Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony - Rio de Janeiro (entire ceremony)

2012 London - Tokyo 2020

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio tells the history of Brazil's native peoples
Opening Ceremony Records

First Opening Ceremony in South America
First Presentation of an Olympic Laurel
First Two-piece Olympic Cauldron
First Kinetic Sculpture Cauldron



Rio exhibited the party culture of carnival with a serious message of becoming an eco-conscious planet.  The ceremony used nearly 5,000 performers and exhibited much of the same technology that had been used in previous ceremonies, but a tiny budget especially compared to Beijing and Sochi.  What Rio lacked in monetary support, it made up for in joyful spirit.  The following is the ceremony overview from the official event guide:
  • Welcome to Brazil
  • Countdown:  "The countdown is an Olympic celebration of gambiarra, the spirit of improvisation: the Brazilian way of making the most of almost nothing.  A sheet of paper becomes a musical instrument and triggers and enormous batucada"
  • Brazilian National Anthem: "An artist alone on stage presents the national anthem in all its poetry.  The anthem is yours, you can sing along.  Athletes who gave us joy and medals at the Olympic Games encounter athletes of the new generation. They carry the Brazilian flag, great companion of their victories.  The environmental police of Rio de Janeiro, guardian of the largest urban forest in the world, hoists the flag.
  • The Beginning of Life:  
    • "A storm announces the forces of nature and the beginning of life on Earth.  Microscopic beings appear and transform themselves.  Organic lines, intertwined, tell of the birth of the immense forest.  Each species is a triumph of life, a DNA that prevails in a process taking billions of years.
    • The Forest People: "Four million descendants of the first people who inhabited this forest were here when the Portuguese arrived, 500 years ago.  Today there are 800,000 Indigenous people.  As all around the globe, traditional cultures are the greatest protectors of millenary DNA.  In Brazil, it is no different:  Indigenous people protect 13% of our territory.
  • Geometrisation:  "Over time, in Brazil and across the world, the process of civilization redesigned nature.  Forests gave way to agriculture and pasturage, to mining, to the generation of power, to urbanization and industrialization, to what we are today.  We built our identities replacing nature's complex geometry with our own.
    • The Old World Leaves it Mark on Pindorama:  "In 1500, after a long journey across unknown waters, the Portuguese found 'the land where everything grows', the paradise to be conquered.  From there, they extracted many riches.  The first one was a tree, the 'pau brasil', that gave its name to the country.  Thirty years later Africans disembarked, having been taken from their land to work as slaves.  The great Brazilian riches that marked the colonial period, such as sugar cane, gold, silver, and diamonds were the product of black slave labor.  Slavery lasted 388 years in this country, and as a result African culture has had a deep effect on Brazilian culture.  From the 19th century, Brazil began to welcome large waves of migration from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.  We incorporated traces of their cultures without asking their permission.  The Brazilian identity is the mix of those cultural traces.
  • Bossa
    • A Brazilian Announces Modern Brazil: Santos Dumont:  "It is true that many have contributed to the invention of the aeroplane, but it was Santos Dumont who made the first flight on a plane with his 14 bis, in Paris, in front of journalists and a large audience.  According to the Aero-Club de France, he was the first man in the world to take off with a machine heavier than air.  Before him others flew launched by catapults or down slopes or without witnesses."  *these statements are factually incorrect as documented by many scholars of the Wright Brothers ability to take off many times prior to the 14 bis.  This was added as "our patriotic licence" by the committee.
    • Modern Brazil or When Brazil was Born to the World: "Disregarding the straight lines of urbanization, the curves of Bossa Nova cross the seas.  Through architecture, music, painting and literature, Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes,  Oscar Niemeyer, Burle Marx, and Jorge Amado, among others, created the image of a cool, sensual land with its beaches, music, colors, and curves.  The mythical Girl from Ipanema "goes walking" all over the planet."
  • Pop:  "What identifies us as Brazillians  comes from popular culture.  This is the force that takes over the stadium.  Through music and dance, Brazilian culture is reborn every day, absorbing and recreating the influences of the global pop scene with an exuberant creativity. We celebrate this vibration without hiding our differences in a country still striving for social balance.  We do not want a divided country or world, and for this reason we propose the harmony of a huge Brazilian soul party.  Stadium, Brazil, the whole world: let's dance together!"
  • After the Party:  "The party was good, but we've gone too far.  We are beginning to pay the bill.  After all, everything we buy contains a piece of the world we live in.  Science shows us maps that are like x-rays of our illness.  Oil and coal use is increasing the greenhouse effect.  The planet is warming up faster than expected.  The Arctic and glaciers are melting.  Droughts last longer and deserts are expanding.  Coastal cities are threatened by the sea level rise.  A message that the world knows but pretends not to know:  Re-thinking our way of life and adapting ourselves to climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity now."
  • A Simple Solutions/Parade of Nations
    • But Wait, There Is a Light At the End of the Tunnel:  "Trees capture the main gas that traps heat in the atmosphere - carbon - and reduce its concentration.  Replanting forests is the fastest, most efficient and cheapest way to revers global warming.  And on top of that, it brings back shade and fresh water, the song of birds, the multitude of life.   There are large reforestation projects taking place around the world.  It's a big movement.  We invite everyone to join in:  where there is room fro a tree, plant a seed.
    • One Athlete = One Tree:  "207 delegations, 207 species.  Upon entering the stadium, each athlete will receive the seed of a native Brazilian tree specie to plant in a tube filled with soil.  Over 10,000 seedlings will be planted in the "Athletes' Forest" at the X-Park in Deodoro: a legacy for the city of Rio de Janeiro."
  • Peace:  "The white dove has been a symbol of peace since Ancient Greece.  in the Olympic Ceremonies, the flight of doves marks the commitment to peace among peoples.  We went to the children of public schools in Rio de Janeiro to ask what peace meant to them."
  • Speeches, Laurel, Oaths
  • Olympic Flag and Anthem: "Carriers of the Olympic flag unite their ideals for the promotion of a better world.  Brazilians, leaders in sport and life, symbolize and inspire our commitment to the Olympic values.  The Olympic anthem is performed by the More Project NGO children choir.  The organization works among communities in Niteroi promoting cultural and sport activities for children.  The children were invited to sing the anthem after the ceremony's music composers saw a video fo the choir, that had gone viral on the internet, produced by the children themselves."
  • Apotheosis:  "We will give the athletes the party that they have traveled thousands of miles for!  A carnival powered by the percussionists of Rio's 12 main samba schools and the colors and shapes of carioca contemporary artist Beatriz Milhazes."
  • Cauldron Lighting

