The big opening party for Brazil's Pan-American Games tonight almost didn't happen if it weren't for the prompt action of the police. Agents from the FNS (National Security Force) who are in Rio for the event took over the Maracanã field to protect the stage for the opening ceremonies.
The company responsible for building the stand threatened to take it down a few hours before the opening ceremonies alleging that they were never paid for their work by the CO-RIO, the games' organizing committee. Payments, it seems, ended up being made and everything is ready for the opening extravaganza now.
This is the biggest sports event ever hosted by Rio de Janeiro. After five years of preparations, the 15th Pan-American Games start today with the biggest number of athletes in the history of the event – 5,648 – coming from 42 countries in the Americas to compete in 34 sports.
This is the second time Brazil host the Pan. The first time it happened more than 40 years ago, in 1963 in São Paulo.
The city is also playing with an eye to future World Cups and Olympics, which Rio would also like to host. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and eight other chiefs of state are taking part in the opening ceremonies.
"Rio has potential and will be a strong candidate to host the 2016 Olympics," said Jacques Rogge the president of the International Olympic Committee (COI), after visiting the Pan's facilities.
The Brazilian delegation is the biggest ever. They are bringing 659 athletes hoping to make history. The Brazilian Olympic Committee is hopeful that Brazil will get as many as 152 medals including 42 gold ones.Â
Organizers are expecting 90,000 people at the Maracanã. About 1,000 agents of the Public Security National Force will be on hand in the stadium and around it to guarantee order.
And some 400 volunteer guides will be helping people find their seats inside the Maracanã. Spectators have been asked to dress in white or light colors, which according to the organizers is better suited to the lights show prepared for the event.
Brazil also wants to show the world the country's cultural diversity. About 4,500 artists, all volunteers, will represent the nation's energy.
Scott Givens, Disney's entertainment vice president, is the man in charge of the opening show, which has been in the works for more than one year.
"The structure is gigantic. I've been working for 16 months in the project and I still don't know everything that's in it. I use to say that this production is like guiding the Titanic, in the good sense," said the opening ceremonies director Luis Stein.
Although the initial budget called for 172 million reais (US$ 91 million) the Brazilian federal government ended up spending about 1.8 billion reais (US$ 950 million) to stage the games. Total costs for the Pan reached 3.7 billion reais (US$ 1,960 billion).