It is undeniable that the Olympics have a magical ability to draw in viewers who show little to no interest in sports every other day of their lives. Maybe it’s the national pride, the underdog stories or the promise of a true spectacular every time they light the Olympic cauldron. Opening ceremony presentations have become increasingly more theatrical as technology has developed, giving each year the potential for an even more magnificent spectacle.
Here are nine of the best theatrical moments from past Olympic opening ceremonies:
2008 Beijing: Drummers
Beijing had one of the biggest, most creative opening ceremonies to date, and one of the most talked-about segments was the drum players. Over 2,000 drummers opened with a light show before proceeding into a perfectly synchronized routine that ended with glow-in-the-dark drumsticks.
2010 Vancouver Paralympics: One Crew
Born with a muscle disorder that affects his legs, Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli developed a no-limits attitude growing up and adapted breakdancing to create a unique style. The Montreal-born dancer lit up the stage with his crew in an energetic and inspiring dance performance.
2012 London: Pandemonium
Merging an impressive rhythm section, a gigantic troupe of actors and intricate set pieces, this performance from the London opening ceremony was the history lesson of our dreams. Led by stage legend Kenneth Branagh, the depiction of the industrial revolution, including the suffragette movement, unfolded before the audience’s eyes.
2016 Rio Paralympics: Amy Purdy Dance
Decorated Olympic snowboarder and double amputee Amy Purdy won hearts again when she appeared with Derek Hough on the 18th season of “Dancing With the Stars.” Showing off her dance moves once more, Purdy performed a spirited dance routine with a robotic arm at the opening ceremony of the Paralympics in Rio.
2008 Beijing: Calligraphy Dance
In another incredible showing of creativity and ingenuity, Chinese dancers recreated a calligraphy painting through dance. Sweeping movements of the dancers’ bodies created brush strokes on the giant canvas.
2000 Sydney: Deep-Sea Dreaming
The world has long been fascinated with Australia’s gorgeous beaches and aquatic scene. Young performer Nikki Webster gave audiences the feeling of diving in the Great Barrier Reef as she “swam” through the air. Underwater creatures created from an incredible mix of costuming, puppetry and special effects made for a spectacular theatrical showing.
2014 Sochi: Swan Lake Light Show
The music of “Swan Lake” is beautiful in its own right. But the Sochi Olympics put on a genuinely innovative piece by combining beautiful synchronized dancers and lighting to create graceful swans.
2010 Vancouver: Peaks of Endeavour
It wasn’t enough that the mountainous Canadian landscape rose out of the stadium floor, narrated by celebrated actor Donald Sutherland. Then came skiers and snowboarders suspended over the mountain, recreating the snowy winter sports and aerial interpretations.
1984 Los Angeles: John Williams Olympic Fanfare and Theme
An oldie but a goodie, composer John Williams conducted his now-infamous Olympic fanfare and theme for the first time at the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles while accompanied by an impressive color guard.
Be it sports or the arts, the Olympic opening ceremonies serve as an inspiration for all and a reminder that creative beauty comes in many forms, extending beyond the stage into new realms of possibility.