Many eyes around the world will be glued to television screens as the 2016 Summer Olympics unfolds in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While the sporting feats will be the undoubted highlight, the signature Olympic opening ceremony is always a great show. After all, as every event organizer knows, what happens at the kick-off will set the tone for the proceedings.

Opening ceremonies from past Summer Olympics have left an imprint on spectators, and at the same time, established a benchmark for cities looking to host the quadrennial event. While each edition had a unique opener, these 6 are, in our humble opinion, pretty memorable ones. 

1980 MOSCOW OLYMPICS

This edition of the games is often remembered because of its US-led 65-country boycott, but the opening ceremony was a spectacle unlike any other during its time. Each segment of opener started and ended with military precision. While it may be passé, the effect of colored placards forming different pictures and symbols still looks quite cool today. 

1992 BARCELONA OLYMPICS

In what is perhaps the coolest-ever way to ignite the Olympic flame, Paralympian archer Antonio Rebollo was the one who shot the flaming arrow that lit the cauldron. Other highlights include the showcase by the Castellers de Villafranca, a group of people who uphold the Catalan tradition of forming human castles, plus a showcase of famed opera singers led by Placido Domingo.

 

1996 ATLANTA OLYMPICS

The City of Atlanta had the privilege of marking the centennial of the Olympic Games, and it did so by showcasing the star power of the United States: Celine Dion singing the “Power of Dream”, Gladys Knight belting the state’s theme “Georgia on my Mind.” The biggest, best surprise of the night—one that will go down as one of the finest Olympic moments of all time—was when Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers of all time, appeared to light the Olympic flame. 

 

2000 SYDNEY OLYMPICS

The opener of the first Olympic games of the new millennium showcased Australia’s aquatic and indigenous cultures through different dance and musical performances. The message of unity among its multicultural peoples was a theme that resonated throughout this ceremony. Another lighting-the-torch highlight came from sprinter and Australian aborigine Cathy Freeman, who ignited it in the water before the flame rose up to take its place in the cauldron. 

 

2004 Athens Olympics

The Athens Olympics opener paid homage to its own historic significance as the birthplace of the Olympic Games through an innovative light show and floating pieces of sculpture on a slip-proof pool in the middle of the stadium. For other parts of the show, the pool was easily drained for quick set-ups. The traditional parade of athletes also got a boost with a mix prepared by popular club DJ Tiesto.

 

2012 LONDON OLYMPICS

This high-octane opening ceremony featured the arrival of Queen Elizabeth’s arrival, with a video of James Bond (Daniel Craig) escorting the queen to a chopper as stunt doubles jumped out of it on their way to the stadium. A Chariots of Fire tribute also provided lighthearted moments, courtesy of Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson). Capping off the opener was a musical performance by Sir Paul McCartney.

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