A look back at the last five Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies
On Friday, the world will watch the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony.
The event represents the official commencement of the Olympic Games and always provides unforgettable memories for spectators and viewers.
Rio 2016’s ceremony will be directed by Fernando Meirelles (who helmed City of God and The Constant Gardener), Daniela Thomas and Andrucha Waddington, and will feature many elements of Brazilian culture.
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With the big show on the horizon, let’s take a look back at the last five Opening Ceremonies of the summer Games.
London 2012‘s spectacle was entitled “Isles of Wonder” and was directed by Oscar-winning British filmmaker Danny Boyle, the man behind Slumdog Millionaire and 127 hours. Among the notable British artists who participated in the ceremony were Kenneth Brannagh, JK Rowling, Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean!) and Daniel Craig, who reprised his role as James Bond alongside the surprise acting debut of the Queen. The majority of the music used during the ceremony was a mix of classic and current British rock, highlighted by former Beatle Paul McCartney closing the show. In declaring the Games officially open, HM Queen Elizabeth II became the first head of state to do so twice, having previously had the honour at Montreal 1976.
The Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony was held at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 at 8 p.m. Why so many eights? In the Chinese culture, this number is associated with prosperity and confidence. Directed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the beautiful Opening Ceremony was noted for its creativity and focus on ancient Chinese culture, as well as being the first to use weather control technology to prevent raining. It also featured 15,000 performers. Six-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast Li Ning made the final ascent with the Olympic torch, appearing to run through the air around the top of the venue.
Held at the Olympic Stadium in Maroussi, a suburb of the host city, Athens 2004’s Opening Ceremony started with a 28-second countdown – one per Olympic Games – paced by the sounds of a heartbeat played by two drummers. The first part of the artistic program, called “Allegory”, presented themes on love and passion as well as the confluence of the past and the present. The second part, entitled “Clepsydra,” celebrated those themes through its portrayal of Greek history from ancient to modern times.
The Sydney 2000 show began with a tribute to the heritage of the Australian Stock Horse, followed by a segment on Australia’s affinity with the sea, with the stadium floor turned into a beach. Australia’s Aboriginal past, multiculturalism, outback, wildlife and flora were highlighted in the Opening Ceremony, which also featured the music of the Sydney Symphony and a Millennium Marching Band of 2000 musicians.
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Fittingly for the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games, the Atlanta 1996 Opening Ceremony took place in the Centennial Olympic Stadium. The ceremony featured American youth and the college sporting culture, the history of Atlanta and the Old South, as well as culture and rebirth after the American Civil War. The official Georgia state song, “Georgia on my Mind,” made famous by Ray Charles, was performed by Gladys Knight, while “The Power of the Dream” was performed by Canadians Céline Dion and David Foster. In one of the most iconic moments in Olympic history, boxing legend Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic cauldron.