What can we expect from the Rio 2016 opening ceremony?

Organisers are promising a 'beautiful' ceremony, featuring everything from samba music to the voice of Judi Dench...

What can we expect from the Rio 2016 opening ceremony?

The Maracana stadium, home to the opening and closing ceremonies and decisive football matches, stands at dawn in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Image: Felipe Dana / AP/Press Association Images

After years of preparation and no shortage of controversy, the 2016 Olympics are finally getting underway in Brazil this weekend.

The Rio Games will officially commence overnight with the opening ceremony, which gets underway at the city’s Maracana Stadium at midnight Irish time.

Three Brazilian filmmakers are serving as creative directors for the artistic component of the show - Fernando Meirelles, Andrucha Waddington and Daniela Thomas.

Meirelles is the best known of the three, having directed the international hit City of God. His English-language works include The Constant Gardener and Blindness.

While there will certainly be an extravagant show - with around 35,000 professionals involved and more than 5,500 costumes - the budget is significantly smaller than previous ceremonies.

The funding set aside for this year’s four major ceremonies - the Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing events - is estimated to be around $55.9m (around €50m). In comparison, the budget for the London ceremonies is estimated to have been around $100m.

Quoted by the Daily Mail, Meirelles said that while he was initially disappointed over the reduced budget, he believes it is ultimately for the best.

He argued that a very expensive ceremony in Brazil would not have sent a positive message to the rest of the world.

“In the end I feel good that I am not spending money that Brazil hasn't got,” he said. “You can do something with heart, with concept, without spending.”

A Russia flag (left) sits behind the Olympic rings in the Athletes Village ahead of the Rio Olympic Games. Image: Martin Rickett / PA Wire/Press Association Images

According to organisers, there are three main themes to the opening ceremony: the garden, diversity and joy. They add that the overall message will be one of “peace and the environmental”.

Set designer Abel Gomes said: "We will give a message to the future of the world. The garden is a very important pillar that we will be embracing during the ceremony. It is our passion, it is our drive."

One curious tidbit revealed by the creative team is that there is only one non-Brazilian featured in the production - specifically the voice of Judi Dench, who, along with the Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro, will read a poem by Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

The country’s ‘rich’ musical history will also be explored - with plenty of samba promised.

Further details of the ceremony are being kept under wraps, although photos taken outside the stadium during rehearsals indicate that yes, there will be fireworks.

Of course, the Olympics are all about the 11,000 athletes participating in the Games, and the show will very much reflect that.

Waddington explained: “We made the whole ceremony for them, to praise them, to celebrate them. They are the heart of the Games and the ceremony is for the them."

Alongside the creative aspect of the ceremony, all the athletes from the 207 participating will march through the stadium along with their team coaches and staff in the traditional ‘Parade of Nations’.

One of the teams worth keeping an eye out for this year is the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, with 10 athletes set to compete in the Games.

The Irish team, meanwhile, will be led into the Maracana Stadium by Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes.

It will be well into Friday morning by the time the host team's arrival brings the parade to an end.

The Games will officially be underway following the lighting of the Olympic Flame - and that won’t be extinguished until Maracana Stadium hosts the closing ceremony on August 21st.