RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - The Counseil International du Sport Militaire borrowed a page from the International Olympic Committee to stage the Opening Ceremony of the 5th Military World Games on July 16 at Olympic Stadium.

The spectacle had all the pomp, circumstance and pageantry expected of a military gathering of 109 nations dedicated to CISM’s motto of “friendship through sport” during these “Peace Games.” It also resembled the unforgettable Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, albeit on a smaller scale.

Marching bands from the Brazilian Army, Navy, Air Force, Military Police and Firefighters dueled. The Brazilian Army Symphonic Band dazzled. The CISM flag was raised. The torch was run around the stadium. Military jets, planes and helicopters performed symmetry, skywriting and acrobatics overhead.

Brazilian President Mrs. Dilma Rousselff officially declared the 2011 CISM Military World Games open for more than 5,000 athletes, including 250 from her host nation that will compete in all 20 sports.

And none other than Pele, widely regarded as the greatest soccer player ever to grace the planet, carried the CISM torch up the steps and lit the cauldron.

Naturally, the athletes, coaches, trainers and support staff of 109 national military teams marched around the track in a display of patriotism unmatched in any other Games.

“Walking out there with your flag kind of gives you that esprit de corps,” said Army Capt. Randee Farrell, captain of the U.S. women’s CISM soccer team who serves as marketing director of admissions at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. “I think everyone’s ready. I think it’s great to see all the countries come together.

“I was standing there talking with four Iranian women on their shooting team. That’s pretty cool. I think the great thing about CISM is it’s across political lines. It’s about really just meeting the people and knowing who they are. I think that’s the great thing about sports in general, but just like in this environment, what other time are you going to have two or three Americans with four Iranian women? We had a great picture and we were joking with them.”

Army distance runner Maj. Dan Browne marched in the 2004 Olympic Opening Ceremony in Athens, Greece, but had never attended a CISM Military World Games opener.

“Memories of Athens were sort of coming back to me,” he said. “It was neat, too, in a sense that being in uniform, there’s that extra sense of pride. It was a special thing.”

Thousands of public schoolchildren performed numerous song and dance displays that illustrated Brazil’s culture, nature, heritage, industry and beautiful people " from the Amazon Rain Forest to oil refineries to the Blue Sea. Brazil produces 20 percent of the world’s drinkable water and is regarded as the “Lungs of the World” because of its lush tropical forests.

Brazilian pop music stars Jorge Aragao, Alcione, Dudu Nobre and Diogo Nogueira performed during the grand finale of the two-hour program produced by Abel Gomes.

“It was great to embrace to Brazilian culture,” Farrell said. “Brazil really showed us what they have to offer. We went out to Copacabana Beach the other day, and we’re ready to experience the culture for the rest of the week.”

Willie Wilson, chief of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program who attended the 2003 CISM Military World Games in Catania, Italy, is serving as Team USA’s modern pentathlon team captain in Rio de Janeiro.

“When the President of Brazil spoke and then they had Pele light the CISM torch, what an event?” Wilson said. “They no doubt made Opening Ceremony a special event.”

Wilson, a retired Army sergeant major who also served as WCAP’s first sergeant, marched around the track with the athletes during the parade of nations.

“I was humbled to have that opportunity because I am here to support Modern Pentathlon,” he said. “I’m not an athlete and I did not get here the same route that they did. I was honored to be a part of the U.S. delegation and have the privilege of marching around the track and representing the United States.”

The 6th Military World Games, scheduled for 2015, have been awarded to South Korea.

Page last updated Wed July 20th, 2011 at 00:00