Opening ceremony kicks off Rio Olympics; Michael Phelps carries U.S. flag

Opening ceremony kicks off Rio Olympics; Michael Phelps carries U.S. flag

Amid the Olympic-size controversies and problems leading up to the Games, Brazil kicked off the opening ceremony Friday night paying homage to its culture and tradition.

The ceremony featured three main themes — reinvent, rejoice and replant. It started with performers who were direct descendents of the indigenous peoples of Brazil who wove brightly colored fabric through the stadium floor, representing the lush Amazon rainforest.

Things progressed as settlers came and the nation continued to develop. Projections made it seem like buildings were rising from the floor, mimicking São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil.

Wearing a sparkly silver dress, Giselle Bundchen, one of the country’s most beloved natives, took to her country’s largest stage in what is thought to be her final strut down the catwalk. Giselle clearly enjoyed being in her homeland as “The Girl from Ipanema” played in a Bossa-infused segment.

One segment of choreographed dancers drew immediate comparisons on social media to the children’s program The Teletubbies.

Clad in Ralph Lauren ensembles — navy Polo crested blazers with red, white and blue shirts, white pants and red sneakers — the United States delegation made their way into Maracana Stadium.

With 554 athletes, the U.S. has the largest delegation for the first time since 2004, with the most women of any delegation at 292. With 363 first-timers, many were savoring every moment, snapping photos and chanting “USA, USA” as they made their way around the Parade of Nations.

Although he’s the most decorated Olympian ever, the ceremony was the first attended by flag bearer Michael Phelps. Phelps usually has to miss the opening festivities because he’s often scheduled to swim the following day.

In a pre-ceremony interview, Phelps said he was humbled to have been chosen to bear the flag, adding “It’s pretty incredible they voted for me. ”

Phelps said compared to previous Games, he’s been able to talk to more athletes this time around and just enjoy the Olympics experience. He said the difference in competitive swimming in the Games between his debut in 2000 and now is like “night and day.” He said he now has teammates coming up to him, saying he inspired them or they had posters of him hanging in their rooms growing up. He said it’s really cool to now be sharing a pool with them.

The Games continue through Aug. 21 on NBC.