Rio's amazing Olympic firsts

Story highlights

  • First-time competitors, first-time golds, and first-time recognitions are bright spots
  • Changes to Olympic presentations and representations reflect an evolving world

(CNN)The Rio Olympics have been mired in controversy and doubt, but as the competition unfolds, it's clear the Games will also be remembered for their firsts.

Ibtihaj Muhammad to make history in Rio
Ibtihaj Muhammad olympic fencer hijab orig mg_00010030


    Ibtihaj Muhammad to make history in Rio


Ibtihaj Muhammad to make history in Rio 04:23
Two brand-new National Olympic Committees, a refugee team and a historic win by an African-American swimmer are just a few of the defining moments that will be recorded this year with fresh ink.
    The citizens of Fiji and Kosovo saw their countries medal for the first time -- in gold for both, to boot. For American audiences, these Olympics marked the first time a U.S. athlete competed wearing a hijab.
    These religious, cultural and geographic inclusions are all signs of a changing world.
    It seems odd to talk about the expansion of diversity and compassion at an event that is billed as a global celebration of diversity and compassion. Yet, as the refugee team entered the Maracanã Stadium to thunderous applause during the Opening Ceremony, it became clear that, to be considered a truly global affair, the Olympics also needs to be a modern one that recognizes both the challenges and the triumphs of the international community.
    Amid the shadows of public health and safety fears, infrastructure issues and scandal, these firsts are the bright spots that represent the spirit of the Olympics in its truest form. Click on the gallery above.