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Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Kiwi to march with home team at the Rio ceremony

Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo / AP
Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo / AP

When the Brazilian team march out into Maracana Stadium in front of 80,000 feverish home fans in today's opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, there will be a Kiwi among them.

New Zealand boardsailor and London Olympian Jon-Paul Tobin has been given approval to join the hosts in the Parade of Nations as he is a member of the Brazilian sailing team's support staff.

Tobin, who, despite qualifying for the Rio Games in the men's RS:X class, abandoned his own Olympic campaign earlier this year, now coaches Brazilian boardsailor Patricia Freitas.

He has been based in Rio with the Brazilian sailing team for the past four months, watching the city ready itself for the biggest sporting show on earth.

As the hosts, the Brazilian team will be the last to walk into Maracana Stadium, and Tobin expects a wall of noise when the home team enters the arena.

"I'm not sure exactly what is planned, but I guess we can assume it is going to be loud," said Tobin.

"I have no doubt it will be in line for the most passionate and emotional experience ever. These guys know how to party."

Along with the Parade of Nations, the ceremony will feature other traditional features like the Olympic oath.

There will also be unique celebrations highlighting Brazilian culture and accomplishments. Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen and Briton Dame Judi Dench are confirmed to have roles in the production.

An estimated three billion people around the world will watch the ceremony, which has taken five years to produce and includes 300 dancers, 5000 volunteers and 12,000 costumes.

Tobin's involvement with the Rio Games is not how he originally planned it. He had hoped to represent New Zealand in his second Olympics, but pulled the pin earlier this year citing a lack of funding and support from Yachting New Zealand.

Tobin is among four former New Zealand boardsailing legends who are coaching other nations in Rio. Olympic gold medallists Bruce Kendall (1988) and Tom Ashley (2008) coach competitors from Hong Kong and China respectively, while Aaron McIntosh, who won bronze at the 2000 Games in Sydney, oversees Dutch windsurfer Dorian van Rijsselberghe's campaign.

- NZ Herald

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