Rio Opening Ceremony - Girl from Ipanema
Favela Funk 
Olympic Cauldron is Lit
Rio Olympic Medals 
Rio Olympic Torch

Thursday, August 4, 2016

1 Day to Go: Rio Welcomes the World

The Olympic Torch is in town  - Rio's about to welcome the world tomorrow night!  Put yourself in the shoes of every Brazilian here.  Tomorrow will hopefully be a time for them to celebrate their history, culture, and their importance in this world of ours.  Imagine the feeling every Brazilian will have when their team enters the stadium or when their national anthem is performed for the world.  It should be an amazing event.

courtesy of AP
Although I can't show any snippets of this year's ceremony before it happens, I want you to know some of the things that are going on behind the scenes.  First, there are thousands of performers, directors, managers, and technicians from around the world, working feverishly in multiple languages.  Thankfully, there is a staff of translators that relay directions through individual headsets - just like the United Nations!

 But in all seriousness, these also allow for the soundtrack to be pumped through so everyone stays on target, and it allows for everyone to move at the right time, receive commands, or translate all of these items.  It is a very necessary tool, and one that has been used for these large ceremonies for years.  Here is someone's very sneaky hidden camera from 2012 in London - listen for the dots (beats to the music), the commands, and finally the music cues in their headset once they are on the field of play.

Perhaps when they do one of the many close-ups, you can look at the ground and see a series of letters and numbers.  The entire "stage" is called "field of play" here, frankly because it is an enormous stadium - much larger than a stage, but it is made into a perfect grid.  This allows for choreographers, actors, and lighting designers to be perfect all the time - always locating the same exact spots.  This is one of the practice facilities with the exact same layout - you can see the grid markings on the floor.

