Rio 2016 has kicked off with a spectacular show in the legendary Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

RIO (Brazil) – The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro have officially opened with a flamboyant ceremony celebrating Brazil’s history and cultural diversity, all to the pulsating beat of samba, bossa nova, and funk.

Reflecting that beauty, a stunning Opening Ceremony depicted the rich and complex history and culture of Brazil. Fireworks and laser-lit dancers provided a suitably arresting start, before Paulinho da Viola performed a moving acoustic version of the national anthem.

City of God director Fernando Meirelles utilized a giant digital floor and clever lighting to impressive effect to create a stadium spectacle for a fraction of the cost of previous opening ceremonies, following cuts to the budget.

The three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten carried the flame into the stadium, before passing it to basketball player Hortencia Marcari. She passed it in turn to Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the marathon runner denied a possible victory at the 2004 Olympics when he was assailed during the race by a defrocked Irish priest, to light the cauldron.

Each athlete was given a seedling to plant in a new forest in the Deodoro zone that will host sports including rugby sevens, shooting, hockey, and equestrianism. The 12,000 seeds will form an Athlete’s Forest with 208 species, one for each competing delegation.

‘The Olympic dream is now a reality. I am the proudest man alive. I am proud of my city, my country. These are your Games, the first in South America. Rio is ready to make history,’ An emotional Rio 2016 organizing committee president Carlos Nuzman said.

Overall, the atmosphere in the Maracana Stadium was celebratory, as a succession of actors, dancers and musicians raced through routines intended to showcase Brazil’s culture, diversity, and history, even finding time for a brief lecture on environmental issues.

More than 70,000 people that were at the Maracana stadium and more than two dozen world leaders cheered all of the athletes, but there was really a touching moment when people took to their feet cheering on this refugee team competing for the first time in the Olympics.

The show then took a more serious turn, focusing on the need for environmental protection, in a country that has struggled with the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Videos showed the climate change-engendered flooding that could affect cities like Rio.

Highlights from social media

Scenes from Rio Olympics 2016

Fireworks are seen over Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

Fireworks are seen over Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

Olympic Games kick off with stunning opening ceremony in Rio de janeiro, Brazil

Olympic Games kick off with stunning opening ceremony in Rio de janeiro, Brazil

Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremony highlights

Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremony highlights

Fireworks are seen during the Opening ceremony for Rio 2016 Olympic games at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Fireworks are seen during the Opening ceremony for Rio 2016 Olympic games at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Australian Olympic team at Rio 2016 opening ceremony

Australian Olympic team at Rio 2016 opening ceremony

Sergey Tetyukhin leads out the Russian contingent to a comparatively muted welcome. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Sergey Tetyukhin leads out the Russian contingent to a comparatively muted welcome. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters