Watch video of the 7 must-see moments

By Nick Romano
Updated August 06, 2016 at 06:39 PM EDT
Credit: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images; FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images; Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 2016 Rio Olympics has begun. The Summer Games kicked off in Brazil Friday night with a vibrant and explosive opening ceremony, marking the first Olympics to be held in South America.

Theatrics are staple to every Olympics opening, and Rio was no exception. Among the standouts of the more than four-hour festivities were model Gisele Bündchen walking her final catwalk through Maracanã Stadium, the oiled-up Tonga flag bearer seen around the world, and the official signifier to the start of the games: the lighting of the Olympic torch.

See video of some of the highlights from NBC below.

1. Acrobatic floor projection routine

Choreographer Deborah Colker worked with about 6,000 volunteers to execute this elaborate routine. Utilizing floor projections, the performance created the illusion of dancers leaping across rooftops. “The expectation lights a fire under me,” Colker told beforehand. She added, “I like to question the laws of physics and gravity, to question the relationship between space and movement.”

2. Flight of Alberto Santos-Dumont

Born in 1873, Alberto Santos-Dumont is regarded as the father of aviation in Brazil, with some crediting him as the first to create powered flight instead of the Wright brothers. During the opening ceremony, a Santos-Dumont impersonator piloted a craft that rose above and out of the stadium.

3. Gisele walks and dances

“This is for sure the longest runway I have ever walked in my life and by far with the most amount of people watching, so it is a little nerve-racking I must say,” Bündchen told PEOPLE of her final career catwalk across Maracanã Stadium. “This is a very special moment for my country and I am humbled that they invited me to be a part of such a special celebration.”

Elsewhere, the legendary supermodel was seen dressed in a glistening ensemble and riling up the crowd in the stadium for a dance party.

4. The Adonis from Tonga

Pita Taufatofua, the flag bearer for Tonga, became social media’s new flavor of eye candy when he bore his greased up chest during the opening ceremony. Taufatofua is the first athlete from the Polynesian sovereign state to compete in Taekwondo in the Olympics. “Obrigado Brazil and the thousands of volunteers for the best Olympic opening ceremony ever,” he wrote on Instagram. “It was fun, bright and shinier [than] my coconut oil!”

5. The Refugee Olympic Team

While waving flags emblazoned with the Olympic rings, the 10 athletes who comprise the games’ first refugee team emerged into the stadium to a standing ovation. According to NBC, there are five from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and one from Ethiopia.

6. 8-year-old samba dancer

Lucas, an 8-year-old student from a local dance school called Saguiero, taught the world how to samba to the beat of 80-year-old Rio percussionist Wilson Das Neves.

7. Lighting of the Olympic flame

This year, the sacred lighting of the Olympic flame was performed by Vanderlei de Lima, a Brazilian marathon runner. During the 2004 Olympics, the athlete was attacked by a fan and shoved off the marathon course, dashing his hopes of achieving gold. De Lima still walked away with the bronze medal, but this year he received the coveted honor of lighting the cauldron in his home country.

Watch the lit cauldron make its final ascent below.


If you have one extra minute to spare, here’s a time-lapse video of the opening ceremony.