Olympics Opening Ceremony

Olympics Opening Ceremony 2016: Gisele Bündchen's Triumphant Walk and 14 Other Historic Moments

Hard to believe, but it’s been four years since Daniel Craig, the Spice Girls, J.K. Rowling, Kenneth Branagh, Mr. Bean, Queen Elizabeth II herself and a couple of camera-ready corgis kicked off the Summer Olympics in London.

Those opening ceremonies set a rather high bar — what with 007 and the freaking queen (!) skydiving (!!) in to get things started* — so 2016’s Brazil-set games were going to have to work overtime to match the grandeur of London’s big opening number. (Don’t even get us started on Beijing in 2008.)

As Friday’s Today on NBC took pains to point out — and ceremony director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) has said himself — Friday’s ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro had merely a fraction of the budget of previous Olympics starts. But the lack of costly gimmicks didn’t seem like such a big deal when you had Brazilian native and supermodel Gisele Bündchen runway-walking into Maracana Stadium, part of a dance party of thousands.

A good part of NBC’s coverage, anchored by Today‘s Matt Lauer, Hoda Kotb and Meredith Viera and sportscaster Bob Costas, focused on the Parade of Nations — aka the time when most of the athletes march into the stadium, waving their nations’ flags. Yes, most-decorated-athlete-in-Olympics-history Michael Phelps was flag bearer for the United States, and that’s cool, but you’d have to be made of stone not to appreciate the tenacity of the first Refugee Team — made up entirely of athletes who have fled oppressive regimes at great risk to themselves — which proudly marched in under the Olympic flag just ahead of Brazil.

Other highlights and/or weird-but-fun moments included: Lion King-style puppetry, the ceremony’s surprisingly political segment on global warming… and did we mention Bündchen already? Either way, she begs repeating.

Click through the gallery below to see the best (and most bizarre) moments from the Rio games’ opener, then hit the comments with your thoughts!

*Yes, we’re aware they were stunt doubles. Just roll with it.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. A. D. says:

    Worst Opening Ceremony

    • Mai K says:

      If you watched it on NBC they cut loads of it

      • The Beach says:

        Raspberries to NBC and Lauer, et al. They talked for half the Parade of Athletes about what a huge party with samba, Carnival dancers, and lighting of the torch was coming up and then cut it, WTF. NBC ?? I was looking most forward to watching all the athletes partying down…big fail.

    • Verity says:

      I could not agree more!

    • Lala says:

      This opening ceremony was quite dull tbh….Here in NZ, the anchors actually had to point out that don’t expect anything magnitude of London opening because Rio Opening had only 10% of London’s budget….what was the point of Gisele though. The highlight for me was the double glazed Tongan flag bearer and the Refugee team got me a lil misty-eyed.

  2. ninergrl6 says:

    It hasn’t even started here on the west coast. Thanks for the cheat sheet! And the snark. Always thanks for the snark.

  3. Loz says:

    It was a bit boring I thought.

    • A. D. says:

      Very Boring

    • Ben says:

      I blame Beijing… after that Olympic games everything seem cheap and boring.

      At least they didn’t invite Katy Perry to perform and boring us even more with that “unique” and “emotional” anthem of her.. :P

      • The Beach says:

        I agree. Bejing and London raised the bar so high it’s going to be hard for anyplace else to be judged against them.

  4. Karen MT says:

    It might have been better had there not been commercials EVERY 5 MINUTES! I’m not exaggerating.

  5. It was amazing and historic! A lot of surprising moments.

  6. Rachel says:

    I really enjoyed the music during the segment for the man from Kenya who received the Olympic laurel award. Wish I knew what it was….

  7. Hellenic78 says:

    Worst and most boring opening ceremony since 1984 (first time I watched).

    And NBC manages to go long on a tape delayed show. ?!?

  8. sntindall says:

    Well I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking that was incredibly boring!

  9. Lame says:

    WTF … Giselle strutting down a catwalk??!! If this isn’t a sign of how disconnected the Olympics have become. Congrats you have a vain woman walking around while more than half your country populations is living in poverty.

    • Pat says:

      I have to agree with you. I know that she is Brazilian and it would have been okay to acknowledge her but to spotlight her on a long catwalk, that was ridiculous.

      • peter says:

        you know the meaning of that walk? she was representing the ”girl from ipanema ” the most famous brazilian song around the world
        just look the lyrics on the web and you will understand

        • Sara Alves says:

          Tank you for make some people underdtand Why she was there.

        • Was she necessary says:

          It’s hilarious and sad that on an internatonally stage the BEST that was to represent their country is a song and an vapid idea that this woman may represent any “girl” from Ipanema. Gurl pleaseee.

