12 June 2014 is a day that the world’s football fans have been waiting expectantly for ever since the last FIFA World Cup™ came to an end. It is the day that Brazil 2014 will finally get under way. While the 32 national teams participating in the competition and the 12 Host Cities put the finishing touches to their preparations, more than 600 dancers are rehearsing hard to stage a show that will delight and captivate the watching world at the tournament’s Opening Ceremony.

Kicking off at 15:15 in exactly 30 days time, the ceremony will showcase the diversity and beauty of Brazil and set the scene for the Opening Match between the host nation and Croatia at 17:00.

“The Opening Ceremony is a tribute to Brazil and its treasures: nature, people football,” said the show’s Belgian artistic director Daphne Cornez, after overseeing another of the many rehearsals that will take place this month. “The sense of excitement here is amazing and everyone is very motivated. It doesn’t matter whether they’re feeling tired or hot sometimes or if they have to go through routines again and again: they just keep on smiling. It’s amazing.”

Each of the country’s treasures is represented in the show by characters and props. The focal point of the show is a central, “living” LED ball made up of more than 90,000 light clusters producing a luminance of 7,000 Nits.

While the ceremony will last 25 minutes, the organisers estimate that 20 hours of preparation will go into each of those minutes, with around 84 hours of rehearsals taking place before the big day.

“I went, did the test and got selected. I was very happy and excited. I could hardly contain myself,” said 60-year-old Edna Sasson, one of the dancers who will be representing a river at the ceremony. “It’s a unique event. It’s not like dancing at the local theatre or any other theatre for that matter. You’re dancing at the start of the World Cup, with millions and millions of people watching. I’m loving it.”

The Opening Ceremony is a tribute to Brazil and its treasures: nature, people football.

Daphne Cornez, artistic director of the Opening Ceremony

With the ceremony taking place within two hours of the tournament kick-off, the main challenge the organisers faced in planning it was to make sure the pitch is not damaged. Every part of the set has been tested in the presence of a pitch specialist, with each prop being placed on the ground for four hours and the moisture levels and reaction of the pitch being measured before the test and after it, for four days.

“The ceremony is taking place during the day, which means we won’t be using a lot of lighting or fireworks,” explained Joana Havelange, the executive director of operational planning and support. “There will be no pointed, sharp objects on the pitch or anything that’s very heavy. As a result, the show will focus heavily on the dancers, the sets, the dance routines, fantasy sequences and the soundtrack, which is really lovely and took two and a half months to write.”

Every member of the cast, which also includes acrobatic gymnasts, trampolinists, capoeira performers and stilt walkers, volunteered to perform at the Opening Ceremony. One of the gymnasts is 19-year-old Lucas Benedetti, who said he hoped that the show would allow the people of Brazil to find out more about what he and his colleagues do, while boatswain Flavio Silva, who is 36, said that having capoeira as part of the ceremony would remind people of the need to respect racial and cultural diversity.

“Capoeira is one of the biggest symbols there is against discrimination,” she said. “If you perform capoeira, there’s no way you’re not going to like black people, white people, fat people, thin people, ugly people and beautiful people. Capoeira is universal.”

Once the dancers and performers have completed their contribution in representing the treasures of Brazil, the ceremony will come to a close with Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, Claudia Leitte and the drumming collective Olodum performing We Are One, the official song of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.