Friday, January 24, 2014

The Top 4 Olympic Ceremonies

14 Days to go!
8 Days until our first rehearsal with audience!
6 Days until our first full dress rehearsal!

Sitting several rows up from the middle of the playing field for the Opening Ceremony rehearsal in Fischt Olympic Stadium at 11pm yesterday, I had a wash of sleepiness come over me.  I closed my eyes, spent a few seconds convincing myself that I should sleep, when suddenly I remembered where I was.  I opened my eyes and realized that very very few people would ever, even remotely, have this perspective.  It was perfect - the protocol stage, presidential box, lights, Olympic flag, Russian flag, artists rehearsing, and I was in the middle of it all, perfectly situated in a dream.  This will be amazing!

The protocol segments will be incredible, the music is fantastic, and the effects we have lined up - however tricky - are phenomenal.  One special effect in particular, which will be a complete surprise to the world on opening night, is such an amazing idea, I wish I could discuss it here.  But, we are getting to that time of the preparations when we will be finalizing the production of the artistic segments, and we will begin full runs, which means there will be relatively few things that I can say.

Today is my last day off.  I was preparing to wait until closer to the Opening Ceremonies, but I want to give you some perspective of this Opening Ceremony with the ceremonies of the past and do something that I have never done: make a list of the four greatest ceremonies (obviously providing the video for you all to enjoy).  This will give you time to watch these if you have missed any of them before the Sochi games.

The modern games began in 1896 in Athens with two ceremonies.  These were relatively small - a speech here or there and a parade of nations.  The following two games (Paris 1900 and St. Louis 1904) did not have an opening event as they were held as part of the World's Fair.  We must thank the great people in London in 1908 for beginning the modern tradition of the Olympic Ceremony.  Mass artistic elements were added for the first time in Stockholm in 1912, and following the First World War, the Olympics began to flourish.  The ceremonies added a giant cauldron in Antwerp 1928, with oaths, large musical and artistic events, before the first great ceremony of the modern era, Hitler's Olympic Games of 1936 in Berlin.

The 1936 ceremony was colossal - up to this point, by far the largest ceremony in the history of the Olympic Movement.  With music by Richard Strauss and Carl Orff, the first torch relay, and a 10,000 member dramatic retelling of the history of Germany at night, with concluding fireworks to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Fourth Mvt., it would be the largest Opening Ceremony until 1980 when Moscow ushered in the artistic age of the ceremony.  In 1980, for the first time, a plot and artistic elements connected the entire ceremony event.  This trend continued through 1984 (Los Angeles) and 1988 (Seoul), before the first night ceremony was held in 1992 (Barcelona).  Drama, costumes, opera, and a spectacular lighting of the Olympic Cauldron by a paralympic archer vaulted the Olympic Ceremonies into an event that the world would come to love - an artistic mega-show featuring world-class art, showcasing the host country, with spectacular and unbelievable feats of artistic ingenuity.

The games of 1996 (Atlanta) were likely my favorite ceremonies, as they featured a 30 minute opera, and is responsible for my passion of the Olympic Movement, but below, I will lay out my 4 greatest ceremonies of all time.  Other games feature spectacular moments as well: 1994 (Lillehammer) the torch was ski jumped into the Olympic Stadium, 2010 (Vancouver) first domed Olympic Ceremony, 2002 (Salt Lake City) was an extremely patriotic ceremony as it was held just 5 months after September 11, 2001, but for video of every summer Olympic Ceremony and most winter ceremonies of note, please visit

These include viewers' guides so you can skip to different segments if you life:

At the time of the Sydney 2000 Opening Ceremony, it was acknowledged universally as the greatest Opening Ceremony ever. The pageantry and music were present on a most enormous scale. The Olympic Opening Ceremony had established itself as a critical art form with this impressive ceremony. A competitiveness arose in how to "beat" previous ceremonies in the spectacular nature of the event. Sydney astonished the world in a most ingenious cauldron lighting and in a theatrical display that left many to wonder if this ceremony could ever be "beat".
Sydney 2000

The Opening Ceremony in London was one of the most anticipated ceremonies in Olympic history. Following the immense spectacle of the Beijing Olympics, the London games had a smaller budget but made great innovations. Most notable, the ceremony was cinematically produced - the television broadcast of the event was the primary artistic goal.
London 2012

Athens was under great financial stress coming into the games, yet their minimalist opening ceremony was magnificent. Even though the ceremony could not compare to the size of Sydney, Athens incorporated many unique ideas and most importantly, planned the most effective music score combining the ethereal feel and modern minimalist grandeur of the event in every segment. This would highly influence Beijing's music adaptations in 2008.
Athens 2004

Beijing offered the Olympic Ceremony on the grandest scale. Of course, many enjoy debating the importance of the event itself, however as it is commented in the video, Beijing produced the ceremony to an intricate level of near perfection, involving incredibly difficult coordinated stunts, and did so without any financial inhibition. Beijing created an amazing display with deep homage to its artistic culture and certainly is popularly rewarded as "the greatest ceremony in history".
Beijing 2008

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