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5 of the best Olympic ceremonies of all time

By Enn Santos Published Jul 30, 2021 4:09 pm

The Olympics is an ancient Panhellenic event held every four years, where athletes from across the world come together to showcase their talents and compete. Different countries get the chance to host the Olympics, therefore, opening ceremonies are well-planned and watched out for. 

From the elaborate costumes to the fireworks and different dance routines, many consider the performance to be the highlight of the games.

As a result of the pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics began in a more solemn tone. With no fans to watch the opening ceremony live, the country's Olympic organizers chose to highlight the international community's resiliency and ability to come together in unprecedented times.

We're taking a look back at how hosting countries have embraced the sporting world throughout history. Here is a list of top 5 best Olympic opening ceremonies of all time.

2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games

The video gives us a glimpse of the magnificent places in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, highlighting the country’s rich history and culture. From flying acrobats to profound cultural statements, Rio drew attention to its indigenous origins while also illustrating how European settlers influenced the city's future.

Sparkling pyrotechnics and glittering bodysuits illuminated the stadium, symbolizing the need for inclusion and diversity. The event was brought to life with dancers performing on blocks and platforms, as well as a beat-driven rap combo by Karol Conká and MC Sofia. 

Judi Dench narrates a short sequence that draws attention to the dangers of climate change, and announces The Athlete's Forrest: “This will be our Olympic message: Earthlings, let’s replant, let’s save the planet,” to cap Rio's inaugural ceremony.

The event was directed by Fernando Meirelles, Daniela Thomas and Andrucha Waddington. 

2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games

London’s opening ceremony depicts fame and power as David Beckham, James Bond (Daniel Craig) and the Queen herself appeared in the event. The highlight of the show however, was Mr. Bean, (Rowan Atkison) practically doing anything besides dragging his feet in the funniest possible way during his skit. 

The Olympic opening ceremony in London pays tribute to the country’s history from the Suffragette struggle and the West Indian migration through the psychedelic 1960s and disco-fueled 1980s. 

The video particularly gave attention to the industrial revolution from steel grey panels, blazing orange metallic rivers, and ominous chimneys rising from the ground, replacing lush green landscapes. 

The Isles of Wonder was helmed by Danny Boyle, an Academy Award-winning British film director together with Dame Evelyn Glennie, a deaf but incredibly accomplished drummer who maintained time with the vibrations in her feet, presented the introductory music.

2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games

One of the most well-received Olympic opening shows to date, Beijing reportedly spent US$100 million (HK$778 million) for the 2008 Beijing Opening Ceremony while the show was set inside an architectural masterpiece known as the Bird’s Nest. 

The ceremony began with 2,008 drummers drumming in unison, segments split into two parts, showcasing China’s Brilliant Civilisation and Glorious Era. Thousands of traditional percussionists chanted, played, and danced in sync, dressed in Beijing military uniforms took the stage, generating a flood of movement and light with lit batons, swiftly replacing the comical noises. 

The scenery was soon shifted with 897 moveable type blocks illustrating China's greatest inventions. It was a spectacle rich with exquisite detail that wowed the 91,000-strong audience while Li Ning, draped by wires that ran along the stadium's walls, and of course, more fireworks. 

The Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing was also a coming-out party for China in the modern world, which is why it was lavishly funded.

2000 Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games

The games highlighted the 100th anniversary of female athletes competing in the Olympics and Paralympics, which was commemorated by female athletes passing the torch back and forth until Cathy Freeman lit the final cauldron.

It explains why Sydney’s Olympic opening ceremony embodied Australia as a peculiar and alluring woman in a poem. The audience was taken on a voyage around Australia, soaring above lush rainforests and indigenous dancers, through scenic images provided by Australia's wildlife and landscapes. 

The opening ceremony in Sydney paid tribute to Australia's magnificent biodiversity, traditional indigenous culture, and rich history. Australian athletes toured the torch across the bush and through bustling cities to the guttural sound of didgeridoos, demonstrating how diverse their country is. 

1992 Barcelona Olympic and Paralympic Games

The Olympic opening ceremony in Barcelona was a magnificent exhibition of color and culture. Spaniards brought a strangely beautiful burst of artistic invention torn from a postmodern picture, a half-Picasso and half Blade Runner. A duet by Montserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury, named Barcelona, was played over several picturesque images of the city. 

A tall, iron-made puppet ran around across the stage, accompanied by dancers dressed in yellow flames and leaves, in a fever dream of movement, abstract shape, and animatronics.The image quickly transformed into a gleaming watery surface, punctuated by copper-colored boats and equipment, which represented Barcelona's historical war at sea. 

The three hour event took place at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys with a volume of 67,000 fans that featured significantly big sculptures. This was a performance that felt more like a lucid dream, but in a positive way, and left the audience a feeling of enchantment and awe with some lasting impressions.

Photo from Tokyo Olympics' Instagram (@tokyo2020)