    • Cari says:

      Apparently they were initially going to have her get robbed to show how life isn’t always a party in Brazil but then they cut that bit and just had her walk.

    • maggie says:

      Having a woman who, though originally from Brazil, lives in the US with her American husband and American-born children, is an insult to all of the people who actually live in Brazil. They could have had a number of young, unknown girls walk during that song. Or used it to showcase some Brazilian star that the rest of the world isn’t aware of yet. But they used Giselle, and the moment became about her and not the song.

  10. B says:

    I recorded it so I could skip the (tons of) commercials, and after 4-1/2 hours, the thing cut off before the lighting ceremony! I enjoyed the rest of the ceremony though. Having a supermodel walk the stadium was one thing; NBC repeatedly showing her in the stands was unnecessary. A single shot there would have been fine; the five or six times they showed her dancing rather than people on the floor or others in the audience was too much. — I thought the man overcome by emotion was really moving. It’s a huge deal! Also, I loved the idea of all the athletes planting a seed for a forest, and the kids accompanying each country, carrying a young tree to plant. Lastly, the projection work was amazing.

  11. sss says:

    I heard us swedes had the worst outfits, if that’s the only thing our news paper writes about the opening must have been a snoozefest

  12. Lola says:

    Definitely boring. That carnival was even weak. I was like that’s it? The little boy standing with the old man doing the samba. And to make it worst was their Brazilian pop star that half the world doesn’t even know. Made me giggle. But go USA. That’s all I was there for. Great to see Phelps carrying the flag.

  13. Ben says:

    It was weaker than the last few, but they were pretty good spectacles that were going to be hard to top on a Rio budget. Nevertheless, a couple of interesting things going on there.

    Regarding the pilot, I did a little research and discovered the claim is not that he did it before the Wrights – in fact, it’s that he was the first to take off without a guiding rail or catapult start to get him off the ground (but some years after the Wrights achieved it WITH such things).

    Shame not to include the cauldron in the slide show, because I thought that was one of the more interesting bits.

    • Mai K says:

      Exactly, the Wright Brothers flew in 1903, but needed a catapult and rails. Dumont flew in 1906, but he actually just flew from the ground, which is flying as we know it. Also Dumont was “open source” he always shared his discoveries and inventions which is why between 1906 and 1907 there were lots done in terms of improving flying. The Wright brothers hid their discoveries and then patented it all which belated the advancement of flying in the US until 1911

  14. Kate says:

    Those of you that thought it was boring missed the point. This opening wasn’t supposed to be a spectacle. It was supposed to be modest and relatively simple but creative. Brasil is a poorer country with great social and economical divides (and political corruption left and right… the current president remains suspended) and HUGE environmental problems regarding trash, car fumes and so on. The opening was absolutely on point. It was more symbolical and less showy and pointed out one huge aspect Brasil has to work on. It may have even calmed down (a tiny bit) all the people Demonstration against the Olympics because they fear it’s money wasted and promises wrongfully made.

    • Ian says:

      Totally agree. It was a wonderfully simple and unpretentious ceremony. Loved the bossa nova segments. Certainly didn’t miss the ridiculously lavish and expensive spectacles that we’ve come to expect from the Olympics.

    • The Olympic is the ULTIMATE spectacle .. Duh says:

      And yet ….. the country’s leaders felt the need to spend what limited resources to host an event that will leave the city of Rio and it’s people worst off.

      • maggie says:

        ^This^ Brazil is poor, yet they built Olympic stadiums that will never be used again. They took a gamble that the Olympics would bring visitors who would spend tons of money. Apparently the tickets sales haven’t been that great. Maybe because of all the news stories of the high murder rate in Brazil. Or the zika virus. Or the lack of quality lodging.

        The Olympics was a huge gamble for Brazil, and it might not pay off.

  15. Daniel Snow says:

    Thumbs down. Kimberly roots and Andy Swift

  16. ninamags says:

    I liked the very first parts that showed all those ameba and single-celled organisms coming out of the water and starting life in that area. The formation of the Amazon and the very first peoples there was cool also. I didn’t know Asians had also populated the area.

    Too bad they ruined this simple beginning for the ridiculousness of having a model trot out there like a show pony. Seriously, that was lame and pathetic. Adriana Lima is way, way prettier than Mrs. Brady.

    I always love the parade of nations. The ceremonies were okay, given that they didn’t have much money to work with.

    That swirly thing behind the torch is way cool.

  17. Zoe says:

    The NBC coverage had a shameful amount of commercials.