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Rio Olympics 2016: Here are a few intriguing revelations about the most anticipated games of the year!
The 2016 Rio Olympics will officially start today with the opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium. A global audience of billions will watch athletes from 207 countries compete in 28 sports.

The build up to the games has however not been the most pleasant under the shadow of the Russian doping scandal, Zika virus threat and reports of the crumbling infrastructure of Brazil.

Although officially known as the Games of the 31st Olympiad, they are actually the 28th Games, as due to war, Games were not held in 1916, 1940 and 1944.

The Games are being held in the continent of South America for the very first time. Brazil's capital Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics. The opening ceremony which begins at midnight BST on Friday will be watched by an estimated 3 billion people.

The opening ceremony took five years to plan and includes 300 dancers, 5,000 volunteers and 12,000 costumes. The Games will be held between August 5-21. However, action started two-days ago in Rio Olympics with women's football.

A total of 10,500 athletes from 207 countries, including the Refugee Olympic Team will be participating in Rio 2016. For the first time athletes from Kosovo and South Sudan will take part in the Olympics.

The Refugee Olympic Team, that shall be competing under the Olympic flag has 10 members – Five from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from DR Congo and one from Ethiopia.

United States of America has the largest team in the Olympics with 554 athletes. Rio Games will feature Olympians born since the year 2000, including the youngest participant, 13-year old Nepalese swimmer Gaurika Singh.

At one point of time it seemed that Russian athletes will not be able to participate in Rio Games after World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) reported state-sponsored doping in Russia and proposed a blanket ban on the athletes of the country.

However, on Thursday, the IOC cleared 271 Russian athletes out of the total list of 389 for participation in Rio 2016. But, 67 out of Russia's 68 track and field athletes have been barred by the sport's governing body.

But, the problems do not end here. Many people have even gone to the extent of predicting that Rio Olympics would be the worst Olympics ever. Brazil is in deep recession and going through a political crisis. On Wednesday, the arrival of the Olympic torch was marred with protests.

A jui-jitsu athlete from New Zealand has claimed that he was kidnapped in Rio, while Chinese media reported that women fencers were robbed and shooting team members found "unauthorized payments" made from their credit cards.

Tight security is in place with 85,000 security personnel guarding the Olympic Village, airports, sports venues and all major roads, almost twice the security that was used during the 2012 London Olympics.

More than 500,000 tourists are expected to arrive during the Games. According to the organizers more than 1 million of the total 7.5 million tickets still remain unsold.

Major areas of concern for most of the participating countries are the Olympic Village and the sailing venue.

The Australian team had initially refused to move into the village located in the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood, citing electrical problems, gas and water leaks in their building as primary reasons. And eventually when they did move in, they had to be evacuated for a small fire that broke out. Furthermore, they found their equipment stolen from their rooms on their return.


(Image: Contaminated water of Guanabara Bay)

The sailing events venue at Guanabara Bay has been under scanner for the past one year. A taskforce had removed over 25 tonnes of floating rubbish during last year's Olympic test event. An investigation by the Associated Press had found out that swallowing just 3 teaspoons of water from the bay could make an athlete seriously ill.

An AP analysis of water at the Guanabara Bay had revealed high levels of viruses and bacteria from human feces contamination in the water. High levels of water pollution are common in Brazil, as majority of sewage is not treated. Raw waste is carried through open-air ditches that feed Olympic water sites.

And then, there is the Zika Virus threat!

Brazil is in the middle of another crisis, a Zika virus outbreak. It is a virus spread by mosquitoes that can lead to birth defects. The threat is so serious that the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised pregnant women to avoid travelling to Brazil for the Games.

But, since mosquitoes are rare in August, WHO had recommended in June this year that the Games not be moved or cancelled. But, this did not stop some of the world's top golfers and tennis players from withdrawing their names, citing Zika fears.

Major highlights of Rio 2016

The world's fastest man, Usain Bolt will be in action at Rio 2016. The Jamaican will be aiming for an unprecedented triple-triple, by trying to win 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles for the third time. His battle with American sprinter Justin Gatlin will be the highlight of the Games.

Undoubtedly, the most decorated Olympian ever, American swimmer Michael Phelps will be looking to add to his tally of 18 gold medals.

American tennis sensation Serena Williams comes to Rio looking for her fifth Olympic medal, while the American basketball team shall be aiming for their third consecutive gold.

Golf makes a return to Olympics at Rio after a long gap of 112-years, but unfortunately the top 20 players of the game have already withdrawn their names out of Zika fears, including the top four golfers Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy and Dustin Johnson.

How are India's chances at Rio 2016?

According to the `Olympics and Economics report' released by Goldman Sachs on Monday, India is expected to win eight medals at Rio 2016, including one gold medal. India had won a total of 6 medals in the 2012 London Olympics, but not a single gold.

United States and China – world's biggest economies are expected to win the maximum gold medals as usual, according to the report.

Gracenote, a US-based company has predicted that India will return with a total of five medals, including a gold by the mixed doubles team of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.

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