Team Ireland. led by Paddy Barnes, at tonights Opning Ceremony

Team Ireland, led by flag bearer Paddy Barnes, at Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony

Three-time Olympian Paddy Barnes led out Team Ireland at a colourful Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana Stadium in Rio tonight.

“It’s a huge honour to have been chosen to fly the flag on behalf of my country,”said the Belfast light-flyweight,a two-time Olympic medallist.

The Holy Family BC man was the 99th flag bearer of 207 proud emblem carriers leading their teams at the Parade of Nations at the famed football venue.

An estimated TV audience of 3 billion observed proceedings.

Barnes was following in the footsteps of the Irish flag bears of Olympiads past and current, including Matt Flanagan (Amsterdam 1928, Garda BC), Tony “Socks” Byrne (Melbourne 1956, Tredagh BC), Jim McCourt (Mexico City 1968, Immaculata BC), Wayne McCullough (Seoul 1988, Albert Foundry BC), Francie Barrett (Atlanta 1996, Olympic BC) and Katie Taylor (London 2012, Bray BC).

Taylor,who also took part in tonight’s curtain raiser, McCullough, McCourt, Byrne and Barnes have claimed one gold, one silver and four bronze medals between them since 1956 and are an integral part of Irish boxing’s proud Olympic boxing legacy.

Team Ireland prepares to march

Team Ireland prepares to march

“All of us have worked so hard to get to this point,but now it is time to really deliver,”added Barnes ahead of tonight’s ceremony.

“I’m going to enjoy the occasion (opening ceremony) of course, but I can’t wait to get in the ring for my first bout and start my quest for gold.”

Barnes was one of nine boxers to lead out his/her nation this evening, along with Azerbaijan’s Teymur Mammadov, Dieudonne Wilfried Seyi Ntsengue of Cameroon, Jennifer Chieng for Federated States of Micronesia, Iraq’s Waheed Abdulridha, Jordan’s Hussein Eshaish Iashaish, Erkin Adylbek Uulu of Kyrgyzstan, Jonas Junias for Namibia and Uzbekistan’s Bakhodir Jalolov.

Cheing received an invitation place in Katie Taylor’s lightweight class from the Tripartite Commission.

“We’ve got our greatest female athlete,Katie Taylor, going for her second gold medal;Paddy Barnes in his third Games is going for his third medal, what an athlete, said ex WBA World champion Bernard Dunne on tonight’s live Opening cermony broadcast on RTE.

Zaur Antia, Irish head coach, at the Maracana tonight

Zaur Antia, Irish head coach, at the Maracana tonight

“Michael Conlan,(Steven) Donnelly,(Brendan) Irvine,(David Oliver) Joyce, big Joe Ward – that is the best boxing team we’ve sent to a Games.”

Tonight’s Opening Ceremony marks the official start of the 2016 Olympic Games.Steven Donnelly and David Oliver Joyce get Ireland’s campaign in the boxing ring underway at the 9,000 capacity Pavilion 6 venue on Sunday.

Click here for draws and schedule.

Boxing begins tomorrow in Rio.

Day 1 schedule