Puerto Rico Shines at Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony
RIO DE JANEIRO – With their delegation’s parade Friday evening during a pompous and folkloric opening ceremony, Puerto Ricans marked their 18th participation in Olympic games.
Puerto Rico’s was the 152nd flag to enter the monumental Maracana stadium, where wrestler Jaime Espinal, a London 2012 medalist, honored the island’s flag before 70,000 spectators.
Minutes before making his patriotic appearance, Espinal said, “I feel calmer; we came in the bus singing the national anthem, ‘Preciosa,’ and shouting, ‘Yo soy boricua para que tú lo sepas,'” an expression of island pride that roughly translates to “I’m Puerto Rican so you know it.”
The Puerto Ricans marched in livery designed by a young student of the School of Plastic Arts and Design of San Juan, Xavier López, with the collaboration of international Puerto Rican designer Osvaldo Morales.
For the first time since Puerto Rico’s 1948 Olympic debut in London, more women (27) will participate than men (13). Fifteen-year-old table tennis player Adriana Díaz is the youngest athlete in the delegation, and the sporting event.
Meanwhile, Aury Cruz is the most experienced at 34 years old. Puerto Ricans will participate in 15 sports, in 26 individual events and one group event (women’s volleyball).
Of the 40 participants, 29 are debuting in the Olympic games. Table tennis player Brian Afanador, tennis player Monica Puig and Crystal Weekes are products of the Youth Olympic Games.
The other 11 athletes have previous experience, led by Vanessa García a swimmer who will compete in her fourth games, becoming the Puerto Rican woman with the most Olympic participation. This is hurdle specialist Javier Culson’s third time participating in Olympic games.
With its debut in table tennis, volleyball and triathlon, Puerto Rico will now have competed in 25 sports since it first joined the Olympics.
In addition to volleyball and table tennis, the women will compete individually, with Yarimar Mercado in the rifle-shooting event, Diamara Planell in the pole vault, Alysbeth Félix in the heptathlon and Quinn Camacho in the 100-meter hurdles.
Puerto Rico has 12 track and field competitors, the highest number after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where 14 athletes participated.
The Rio Olympics run through Aug. 21. For the 42 sports, 4,924 medals will be given out. These are the first games in South American territory and 10,500 athletes will compete.
Forty-five heads of state attended the opening ceremony. The Maracana Stadium will host 70,000 spectators. The ceremony’s live transmission reached three billion people. The event had the participation of 5,000 volunteers and 300 professional dancers.
Among the invited guests were actress Fernanda Montenegro, considered “the first lady of Brazilian theater”; British actress Judi Dench and transsexual model Lea T, Representing Brazilian music were Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso Elza Soares and 12-year-old rapper MC Soffia.