John Davies: The Olympic Games opening ceremony in an occupied city

Rio_Olympic_GamesOver the weekend, downtown Rio was like an occupied city. Traffic was diverted from whole streets so that military lorries could park en echelon, guarded at each end by squads of soldiers, while the nonchalant Cariocas, Rio’s residents, walked by. The biggest street of all, the Avenida President Vargas, normally four carriageways with a total of twelve lanes, was blocked off in one direction. Brazil is determined that these Games shall be safe and as peaceful as they should be.

Peaceful, but not quiet!  The Old Docks of Rio, long derelict, have been given a new dress. The best graffiti in the world, multichromed images of indigenous people, from Inuits to Australian Aboriginal people and of course South Americans, cover half a kilometer of wall facing the harbour. Complex black and white designs of dense jungly growth face them and the effect is the opposite of boring architecture. The road leads to Prada Maua, Maua Place, designated an Olympic Fan Zone, so that all those without the privilege that I’m looking forward to can watch the Games on giant screens.

And I was with them on the weekend, as I was not required in the medical team until Sunday evening. Cariocas are naturally enthusiastic, and they were already dancing, cheering, and singing along with favourites played by the biggest DJ I’ve ever seen. He was working so hard, dancing on stage, working his decks and the crowd, so they were ready for the Opening Ceremony.

And what a good one! Brazil had made clear that the budget was a lot less than the UK had spent but the film director Fernando Meirelles made clever use of digital images, the samba skills of Rio, and the Olympic Rings not just in fireworks but green forest seeds. I’m really looking forward to a great Games!

John Davies is a consultant anaesthetist in Lancaster, who takes part in motorsport as a competitor and as a rally doctor.

Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and I have no financial or other competing interest in the Olympic Games.