With fireworks forming the word "Rio" in the sky, hip-wiggling dancers, and supermodel Gisele Bundchen shimmering to the tune of the "Girl from Ipanema," Rio de Janiero welcomed the world to the first Olympic Games in South America with a serious message: Let's take better care of our planet, reports AP. After one of the roughest-ever rides from vote to games by an Olympic host, the city of beaches, carnival, grinding poverty and sun-kissed wealth lifted the curtain on the games of the 31st Olympiad with a high-energy gala celebration of Brazil's can-do spirit, biodiversity and melting pot history. The flag-bearer for the US team: Michael Phelps.
The opening ceremony, a cut-price but welcome moment of levity for a nation beset by economic and political troubles, featured performers as slaves, laboring with backs bent, gravity-defying climbers hanging from the ledges of buildings in Brazil's teeming megacities and—of course—dancers, all hips and wobble, grooving to thumping funk and sultry samba. The crowd roared when Bundchen sashayed from one side of the 78,000-seat Maracana Stadium to the other, as Tom Jobim's grandson, Daniel, played his grandfather's famous song about the Ipanema girl "tall and tan and young and lovely." (Read more Olympics stories.)