February 16, 2015

Our Favourite Opening Ceremonies at Major Events

The Event Production Show at London Olympia kicks off on Wednesday 18th February. Day One is crammed full of exciting panels that’ll lead to eye-opening discussions. One talk we’re looking forward to is ‘How important are Opening and Closing Ceremonies to the cultural heritage and legacy of large Sporting Events?’ chaired by Piers Shepperd, Wonderworks.

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The topic brought about heavy discussions in the office as to which opening ceremonies/sequences were the most unforgettable based on culture and heritage. As a result, we’ve put together 5 of our most memorable opening ceremonies/sequences and what made them special. Some are expected, some are unusual, but all are uniquely creative, visually amazing and all showcase each locations unique history and culture.

2008 Beijing Olympics

17,000 helpers, a truckload (or 300) of fireworks and Yao Ming holding the chinese flag made this visual feast unforgettable. The opening ceremony told the story of China’s history in a combination of sequences that would make any Hollywood director feel jealous. It remains embedded in our minds due to the effort, gorgeous venues along with the educational theme. Two thumbs up from us.

World Cup 2002 – Japan/South Korea
The world was watching as the biggest sporting event on the planet visited the far east for the first time. Expectations were high, and nobody was disappointed. The combination of bright colours and beautiful tradition left an undeniable mark for the first major sporting event to be held on the Asian continent.

1992 Barcelona Olympics
Artistic, colourful and innovative are all words that accurately describe the opening ceremony for 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. However, the Bow & Arrow sequence at the end is etched into the minds of everyone who saw it. Spain’s own Juan Antonio San Epifanio ran with the torch through his fellow athletes and the torch was passed to Antonio Rebollo, who lit an arrow and let it fly perfectly into the Olympic cauldron to light it. It was simply magnificent.

London 2012 Olympics
Last, but certainly not least, we have London 2012. Beijing set an almost untouchable benchmark of visual excellence, however the british created an amazing, uniquely British timeline of what makes us great. Also, the shot of Daniel Craig and The Queen exiting the helicopter put a smile on even the grimmest of faces.
Directed by Danny Boyle, and performances from Dizzie Rascal and Tinie Tempah helped make the opening ceremony authentically british.

Wrestlemania Opening
Wrestlemania? Really? Yes, really. While the event can be equated to marmite, what we cannot deny is the emotion and storytelling of the opening sequence of videos leading to a pyro-show that would rival that of New Years in some countries. Local culture has played its part in many opening sequences, with last year’s theme being Mardi Gras as Wrestlemania was emanating from New Orleans.

Greece 2004 Olympics
The Olympics finally returned home in the summer of 2004. Greek president Konstandinos Stefanopoulos opened the event in front of a capacity crowd of 72,000. Having been the birthplace of the original games in 776 BC, the theme for 2004 was to go back to the Olympics roots. The opener did a great job in representing the spirit of greek life as well as its contributions to the world. Over 9,000 helped bring the extravagant and ambitious story to life, and it’s one we won’t forget.

Honourable mentions:

1994 FIFA World Cup – USA
Diana Ross gave the world a gift that keeps on giving. Ever seen a crossbar break in half at the force of a Diana Ross front kick? For this reason we gave this world cup an honorary mention.

World Cup 1998 – France
With gigantism being the theme for the opener, It was meant to signify four giant inflatable footballers competing in a tournament with one giant footballer being victorious. It ended up looking like the Boxing Day sales at Westfield with Godzilla ending up victorious (would you expect anything else…)

I’m sure you can sense the obvious trend. Unique brilliance is what captivates our minds, in the process delivers an ever lasting memory for ticket buyers. As costly as they can potentially be, the lasting perception on the brand / event would be priceless.

Understandably, not all events will be able to pull of the feats set by the aforementioned sporting events, however looking / thinking outside the box will ultimately pay dividends. Culture and heritage provides an added USP to any event. Understanding and integrating a city or countries culture is another great way to make sure your events memory stands the test of time.

Rajesh Jilka