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The Magnificent Seven: memorable opening ceremony moments

It’s here and there’s no getting away from it. Quench your inescapable Olympic thirst with these classic opening day moments.

FROM JAMES BOND to Paul McCartney, London 2012’s opening extravaganza is upon us. But can it provide moments quite as memorable as years gone by?

1. Beijing 2008 – Yang Peiyi

Beijing’s spectacular opening ceremony in 2008 featured a song titled, ‘Ode to the Motherland’, sung by nine year old Lin Miaoke. Or so it seemed. Days later it emerged Miaoke was lip-syncing to a recording by another young girl, seven year old Yang Peiyi.

Peiyi had been earmarked to perform live herself, but has replaced late in the day. Miming at an opening ceremony was nothing knew. What courted almighty controversy was the suggestion that Peiyi had been replaced by a more photogenic alternative.

Credit: tsamzen

2. Athens 2004 – Bjork

Never one to shy away from eccentricity, Bjork’s performance during the opening ceremony was always likely to capture the imagination. While her song ‘Oceania’ hardly lifted the roof off the Olympic Stadium, the memorable performance owed more to Bjork’s dress.

A huge piece of fabric, made up of a extension of Bjork’s dress, was pulled from the stage over the athletes who had gathered in the centre of the stadium during the performance. A show to remember, especially for those athletes. Needless to say, the dry cleaning bill would have been quite something though.

Credit: rolilla

3. Los Angeles 1984 – Rocketman

Probably considered lame now, almost 30 years ago, Bill Rocketman’ Suitor’s ascent into the Californian skies during the LA opening ceremony took things to a new level. We would have expected nothing less from the Americans in the Hollywood heartland.

Propelled into the air by the jetpack strapped to his back, ‘Rocketman’ took flight. His astronaut suit just added to the futuristic, space-age element.

Credit: remistofeles

4. Tokyo 1964 – Yoshinori Sakai

On the face of it, there is nothing too spectacular about Yoshinori Sakai lighting the Olympic Flame at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium. It bears great significance though, as Sakai was born on August 6th 1945, the day of the Hiroshima bombing.

His selection to light the cauldron was seen as a symbol of Japan’s post war reconstruction. It was certainly a moving event in Japan, and Asia’s, history. Sakai, a sprint athlete at university, went on to win gold and silver at the Asian Games.

Credit: Nacholympic

5. Seoul 1988 – When Doves Fry Not a moment anyone associated will care to be reminded of. Three athletes were lifted by a hydraulic platform to the elevated cauldron where there they would light the flame. An estimated television audience of a billion watched on in horror as, after a flight of doves had been released minutes earlier, the birds came to settle on the cauldron.

Up the athletes went and the torch was lit. As where the ten or so doves that had failed to flee at the sight of flames. The releasing of doves had been a part of the opening ceremony for decades. Not anymore.

Credit: Heart Stopping

6. Barcelona 1992 – Arrow Miss More lighting the flame japery. This time, four years on in Barcelona and with flames and wildlife kept sensibly apart, the organising committee turned to archery for its showpiece. Paralympic archer Antonio Rebello fired a flaming arrow, which lit up the elevated cauldron. Well, that’s what they wanted you to think.

Look closely though and you’ll see Rebello’s arrow goes over the top of the cauldron, out of the stadium and out of view. Organisers told the archer to deliberately fire it too far, fearing the possibility of it falling short and into the crowd.

Credit: ferretmasta

7. Sydney 2000 – A 21st century ceremony The first Olympic Games of the new millenium called for the most grandiose effort yet. That task fell to Sydney and opening ceremony Artistic Director David Atkins. At that time, it was the biggest television event of all time and the plaudits were similarly grand.

IOC President Juan Antonio Samarnach called it the most beautiful ceremony he had ever seen. But I bet he says that to all the organising committees. Atkins’ ceremony was groundbreaking. The most complex and choreographed ever seen at that time, it heralded a new age of the biggest show on earth.

Credit: daeglobal

About the author:

Barry Landy

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