The Opening Ceremony at the Summer Olympics wasn't always the spectacle that it is today. In fact, there was very little fanfare involved in the 1896 Games of the I Olympiad in Athens. As time went on, the Opening Ceremony became the stage for not only the world's greatest athletes, but also the host country's innovation and, in some cases, political statements.
Here is a rundown of how the Opening Ceremony has evolved:
First Opening Ceremony: Athens, 1896. Spiros Samaras and Kostis Palamas created the Olympic Anthem for the games, which has been the official anthem since the 1960 Olympics. The games were officially opened by King George I.
First parade of the delegations: London, 1908. It was the first time that the athletes paraded behind their country's flag in sport attire. But, it wasn't until the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam that the order of the Parade of Nations (Greece first, host country last) would become protocol.
Unity after World War I: Antwerp, 1920. The Opening Ceremony in Belgium saw many firsts: the use of the Olympic flag (five interlocking rings, the colors of which represented at least one color from every flag participating in the games; also represented the unity of five continents), the introduction of the Athlete's oath (which was made by a competitor from the host country on behalf of all the athletes), and the release of doves as a symbol of peace.
Use of fire: Amsterdam, 1928. A cauldron at the top of a tower in the stadium was lit with symbolic fire, the first time fire was used in the Olympic Games.
Political pageantry: Berlin, 1936. The Olympic organizers, namely Dr. Carl Diem, came up with the idea of a torch relay that would begin in Olympia, Greece, and end in Berlin. It was a move to showcase the power of Nazi Germany. And, the production of it all, from the design of the torches to the media coverage, proved that point. Despite the political implications of that particular torch relay, it was the start of a tradition that continues in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics to this day.
Paying homage to the fallen: Tokyo, 1964. The final leg of the torch relay was run by a young man who was born in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 -- the day the atomic bomb was dropped on his city by the United States. It was Japan's way of honoring the victims of the attack that left tens of thousands of people dead.
The end of 20 years of boycotts: Barcelona, 1992. From 1972 to 1992, the Olympic Games experienced one boycott or another. Finally, it all ended with the Barcelona Olympics, and the country celebrated in a big way. The Opening Ceremony was replete with colorful puppetry and a paralympic archer that sent a flaming arrow over the crowd to light the Olympic cauldron.
Memorable moment: Athens, 2004. Singer Bjork performed "Oceania" at the Opening Ceremony, a song that she wrote for the Olympics. During her performance, her dress unfurled across the sea of athletes, becoming a 10,000 square foot map of the world.
Most spectacular ceremony: Beijing, 2008. Few would disagree that the Chinese outdid themselves with the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. With almost 14,000 participants, the host country put on an awe-inspiring show of meticulous precision, skill, and theatrics.
Jean Kelly has been a fan of the Summer Olympics since the '80s.
"A Brief History of the Opening Ceremonies", Time.com
Christopher Klein, "The Olympic Torch Relay's Surprising Origins", History.com