Small delegations from Malawi, Botswana and the Maldives shake their stuff at the first welcome ceremony.

A show full of Brazilian rhythms greeted the delegations from Malawi, the Maldives and Botswana at their welcoming ceremony at the Rio 2016 Olympic Village on Friday (29 July). The three countries were the first to participate in the events that include raising each nation’s flag and playing their national anthems. All countries will take part in the tradition before the start of the Rio 2016 Games.

The show started with a tribal dance spectacale before moving on to a diverse assortment of Brazilian rhythms, including forró, samba and bossa nova. Music by late Brazilian legends Raul Seixas and Tim Maia was played alongside some of the latest carioca funk hits.

Olympic Village
Dancers put on a show for the athletes at the Olympic Village (Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro)

Following the music, the mayor of the Olympic Village, ex-player basketball player and two-time Olympic medallist Janeth Arcain, gave a speech about the importance of the Games for humanity. “Olympic sport signifies a better world, of peace and unity between peoples,” she said. “It’s an enormous pleasure to see this Olympic flag flying in Rio.”

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The ceremony finished with athletes circling around the dancers and trying their hand at some samba and funk dance moves.

Olympic Village
Some of the athletes from Malawi get into the groove (Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro)

The three delegations are small. While Botswanna brought just 12 athletes, Malawi has five and the Maldives four.

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After 24 hours of travelling to reach Rio, swimmer Aminath Shajan of the Maldives arrived on Thursday evening (28 July). She noticed some similarities between Brazil and her country, the archipelago consisting of more than a thousand islands in the Indian Ocean, lying southwest of India.

“Like here, we’re a tropical country full of natural exuberance. Our people are very kind as well,” she says. “But we don’t have mountains like here. It’s impressive. The Games are an opportunity to unite all peoples. It’s a dream to be a part of this,” she adds.

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Olympic Village
The show featured plenty of acrobatics (Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro)

Malawian swimmer Brave Lifa arrived four days ago and already feels at home. “I always dreamed of coming to Brazil. There’s an incredible diversity of music and races that we don’t have in Malawi,” he says.

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Despite the intense routine, training twice a day, he confirms that he won’t be going home without having first paid a visit to Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf mountain. “If it already looks incredible in photos, imagine in real life,” he says.

“The Games are something historical. In my country, I’m the only sportsman who qualified so they’re all treating me like a hero. It’s very emotional,” he added.