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  • From China to Rio: A Millennial's View of the Games


    The Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro marks my last day as a 16-year-old. In an audience where the middle-aged dominate, I thought I’d offer my pennies on the first Olympic opening ceremony in South America.
    Emma Li

    Draped in sparkles and bright colors, messages of peace and tolerance in society shone through at the opening ceremony. It was definitely cheesy and somewhat cliché, but the message came through to the three billion people watching it around the world.

    Arguably the most colorful part of the show was set to celebrate diversity.

    A crowd of furry red people showed up and started dancing on the stage. I immediately screamed, “Elmo is here!” I wasn’t sure what the red people were supposed to represent. Maybe they’re flowers as part of the rain forest theme?

    Before long, more people dressed in different colors showed up. I joked that they must be the rest of Sesame Street. As the new colors mingled with the red, I realized the performance means more than funny pom-poms.

    The narrator explained that this performance was to celebrate diversity. This message made me happy beyond its resemblance to a puppet show. Like many other members of the youth generation, past and present, I care about social justice. This might have been a strange approach to promoting diversity, but it’s a step in the right direction. The fact that Brazil included a clear message for greater diversity in a time of political turmoil around the world gives me a bit more hope for my generation’s future.

    Refugee Olympic Team welcomed to its first Olympics (ATR)
    After all, the Olympics are a place where people from countless different backgrounds gather to learn from each other and gain experiences, right? In the heat of the competition, it’s easy to forget just how much diversity the Olympic Games promote.

    This year’s message is extra powerful with the creation of a new team -- the refugee team. It’s 10 athletes from South Sudan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia. I’ve got to say, witnessing their entry into the arena made an issue that seemed so distant feel actually real, especially for millennials. I’ve been learning about the refugee crisis in my classrooms and conducting research for projects. But seeing the athletes walk in under the Olympic flag and hearing everyone around me cheer for the team reminded me that this issue is real, it is happening, and people are affected by it.

    Fireworks lit up the night above Maracana at the opening ceremony (ATR)
    Beyond social issues, the opening ceremony also zoomed in on environmentalism, granted that nature was a major theme. The giant screens announced facts about global warming and pollution. Before the athletes walked in, the narrator said each athlete will be planting a physical seed in Rio to create a forest. This was extremely cheesy, but hey, as long as it benefits the air we breathe, right?

    But environmentalism and air pollution were only a distant memory by the end of the opening ceremony. The show closed with a full three-minute fireworks display. The booms, swooshes, and sparks left behind dense grey smoke, hovering above the arena. I hate to be a killjoy after the pretty fireworks, but what happened to the whole environmentalism message?

    I hope the other peace and tolerance messages from this opening ceremony last longer.

    Hi! My name is Emma Li and I'm a 17-year-old student at an international high school in Shanghai, China. I love journalism, fencing, and puppies. I'm at the Rio Olympics as a summer intern for Around the Rings, and I'll be publishing a blog post everyday about my experiences at the Olympics from the unique perspective of a millennial.