Daily Olympian: Swimming, Gymnastics Kick Off First Full Day of Competition (Plus an Opening Ceremony Recap)
The U.S. could win its first Rio gold medal today in the 400 individual medley, and the start of the games went off without a complaint (except for NBC's tape delay).
In Saturday’s Daily Olympian, high-profile sports (gymnastics, basketball, swimming) take the stage on the first full day of competition. Plus, a look back at Friday’s opening ceremony, including fashion fails, the unknown athlete who went viral and the Brazilian sports hero (no, not that one) who lit the Olympic flame.
What’s on TV today:
Saturday marks the first official full day of competition (though some athletes have been competing for a couple of days, including a South Korean archer who set a world record in the preliminaries). The first medal of the games will be awarded before noon (ET) in the women’s 10-meter air rifle (an Indian is the favorite, as India is sending its largest team ever to these games).
There’s also cycling, rowing, epee fencing and, for the really hard-core tennis fan, an incredible 12.5 hours of matches on Bravo. The U.S. women’s soccer team meets France at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by the U.S. men’s basketball team kicking off its Olympic schedule vs. China at 6 p.m. ET. (Judging by their social media posts, the men’s and women’s teams have been enjoying their stay on a cruise ship).
The highlights of NBC’s primetime schedule are the men’s and women’s 400 individual medley gold medal finals. The men’s final should feature Ryan Lochte (he of the silver hair) and for the women's, Great Britain’s Hannah Miley. The Americans might face some tough competition. Also on in primetime is the start of the men’s gymnastics team competition.
Yesterday's Recap: Opening Ceremony
Despite the nervousness about whether Rio was ready, the Brazilians pulled off the Opening Ceremony without a hitch. Highlights included Gisele Bundchen (in an Alexandre Herchcovitch dress) dancing to the sounds of the "The Girl From Ipanema" played by Daniel Jobim (grandson of the song’s famous performer, Tom Jobim) and the lighting of the Olympic flame by marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, who was leading the 2004 Olympic marathon in Athens when he was attacked by a protester. He ended up with the bronze, but the grace with which he handled the incident earned him the IOC’s Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. Most of the complaints were lobbed against NBC for showing the Opening Ceremony on a one-hour tape delay on the East Coast (three hours later for the West Coast).
The Opening Ceremony (pulled off with a budget estimated at 1/20th of that of Beijing's in 2008 and 1/10th of London's in 2012) had a low-tech environmental theme that the show’s director, Fernando Meirelles, predicted Donald Trump “will hate.” It included a warning about global warming, and each athlete was given a tree seed that will be planted so there will be 11,000 new trees grown (representing 207 different species — one kind for each national team). Brazilians have actually coined a word, gambiarra, to describe their lower-budget Olympics.
U.S. flag bearer Michael Phelps' much-heralded electric-lighted jacket didn’t quite work. A few other famous faces showed up as flag bearers for their countries — tennis players Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark), Rafael Nadal (Spain) and Andy Murray (Great Britain) — but the breakout star of the show was Tongan taekwondo athlete Pita Taufatofua, who appeared shirtless, oiled up and in a grass skirt (oh, and he’s also self-funded).
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney called the ceremony “a sobering call to address global warming and deforestation cloaked in a stirring multicultural celebration of tolerance.” Read his full review here.
Not all athletes could make it to the ceremony, because they are still training, like the Australian track and field team still in Florida. So, they held a “faux-penning” ceremony. And in case you forgot, it is winter in Rio, which freaks out veteran Olympics writer John Powers. In more sober and disturbing news, Moroccan boxer Hassan Saada was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting two workers in the Olympic Village.