Liechtenstein), Aminath Shajan (Maldives), Kate Foo Kune (Mauritius) and Elson Brechtefeld (Nauru).
“It's an honour,” said Guatemalan gymnast Gomez. “I am only the second woman in history to carry the flag for our country at the Olympic Games, so this is going to inspire me to do even better in the competition.”