Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony Reminds World That Climate Change Is Very Real

Fireworks are seen over Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MORRY GASH
Fireworks are seen over Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MORRY GASH

The Opening Ceremony at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games may have opened up with a dance party, but it was a video on climate change watched by roughly 3.3 billion that made people stop what they were doing and focus on human-made pollution.

“The heat is melting the ice cap,” a narrator said. “It’s disappearing very quickly.”

The video segment highlighted global carbon pollution, with projections of melting ice caps and rising sea levels in places like Amsterdam, Dubai, Florida, Shanghai, Lagos, and Rio de Janeiro.

The ceremony also featured a spiral animation comparing average surface temperatures increasing with the average temperature during preindustrial times, Mashable reported. And Olympics rings were formed with sprouting seed boxes during the ceremony, with athletes given tree seeds and soil catridges that will be planted in a Rio park. It’s expected that 11,000 new trees will sprout, representing the number of athletes at this year’s Games.

The focus on climate change at the Rio Olympics is timely given that 2016 may beat out last year for the warmest year on record. Already, there is evidence of devastating effects to the planet like coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and a rise in temperature in Greenland — a country where if all its ice melted, could raise sea levels by 20 feet.

Climate change has already had real effects in Brazil, home to 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest. About 240,000 acres were cleared in June as a result of deforestation, the environmental news site MongaBay reported, with fears of catastrophic forest fires thanks to the dry season. Some people who take climate change seriously appreciated the lecture, noting that climate change is a topic that most people in the world understand and believe is a real thing. According to Pew Research Center’s FactTank, majorities in 40 nations believe climate change is a serious problem.

Climate change wasn’t the only controversial topic that the Opening Ceremony highlighted. One segment acknowledged that African slaves were brought to Brazil, with more than 5.5 million slaves bound for Brazil between the 16th and 19th centuries. In that segment, filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, who directed this year’s Opening Ceremony, “began by showcasing the rainforests of Brazil and proceeded to take a tour of the nation’s history. A segment showcasing the indigenous people of Brazil followed, then one showing colonization by the Portuguese. Typical of colonization was slavery –- and Meirelles did not hold back showcasing this as well,” according to Romper.

There weren’t any visible issues during the Opening Ceremony. But there have been many setbacks in the lead-up, including a break in the Olympic truce when Lebanese athletes clashed with Israelis. According to the Israeli news website Ynetnews, the Lebanese delegation allegedly prevented the Israeli delegation from boarding a shared bus. According to Israeli sailor Udi Gal, the Lebanese delegation called on the bus driver to close the door, then later blocked them from boarding. But there have been a host of other issues including fears of the Zika virus, an uptick in police-related deaths and street muggings, a doping scandal, and water pollution so bad that Olympians only need to ingest three teaspoons of water before they get sick.

We Were Promised The Greenest Olympics Ever. We Got An Ecological Disaster.On a cool December night in Paris, at an awards ceremony in the city’s 3rd arrondissement, Eduardo Paes, the mayor of…thinkprogress.org