Brazil marches last

Australia’s big moment.

FIREWORKS and laser-lit choreography launched the Rio Games on Friday as Brazil sought to forget seven years of troubled preparations and the Olympic movement temporarily put aside its doping crisis.

Under the gaze of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, 78,000 people packed into the Maracana Stadium to watch the four-hour party with Michael Phelps and other sporting superstars taking centre-stage in South America’s first Olympics.

Flag bearer Rafael Nadal of Spain leads his team.

Brazilian singer Paulinho da Viola sang the national anthem to set off the show of laser lights and elaborate dances highlighting Brazil’s history and rise as an emerging power.

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen strutted into the arena to the iconic “Girl From Ipanema” before Greece, home of the ancient Olympics, took its traditional place at the head of the athletes’ parade.

Jessica Fox and other members of the Australia team.

France’s President Francois Hollande and Argentina’s Mauricio Macri were among a handful of state leaders in the VIP box with Brazil’s troubled interim leader Michel Temer.

Among the star-studded flag-bearers were tennis stars Rafael Nadal (Spain), Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) and Andy Murray (United Kingdom).

Here’s the best of the quotes from the athletes at the opening ceremony:

“I just hope I don’t fall. That would be a real nightmare.” — Denmark flagbearer Caroline Wozniacki

Sergei Tetiukhin carries the flag of Russia.

“My samba dancing is terrible, horrible — and I won’t be doing it.” — Andy Murray, carrying the flag for Britain

“I got my hair dyed green and yellow for the team. My friend in Miami did it and it took about three hours.” — Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

United States
RMichael Phelps of the United States carries the flag.

“I’m very nervous because I get sweaty palms. I have a tendency to be a bit clumsy but I’ll make sure I won’t let this one go.” — Australian flagbearer, cyclist Anna Meares

The ceremony launches 17 days of sporting drama led by a cast of elite athletes including sprint king Usain Bolt and swimming superstar Phelps which wraps up on August 21.