Let the Games begin: Unforgettable Olympic opening ceremonies down the years.
Let the Games begin: Unforgettable Olympic opening ceremonies down the years.

OLYMPICS: The weirdest and greatest opening ceremonies

On the day the 2020 Olympics were due to start, we take a look at the opening ceremony moments from previous editions of the Games that captured our attention, for innovative and infamous reasons.

 

Los Angeles, 1984 - Rocket Man

 

Olympic Games (OG) Los Angeles 1984 Opening Ceremony space age arrival for Bill Scooter OG/1984
Olympic Games (OG) Los Angeles 1984 Opening Ceremony space age arrival for Bill Scooter OG/1984

 

Triple Olympian Susie O'Neill nominated Rocket Man as her favourite opening ceremony moment.

Nova presenter O'Neill turned 11 during these Games but the sight of Bill Suitor, who flew into the stadium wearing a jetpack is still her favourite.

His dramatic entrance was followed by Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' (played on 84 grand pianos), and a modern medley including Irene Cara's 'Fame' and Michael Jackson's 'Beat It'.

 

Barcelona 1992 - The Archer

Paralympian Antonio Rebollo's role in the opening ceremony of the 1992 Games lasted just a few seconds but those seconds made him the most famous archer behind Robin Hood.

The arrow fired over the seven-story-high-cauldron remains one of the most dramatic lightings in Olympic history.

 

Seoul 1988 - When Doves Fry

It is more infamous than innovative.

The traditional birds of peace were released to start the 1988 Games and flew throughout the stadium - unfortunately several decided to settle on the still unlit cauldron. They couldn't have chosen a worst spot to sit and several perished in the lighting.

 

* Credit: Popperfoto * 1988 Olympic Games. Seoul Olympics. The Opening Ceremony, Lighting the Olympic Flame.
* Credit: Popperfoto * 1988 Olympic Games. Seoul Olympics. The Opening Ceremony, Lighting the Olympic Flame.

 

Atlanta 1996 - G.O.A.T

In the most stirring of Olympic images, Muhammad Ali - suffering from Parkinson's disease, lit the flame for the 1996 Games.

It was a symbol of strength in vulnerability from one of the world's most beloved figures. Ali had won a gold medal in Rome, boxing under the name of Cassius Clay.

 

Rio 2016: Hot Oily Tongan Pita Taufatofua

Taufatofua became widely known after footage of his appearance at the opening ceremony for the 2016 Games, oiled and sans shirt, went viral.

He was flag-bearer for Tonga in 2016 Olympics and then again at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The taekwondo athlete, turned cross country skier, is living in Australia and wants to qualify for his third Olympics - in a third sport, kayaking.

"I have already qualified for taekwondo but I have one more chance in kayaking in May," he said.

"I want to show people that anything is possible. Taekwondo didn't help me with skiing - I made it but got my arse kicked ... and then when I went to my first world championships in the kayak, I came last.

"My failures are very public but I don't mind because they are leanings and I am showing people that it's OK to have new leanings."

 

Rio 2016: Gisele Bündchen's final sashay

If it is going to be your last appearance on a catwalk, you might as well make it a good, long one of Olympic proportions.

 

Gisele Bündchen walks on the stage during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic
Gisele Bündchen walks on the stage during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic

 

Strutting down the catwalk in a sparkling dress by Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch to the bossa nova classic "The Girl From Ipanema" - the world watched as Bündchen said goodbye to the runway.

 

Tokyo 1964: Yoshinori Sakai

The first true tear-jerker of the modern Olympics, a display of Japan's post-war resilience capped off by the lighting by Yoshinori Sakai. Born in Hiroshima the same day the city was rocked by an atomic bomb, the 19-year-old was a symbol of Japan's new-found strength.

 

London 2012: The Queen

In its third effort as host city, London finally shook off its stiff upper lip to produce a ceremony of irreverence.

Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) paid tribute to history and culture with a fleet of double-deckerbuses, a hilarious Mr Bean cameo and the opening highlight - a skydiving Queen Elizabeth.

 

And the winner is Sydney 2000: Catherine Freeman

For AOC President John Coates, and recently elected IOC Vice-President, there is one moment above all others - Catherine Freeman.

"It's impossible for me to look beyond the moment when Catherine Freeman leaned forward to ignite that ring of flame in the Olympic cauldron, then to stand proudly with the torch aloft as the cauldron rose," he said.

 

Cathy Freeman lights the Olympic flame to complete the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games
Cathy Freeman lights the Olympic flame to complete the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games

 

"I had asked Catherine to undertake that task in May 2000 at a private dinner in Los Angeles.

"We were celebrating a centenary of women participating in the Olympics.

"Catherine was a role model and a world champion - and the anticipation of her challenge on the track within the Australian community was immense.

"Despite all that pressure, she said yes. She told me she thrived on pressure. And so it proved.

"I should mention that final lap with the torch with our female Olympic greats - Betty Cuthbert, pushed in a wheelchairby Raelene Boyle, followed by Dawn Fraser, Shirley Strickland, Shane Gould then Debbie Flintoff-King who handed to torch to Cathy.

"It was such an important symbol too in terms of reconciling Australia's Indigenous past with its present.

"Cathy Freeman's story was Australia's story that night and it remains as important now as it was then."

 

Originally published as The weirdest and greatest opening ceremonies



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