2016 Olympics: Pac-12 athletes take part in opening ceremony in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Decked out in sharp blue blazers, crisp white pants, and red-white-and-blue striped shirts that all Americans could be proud of, Team USA joined the rest of the world in parading around Maracana Stadium on Friday night to commemorate the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The Pac-12 Conference had plenty of countries to keep an eye on during the ceremony, as the Conference of Champions claims delegates from 47 different nations during the summer games.
Before the countries followed their flags out into the stadium, host country Brazil put together a colorful and creative spectacular that highlighted the country’s diverse population, beautiful landscapes, vibrant culture and various musical influences.
Among the flag bearers, the Pac-12 could lay claim to Tunisia’s Ous Melloli, former USC swimming great who is competing in his fifth Olympics. Three-time Olympian for Hong Kong and Cal swimming alum Stephanie Au also hoisted the flag for her native country. Arizona State fans might tell you that America’s flag bearer -- Olympic legend Michael Phelps -- is an honorary Sun Devil given his “Curtain of Distraction” cameo and declared intention to serve as an assistant coach later this year.
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Greece -- home to the original Olympics -- started off the parade of nations, before Team USA made an earlier than usual entrance into the arena as the “Estados Unidos,” featuring 140 Pac-12 delegates. To wrap up the nearly two-hour procession of the world’s greatest athletes, who were selfie-ing, smiling, and waving, Brazil strutted their way out on the stadium floor to immense applause.
Following a series of speeches and more displays, Brazilian marathon legend Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lit the torch to signal the official opening to the 31st Olympiad, though there have already been two days of early competitions. The Pac-12 has already made its imprint in Rio, as California alumna Alex Morgan helped Team USA claim a 2-0 win over New Zealand in women’s soccer on Wednesday night.
The Conference of Champions is always a major force on sport’s biggest international stage, and that tradition looks to continue on Saturday -- the first full day of competition.