Compared to the awe-inspiring and extravagant opening ceremony in Beijing in 2008 and the star studded one in London in 2012, the 2016 Rio Olympics kicked off with a relatively low key ceremony. Yet, instead of wowing the audience with expensive stunts and gizmos, Brazil brought something uniquely Brazilian to the party – the samba, a carnival atmosphere and the vibrant diversity that defines the country.

The budget ceremony – costing a tenth of what was spent in London – is born out of necessity; Brazil is going through an extremely tough economic recession while its political landscape is in the middle of a veritable storm. The president who secured Rio’s bid is about to stand trial on charges of disrupting a corruption investigation. His successor is suspended from office and currently being impeached; the stand-in to the stand-in, Michel Temer has an approval rating of 14% and was roundly booed when he opened the ceremony.

In the background of these problems is always the stark economic disparity of Brazil – characterised by the densely populated ‘favelas’, clearly visible from the newly-built modern stadiums. Many have questioned the need to spend such vast amounts of money on a sporting event when there are countless domestic problems to solve. Some have gone beyond mere questioning; the Olympic rally has been pelted with stones, visiting athletes have been robbed and protests have dogged the Olympic committee wherever they have gone.

Perhaps keeping these problems in mind, this Olympic ceremony preached a message of inclusivity, tolerance, diversity and sustainable development.

The ceremony featured a section on record-breaking global temperatures, melting ice-caps and rising sea levels – even the Olympic cauldron was one that was smaller, with lower emission levels. The rainforest was heavily represented – from the dress of the Brazilian team to the logo of the Olympics – as were the ‘favelas’, in a nod to the vast majority of the low-income population that make up the country. The team composed of refuges also made history by appearing for the first time at the Olympics and drew the loudest cheer from the crowd.

By the end, the importance of the games overshadowed the problems – almost all the countries in the world, dressed in their native colours and dresses, came together in a warm and raucous celebration that commemorates the ability of humans to achieve superhuman feats and compete peacefully.