With the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony due to take place in Glasgow on Wednesday, we wanted to look back at some of the world’s greatest opening ceremonies – from the Olympics to the Rugby World Cup.
Hosting a major international sporting event represents a huge PR opportunity for any nation and the opening ceremony provides a platform on which a country can showcase the best aspects of their culture, history and people
While the Olympics tends to attract the most attention when it comes to opening ceremonies, increasingly all major events are expected to be spectacular and, at the very least, engage the world watching on.
With an estimated audience of 1 billion looking on, there is no doubt the pressure is on for Glasgow’s opening ceremony to be a showstopper and the event seems to be heading in that direction. But how will it stand up against some of the other great launches?
In this article, we look at the top ten opening ceremonies of all time. If you would like more information about sports PR just click this link.
Ten: Indian Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony
The previous hosts of the Common Wealth Games received a resounding reception for their opening ceremony.
It has to be said the reaction was also as much a sigh of relief with the media reporting “No collapsing scenery or malfunctioning sound system. No fluffed lines, botched choreography or missed cues and not a single stray dog in sight.” (The Telegraph)
The overwhelming feeling was that “India had arrived” and the event was dazzling.
Nine: Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
The event was billed as “Manchester’s biggest ever party” and the £12m ceremony didn’t disappoint with pomp and pop and a spectacular dance display in front of a capacity City of Manchester Stadium crowd.
It may not have had the budget or scale of the London Olympics ten years later, but the two and a half hour ceremony launched the Games with a bang – quite literally when Sir Steve Redgrave started proceedings by banging a huge drum.
Eight: 1920 Opening Ceremony in Antwerp
While the ceremony may not be remembered as a hugely spectacular extravaganza – the opening did give the world the Olympic Flag and the Athletes Oath – quite a legacy!
The event was also a powerful symbol of unity after WW1 – and the day remains a symbol for the Olympics.
Seven: 1992 Barcelona Olympics
While many Queen fans may remember the 92 Olympics for Freddie Mercury’s operatic song Barcelona – the world remembers the moment Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo fired a flaming arrow into the metallic basin of the Olympic torch.
Despite the suspense in the hush silence of the stadium, the overall effect was magnificent.
Six: 1964 Japan
Less spectacular and more emotional. The moment when 19 year old Yoshinori Sakai lit the flame was a true tear-jerker.
Sakai was born in Hiroshima on the same day as the atomic bomb, symbolising the countries newfound economic strength following the war.
Five: Atlanta, 1996
Despite heavy criticism that the games were over commercialized in the USA, the moment boxing legend Mohammed Ali stepped up to light the flame was a truly human and moving moment.
Ali was shaking from his Parkinson’s disease, yet he moved with dignity – the crowd went wild.
Four: 2011 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand
60,000 fans witnessed the kick off of the Rugby World Cup in Auckland in 2011. The ceremony featured hundreds dancers and singers, but the showpiece was a stylized sequence where a young boy in a rugby jersey smashed through a crowd who fell to his feet like skittles.
The ceremony paid tribute to New Zealand’s Maori heritage and was by far superior to the low budget, hastily put together event in 1987 when they also hosted the Rugby World Cup.
Three: Sydney, 2000
According to the BBC, then-International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch would later call it the most beautiful opening ceremony he had ever seen.
Framed by the narrative of a young girl’s daydream, there was a magical quality to Sydney’s 2000 spectacle.
Two: Beijing 2008
It took 14,000 people and cost roughly $300 million, but the result was captivating. In this age of digital effects, it was the rare live performance that truly amazed.
One: 2012 London Olympics
Yes we know, choosing the London Olympics as the number one opening ceremony of all time is a little flag waving.
The Times’ Simon Barnes best summed it up when he said:
“London turned down the option to celebrate giants and supermen and power and might and chose instead to celebrate people… Humour, above all things, humanises and there were elements of self-mockery that suggested that we could make this the humorous Games; the Games of humorous humanity in a land in which a joke and a grumble are never far away, and often enough one and the same thing.”