Above the field are a series of wires, pulleys, motors, and trains to pull large objects through the air, including cameras.  It will be a long time before anyone can match the size of the Sochi production, but since Sydney 2000, every Olympic ceremony has used the air space over the field as a canvas to move large objects in spectacular fashion.  The following videos I have included show the original concept art followed by the actual moment in the production.

Because of the complexity of the production, some musical events are prerecorded and some are performed live.  The protocol events (I'm proud to say) are live and have often been performed by classical or folk artists, acoustic instruments, and arranged in the western art music tradition.  Much of the other music performed has been prerecorded so the choreographers, designers, and broadcasters can make precise plans for their various tasks.

A new innovation (and one of my favorites) has been the use of projections to put the viewer into a sort of virtual space.  Sochi made for a great little segment with the soldiers of Peter the Great.  Although it looks like they're walking the entire time, they are actually walking to the very middle of the stadium and marching in place, spinning every once in a while.  Although when the projection system lays a moving map, it appears as if they're moving.

These are just some of the things that are happening behind the scenes.  I hope you enjoy the show tomorrow!  Until then, here is a final little teaser...the Olympics are in Brazil!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2 Days to Go: Behind the Curtain

Two days to go and behind the scenes here at the opening ceremony, there are some exciting and innovative ways that the show accomplishes so much!  You better read this one, there are some things here that Russia would HATE for me to "spill the beans" about.  Perhaps people are amazed at how something like this comes together, but it's no secret - it takes a LOT of people working many hours, but sometimes we get so close only to change something at the very last minute, at the very last rehearsal.

In 2014 in Sochi, we performed the last dress rehearsal for broadcast supplemental video.  For instance, if something went wrong during the actual ceremony, then a correct version could be put into the broadcast - you know where I'm going with this.  Although the whole world saw the asterisk, click the video below the picture to see what Russia saw!

Another interesting change from the 2014 Sochi rehearsals and the final result was the cauldron lighting. Sochi had a domed arena and an outdoor cauldron.  One way to fix this would be to light an indoor cauldron that would ignite a series of flames through the top of the stadium and run all the way out to the outdoor cauldron.  The following is a concept video of the Sochi cauldron.

I remember this being poorly covered up in the stadium; there were frequent attempts to fix the movement.  It never worked well, so it kind of flew in and out unnoticed in the ceremony.  It was to appear like this, then flatten out before an inner ball being lit.  The inner ball was removed before the ceremony.
Here it is flattened.  Once lit, a series of fireworks/fire cannons would string the "flame" to the roof where for weeks there were fire cannons being tested, before they "pulled the plug" and just decided to have two runners light the very last of the fire cannons near the cauldron.
Final cauldron test with fire cannons
Here was what actually happened after the concept was scrapped.

So, sometimes a LOT of change happens between the final dress rehearsal and the actual show.  Tomorrow I'll have several more "behind the scenes" elements to talk about - you won't want to miss it.  As always, if you want to see every summer Olympic opening ceremony, go to

Today's teaser - remember yesterday's (if not, you have to click "Behind the Scenes: Rio 2016" on the green bar above).  This was some construction work only few weeks ago!  Wonder what it looks like now?  There are more secrets behind the curtain...

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

3 Days to Go: Feijoada and Favelas

There are only three days left until the Opening Ceremony!  If everything goes as planned (and I hope they do this time) it will be one BIG party.  No doubt, there should be plenty of jaw-dropping moments to enjoy from your TV at home.   There are some exciting new innovations and from what I have experienced of Rio, the ceremony describes Rio's artistic contributions to wold culture in a stunning way.  Also, in case you missed any posts or are curious, by clicking the button above that says "Behind the Scenes: Rio 2016," you can find all my earlier posts.

With that said, since I've been on my feet all the time, I've been walking many miles every day, sometimes eating small meals at strange intervals.  So today I made sure to have a decent, sit-down meal downtown by the Old Cathedral.

Old Rio Cathedral - they still perform mass here in chant!
Not the largest church, but certainly beautiful!
No, I couldn't make a "happy plate"
To give you an idea of what is going on here - this is called Feijoada, and I've had it before in Miami with my Brazilian/American friend and former college dorm roommate, Michael.  He also introduced me to Guarana, which is a soda - more popular than Coke down here.  My feijoada meal pictured here is stewed black beans and various pork parts (quite salty), rice, water, a shot of tequila and lemon (for some reason - I didn't ask for that, but I wasn't going to complain!), cooked cabbage with bacon, mandarin oranges, fried pork chunks, and masala.  The people around me laughed at the sight - as did I - but how should I know that it would be so much food?  It cost me $13.50 USD!

