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Rio opening ceremony will be 'cool'

NZN 4/08/2016 Tim Dornin

RIO DE JANEIRO Aug 4 NZN - Athens was classic, Beijing was grandiose, London was smart and Rio will be cool, the creative minds behind Friday's Olympic opening ceremony say.

But the ceremony will also be a reflection of the troubled times in Brazil, as the country continues to deal with political and economic turmoil.

"This ceremony is not opulent, is not grand as in previous Olympics," executive producer Mario Balich said.

"But it's very right for this moment in Brazil."

For the athletes "we're going to make this the coolest party they've every participated in".

"This is for them, to praise them."

Officials have refused to reveal the budget for Friday night's ceremony (Saturday morning NZT) but admit it was much less than previous Olympics and originally envisaged.

The dumping of a planned upgrade to the Maracana stadium has forced a series of compromises, including the axing of a high stage while the arena's lack of large gates meant organisers could not incorporate any of the flamboyant float's synonymous with Rio's famed carnival.

What the 50,000 spectators will get instead is three hours of passion and emotion in a show featuring 5000 volunteers, including 500 musicians and 200 dancers.

It will be focused around the three "pillars" of the joy, diversity and the environment, with the latter highlighting Brazil's status as the "world's last natural garden".

One of the show's creative directors Daniela Thomas said with such a restricted budget the team has been forced to "do a MacGyver" in reference to the US cult TV series where the star used his wits and ordinary objects to achieve seemingly impossible feats.

"We had to make do with the resources we have," she said.

Most specifics of the ceremony are being closely guarded including whether or not Pele will light the Olympic flame.

Brazil's greatest sportsman had been sounded out to ignite the cauldron - subject to a clash with a previous sponsorship commitment.

But officials on Thursday refused to confirm his involvement.

They have confirmed that legendary British actor Dame Judy Dench will read a special poem in a recorded segment while all the athletes entering the stadium will be presented with a tree seed in soil.

The seeds will be collected after the march and later planted in a Rio park to create an Olympic forest as their legacy to Rio.

After some mixed weather, the bureau is predicting clear skies on Friday evening.

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