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Top 10 Olympic Opening Ceremonies

VO: RB WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Ezuma
Written by Tiffany Ezuma When these countries got a chance to show their best to nations participating in the Olympics, they did not disappoint! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Olympic Opening Ceremonies of All Time! But what will take the top spot on our list? Will it be Beijing, London, or Sydney? Watch to find out! Watch to WatchMojo: Have an idea for our next video? Check out the suggest page here: https://www.WatchMojo.commy/suggest.php

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These host cities pulled out all the stops. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down the Top 10 Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

For this list, we’re looking at the most notable opening extravaganzas staged for the Olympic Games.

#10: London 1948

After a 12-year hiatus of the Olympics due to WWII, the 1948 games, nicknamed the “Austerity Games,” were an opportunity to honor the the past and attempt to unite a broken world (even if the Soviet Union declined to participate). Instead of focusing on grand theatrics, this Olympic kickoff was relatively understated. Army bands marched in front of a crowd at Wembley Stadium, thousands of pigeons were released, and a 21-gun salute went off as the last runner in the torch relay ran around the track. Simple and effective, it honored the dire economic circumstances some countries were in after the war, while showing that the human spirit couldn’t be defeated.

#9: Seoul 1988

By the late '80s, South Korea was becoming an influential country on the world stage, and this impressive Opening Ceremony really reflected the country's confidence. Despite a problematic release of doves in the stadium, the grand production really impressed with a demonstration of taekwondo, the Korean martial art that was a demonstration sport in 1988 before becoming an official Olympic sport in 2000. And in a dazzling feat of skill and artistry, a team of skydivers, while plummeting to earth at top speed, came together in the form of the iconic Olympic rings. This was the first time skydiving was broadcast live to a world TV audience, including the audience at the stadium.

#8: Los Angeles 1984

1984 marked the first time the Summer Olympics were held in the US since 1932, which were also in L.A.. Before a crowd of almost 100,000, the ceremony celebrated “Music of America,” and a big band and orchestra played hits ranging from Gershwin to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Visually, the event featured 1000 volunteers marching in with balloons and a banner that said “Welcome” in the over 100 languages. A big WOW moment came when a young rocketeer, Bill Suitor, flew across the stadium on a jet pack. The African-American champion decathlete Rafer Johnson, the 1960 Olympic flag-bearer, lit the cauldron.

#7: Tokyo 1964

One for the history books, the 1964 Summer Olympics was the first held on the Asian continent. This was also the first time the event was televised live worldwide. The Japanese put on a show that demonstrated Japan’s desire to move on from the atrocities of WWII and usher in a more peaceful era in world politics. This was demonstrated by the lighting of the Olympic flame by Yoshinori Sakai, a man born in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the same day an atomic bomb was dropped on the city. It was a powerful gesture by the Japanese people, and one that captures the true essence of the Games.

#6: Atlanta 1996

As American as apple pie, the Atlanta Opening Ceremony felt like a football game on a much grander scale. Featuring marching bands, steppers and cheerleaders, the ceremony was deeply inspired by the culture of the South. Performers and props evoked the South’s story, from the Civil War to the eventual Southern renaissance, incorporating music such as jazz and gospel standards. Gladys Knight also busted out a monumental version of "Georgia on My Mind", the state’s official song. But one of the most touching moments came when boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, lit the Olympic cauldron.

#5: Barcelona 1992

Barcelona made sure that their opening ceremony was a celebration of life. With giant, colorful puppets manned by puppeteers dancing throughout the stadium it was hard not to get caught up in the spirit of the event. Andrew Lloyd Webber contributed the Games’ theme song, "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends for Life) which was sung live by Sarah Brightman and José Carreras. But what made this opener stand out the most was the lighting of the cauldron. To light the flame, paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo shot a flaming arrow across the stadium. The moment was unforgettable and instantly iconic.

#4: Athens 2004

As the birthplace of the first Olympics, Athens had a Hellas lot of history to celebrate. The past and present were tied together onscreen with drummers playing in both the Ancient Olympia Stadium and the new Athens Olympic Stadium. A rocket, simulated to have been launched from the older stadium, landed in the pool of the newer stadium and lit flaming Olympic rings, symbolizing the past giving life to the modern era. The show was split into two segments, “Allegory” and “Hourglass,” the first more conceptual, the second about Greek history. The show was a feat in technology with praise given to the lighting, floating sculptures, and the innovation used to drain the pool in a mere two minutes.

#3: London 2012

The Brits made the right decision when they picked filmmaker Danny Boyle to direct the show. Boyle and his creative team created a presentation that infused the theme “Isles of Wonder” into every minute. The show’s strength was its ability to mix pop culture in with a telling of the nation’s history, from its humble beginnings to becoming a world leader. With appearances from pop culture faves including Mary Poppins, Mr. Bean, James Bond, Harry Potter, and many more, there was something for everyone. And the music! Featured songs including “London Calling,” “My Generation,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” gave the show a palpable energy that encapsulated the spirit of Great Britain.

#2: Sydney 2000

Full of energy from the get-go, they started with a horse show paying tribute to the Australian Stock Horse: 120 riders performed a beautifully choreographed step routine that included forming the five Olympic rings. They told the world “G’Day,” and proceeded to wow with sections of the show that included a tribute to the Great Barrier Reef, Aboriginal culture, and even a nature segment depicting the stages of bushfire destroying and replenishing life. There was one small snafu, as the ascension of a giant ring of fire to the top of the stadium stalled for four long minutes, but even a little mistake couldn’t take away from the spectacular show.

#1: Beijing 2008

Featuring a whopping 15,000 performers, the Beijing opening ceremony was a triumphant feat of planning and execution. Directed by Zhang Yimou, a Chinese filmmaker known for movies such as “Raise the Red Lantern,” the artistic section of the ceremony was divided into two parts: “Brilliant Civilization” and “Glorious Era.” They told the story of China’s rich history as well as depicting a vision for peace and harmony worldwide. Beginning with the beating of bronze Fou drums the show depicted aspects of Chinese history and culture including scroll painting, terracotta soldiers, the Silk Road, and Chinese opera. The four-hour ceremony cost approximately a massive $100 million US, but every penny was worth it for an Opening Ceremony second to none.

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