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Rio Olympics 2016: Belfast's Paddy Barnes leads out Team Ireland at spectacular opening ceremony

By Allison Bray and Kirsty Blake Knox

The controversy swirling over suspended boxer Michael O'Reilly failed to cast a pall over Rio this morning as Irish athletes proudly marched behind the Tricolour during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Team Ireland entered the Maracana stadium as "Irlanda" was announced in Portuguese during the Parade of Athletes, just hours after it emerged that the boxer - who tested positive for a banned substance - will now appeal the finding to the Irish Sports Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel in Dublin instead of having a 'B' sample tested.

Boxer Paddy Barnes fulfilled his dream as the Belfast man proudly led the Irish Olympic team out at the Maracana in Rio. Barnes led the 77 Irish athletes, who will compete across 14 sports, out in a glitzy Opening Ceremony in the famous Rio stadium.

Proud Irishman Barnes revealed his joy when he was chosen as the Irish flag bearer in April this year.

"I'm delighted to have been asked to carry the Irish flag into the Olympic Stadium at the Opening Ceremony," said Barnes at the time.

"It's an amazing feeling to represent Ireland at an Olympic Games and I've been lucky enough to experience it twice before already.

"Going to my third Olympic Games as the flag bearer for Team Ireland now is just an incredible honour.

"I will be going for gold in Rio in the ring but I will also have the responsibility of helping to build a really positive environment for all Irish athletes. I could not be more excited about the next 100 days."

Close to 80,000 spectators filled the open-air football stadium in Rio to watch the opening ceremony.

The city of beaches, carnival, grinding poverty and sun-kissed wealth lifted the curtain on South America's first Olympics with a low-tech opening ceremony for the global television audience.

The three-hour gala was a showcase for Brazil's history, culture, diversity and hopes.

With a budget of just €3.5m for the opening ceremony - a fraction of the estimated €32m spent on the opening ceremony for London 2012 - the opening spectacle was never going to be a lavish event for a country experiencing its worst recession in recent history.

But what it lacked in glitz, it made up with sheer passion and imagination as hundreds of samba singers, dancers and drummers wearing 12,000 costumes charted their country's path through the ages in a massive carnival five years in the making.

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen, wearing a stunning full-length silver gown, made a guest appearance as she bowed out after a distinguished career.

Celebrating themes of ecology, diversity and joy, the event welcomed 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries around the world.

Renowned Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles was the visionary behind what he promised would be a "cool" spectacle.

And it lived up to his promise.

Fireworks resembling a ring of fire erupted from the stadium into the balmy night while glitzy dancers dazzled the crowds at the ceremony.

While most of Team Ireland waved the Tricolour triumphantly in the air, cyclists Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche were tucked up in their beds back in the Olympic Village ahead of today's 237km men's road race.

The nation's only World Tour riders, the cycling cousins will form Ireland's two-man team for the Olympic road race.

Nicholas Quinn will take to the pool today as he contests the 100m breaststroke, while the Irish men's hockey team faces the once-mighty India in the opener today.

Ireland's eventers get the equestrian action under way at Deodoro Olympic Park. For the first time in many Olympic cycles the eventing team manager, Nick Burton, was spoiled for choice in making his selection, and in Clare Abbott (Euro Prince), Jonty Evans (Cooley Rorkes Drift) and Mark Kyle (Jemilia) he has a strong and battle-hardened crew.

And in the rowing today, Latvian Sanita Puspure will represent Ireland in her second Olympics in the women's single sculls.

Gymnast Kieran Behan is also in action in the men's individual competition.

Irish Independent


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