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Sun and drama make a perfect Rio day

NZN 7/08/2016 Paul Mulvey

It was the perfect Rio start to the Olympics - beach volleyball at Copacabana, cycling along the glorious coast, bullets, dead bodies and a bomb scare.

When the Games came to Rio, the city's reputation - good and bad - preceded it.

And the first day of competition showcased it all.

Hours after the Samba Games opened to a funky Brazilian beat at Maracana Stadium, the world was given a Rio travelogue.

The 237.5km cycling road race took off in front of the Atlantic waves on a glistening day at Copacabana Beach and took the riders along coast-hugging roads, past Ipanema, on cobblestone streets and up verdant green mountains.

It was as brutal as it was beautiful.

Riders crashed and broke bikes and bones, 79 of them failed to finish as the steep climbs and hairy descents took their toll in the 30 degree heat.

While Belgian Greg Van Avermaet came away with gold, the signature event of the Games got underway beneath the blazing sun and on the golden sand of Copacabana Beach.

The home team opened up the beach volleyball party with a win to the delight of the local crowd dancing to the opening ceremony soundtrack in the 12,000-seat beach grandstand.

But Rio's dark side was equally on display.

A fatal shooting in the shadows of the opening ceremony, a bullet fired into the equestrian press tent and a bomb scare at the cycling.

Not long after that same soundtrack had subsided at the Maracana, journalists leaving the stadium stumbled across the body of a would-be robber shot by police.

While Brazil's elite and some of the world's richest athletes enjoyed the opulent opening ceremony, life was carrying on in the slums that surround Maracana and the favelas that overlook it.

And that includes young men being shot dead by police.

No-one was hurt by the bullet which pierced the roof and landed on the floor of the press tent at the dressage event in Deodoro, a venue located near a military base.

Brazilian military and police say it was simply "an unfortunate incident" while a Games spokesman says it was a stray bullet that had nothing to do with the Olympics.

The bomb squad was called to an area near the road race finishing line where a controlled explosion dealt with an unattended bag.

The ground shook and the area was cordoned off, but the race was not affected.

And the thief who stole $40,000 worth of camera equipment from an Australian photographer was caught trying to enter the archery venue - by his victim.

It was probably appropriate the first gold medal of the Games was won by a shooter named Thrasher.

American teenager Virginia Thrasher won the women's 10m air rifle, five years after getting hooked on shooting when she killed her first deer.

Just day one, 15 to go.

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