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Pan AM Games Open With Glittering Ceremony

The 15th Pan American Games have opened with a glittering ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As VOA's David Byrd reports, the ceremony featured dancers, drummers, puppets, and the Games' symbol of the Sun in a bounding celebration entitled Share the Energy.

The ceremony at Maracana Stadium featured more than 1,500 percussionists, accompanying 12-year-old Bahia native Kania Do Jeje.

From there Arnaldo Antues and Ana Costa led the crowd in the Games' theme song Share the Energy. Delegations from the 42 nations then marched into the stadium with Brazil last as the host nation.

The next three sections emphasized the energy of water, the sun and man. Giant puppets, dancers arrayed like flowers, plants, butterflies and exotic birds danced on the floor of the fame stadium.

Water's energy was then highlighted with part of the stadium floor transformed into the Atlantic Ocean as the dancers forming the shape of the sidewalks of Copacabana Beach.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was set to open the games, but at the last minute did not. In his place, Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Arthur Nuzman did the honors.

Mr. Nuzman hinted at Rio's bid to host the 2016 Olympics when he thanked International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge for his support. "To the President of the International Olympic Committee, our gratefulness for the intense support for the International Olympic Movement and particularly to regional games - like our Pan American Games," he said.

Following a prayer for peace sung by Chico Cesar, the Pan American torch which traveled through 51 cities before arriving in Rio de Janeiro, entered the stadium.

Several athletes took a lap of honor with the torch before Joaquim Cruz the 1984 Olympic 800-meters gold medalist ignited the cauldron to the cheers of the crowd.

The Pan American Cauldron, specially designed and shaped like the sun, will burn for 16 days of competition. A total of 12 medals will be up for grabs Saturday in marathon swimming, fencing, weightlifting, tae kwon do, cycling, and gymnastics.

The Games conclude July 29.