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The most memorable Olympic Games opening ceremonies

Photos logoPhotos 06-08-2016

The Olympic opening ceremonies provide a perfect opportunity for host nations to mesmerize the world with a spectacular display and go down in history as one of the best. With just a few months remaining for the games in Rio de Janeiro, let’s look at some of the grandest Olympic opening ceremonies over the decades.

London (2012)

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The London ceremony showcased thousands of years of rich British history in a dazzling spectacle directed by acclaimed British director Danny Boyle. Titled Isles of Wonder, the ceremony included massive sets depicting the English countryside and opened with a sketch with stunt doubles playing the Queen and Daniel Craig as James Bond jumping from a helicopter and parachuting down into the stadium – a sequence that took everyone by surprise.

© Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

In one of the biggest uses of LED lights ever, over 70,000 pixel panels were situated throughout the arena, and in between seats. The spectators were given paddles to turn the pixel pads into an amazing light show, creating new standards of audience participation in an event of this scale. Music from some of the biggest British artists and rock bands including David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Adele, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones provided ample star power and glamour. With Paul McCartney performing the classic "Hey Jude" it was a perfect end to a spectacular evening. 

Beijing (2008)

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The opening ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games was held at the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest. The ceremony was directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou and was held in two parts titled "Brilliant Civilization" and "Glorious Era.” It focused on Chinese culture and was lauded for its creativity.

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A giant light-up LED screen was placed in the center of the stadium and the event featured 15,000 performers. The most spectacular moment was when dancers in red performed on a giant sphere which suspended in the air. The ceremony lasted over four hours and reportedly cost over US$100 million.

Athens (2004)

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The games returned to Greece, which was the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in 776 BC and hosted the first modern Games in 1896. Although Athens was under great financial stress, still it managed to host a magnificent opening ceremony.

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A number of drummers performed a countdown and the opening extravaganza began with the five flaming rings - the symbol of the Olympics - being lit on the field. Athens combined many unique ideas and especially music did the magic. 

Sydney (2000)

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The ceremony began with a tribute to Australian culture, history and identity with over 120 Australian stock horses, who came out to pay tribute to Australian stockmen by forming Olympic Rings. The highlight was the music and the stunning performances.

© Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The audience were familiarized with the key parts of the Australian identity, including an enormous representation of the Great Barrier Reef with giant floating jelly fish and human coral. Cathy Freeman, an Australian athlete, was given the honor of lighting the Olympic torch.

Atlanta (1996)

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Atlanta hosted one of the most extravagant ceremony that last for about five hour and showcased the spirit, music, history, and culture. An estimated $15 million was spent on the ceremony alone.

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Muhammad Ali was given the honor to light the Olympic torch. Celine Dion performed "The Power of the Dream" and the Opera great Jessye Norman performed "Faster, Higher, Stronger" along with fireworks display.

Barcelona (1992)

© Dominique Mollard/AP Photo The ceremony began with Paralympic archer Antonio Rebello lighting the Olympic flame with an arrow, fired over the crowd and into the Cauldron. 

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Whereas the other highlight was the singing of the Games' anthem, Barcelona, written by Queen singer Freddie Mercury.

Los Angeles (1984)

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The amazing ceremony started in an outstanding manner when a man wearing a jetpack flew onto the field. Before that balloons carrying the word 'welcome' in the language of the 140 nations were released into the sky.

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Also, the spectators raised cards that were kept under their seat, to showcase the stunning effect revealing the national flags of all the competing nations. Decathlon champion Rafer Johnson was given the opportunity to light the Olympic torch. 

Tokyo (1964)

© AP Photo

The 1964 games was the first opening ceremony event to have a theme song, balloons, skywriting, and electronic music. The orchestra performed an electronic score using IBM computers.

© Sankei Archive via Getty Images In fact Tokyo's opening ceremony was the first to use fireworks. Yoshinori Sakai, the person who lit the torch, was born in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, the same day an atomic bomb was dropped on the city. 

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