For Americans, you would certainly enjoy Rio (especially in Winter) - they have had significant negative press lately, but hopefully once the games begin, and the media lands in Rio, you will hear again and again the same things that I write about and that many of the tourists here comment.  It is a friendly place, you get a bang for your buck (as you can tell), and especially in Winter - it is cool, beautiful, and you will have a hard time finding any bugs, or anyone who has had a bug sighting.   I feel safe, there are many police out and about, and yeah, it smells terrible sometimes, but so does New York City, and I love that place too.

Tomorrow is the last of the dress rehearsals.  There are still a few areas that need work, or need to be tested.  Sometimes a segment is dropped from the program because the visual effect or preparation just isn't up to snuff.  That may be the case here, but there is still time to tinker so we'll see.

Today's "teaser" needs a bit more explanation than the past ones.  For months, I've been preparing for Rio, but back in May, long before I arrived on site, a special construction project began in Maracana specifically for the Opening Ceremony.  The grass was removed, a wooden stage was erected covering the stadium floor, and thousands of seats were removed!

This was just the beginning of the process, and I'll give you two more great teasers before the ceremony, but the concept behind this was to create a ceremony that best described Rio's history.  You will see this unfold in great spectacle, but in describing Rio, the history of all the music that originated here (samba, bossa nova, funk carioca, choro) and in describing the ethnic diversity - all of those stories begin in the favelas, the slums of Rio.  Even the great Brazilian film, City of God, which is also Rio's nickname, is about life in the favelas.  Not surprisingly, the director of that film is the chief artistic director of the ceremony.

Rio Favela
As they plaster the sides of the many mountains, which tower over the beaches and wealthy, seaside neighborhoods, the favelas are a curiosity to most but a vital part of the cultural history of this city.  So, thousands of seats were removed and slowly, a large "favela" was built within the stadium, serving not just as a backdrop, but a feature from which the story of Rio will be told in the ceremony.  Is your imagination racing yet?

Under construction!

Behind the Scenes: Rio 2016

Read through my trip to Brazil and the 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Rio!

Olympic Dreams in South America
Behind the Scenes: Brazilian Music
Bossa Nova, Wine, and Swag
The World's Pilgrimage
The Simple Pyramid 
Blue Earth
Native Empire, Diverse Creativity
City of God and Favela Kings
Cauldron Lighting 101
Shock and Awe
Symbols of Peace
Brazil is Loud
3 Days to Go: Feijoada and Favelas
2 Days to Go: Behind the Curtain
1 Day to Go: Rio Welcomes the World
2016 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony - Rio de Janeiro (entire ceremony)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Brazil is Loud!

Most days I see this beautiful city through cars like these.  They safely pick up and drop off staff, but as I am still new to the Brazilian culture, I love looking, thinking about what life must be like.

The puzzle-pieced sidewalks of stone, sand, and grime are crowded with people going about their day.  Many aimlessly passing the time, reading the newspaper on a bench or staring at what the genetic diversity of this place has given its beaches - beautiful people that is.  Vendors call; tourists fill corner stands for barbecue and Guarana; a homeless man grabs his pet dog's grungy front paws to dance to the music of a street-busking accordion, tambourine, and drum trio. 

But for those memories, I learned more about being Brazilian yesterday than I have through any of my stay so far.  The people, these joyous people, love to celebrate so raucously that their singing overcame the stadiums amplification many times.  Our first full dress rehearsal went exceedingly well.  

Fireworks are hard to take pictures of...
There are some items that won't be practiced for an audience, including the cauldron lighting, but the visual and technical effects worked or rather fooled the mind.  The story line is comprehensible and (thank goodness) the anthems sound fantastic.  A few things need some work in the parade - particularly some pronunciation problems - but cross your fingers and toes that all the athletes can be corraled effectively.  That's rather difficult to practice.

Brazil loves to party, and the audience LOUDLY sang and danced as passionately as they could throughout.  No, you won't see the formal propriety of Athens 2004 (by far one of my favorites), and it won't be as orderly as Beijing 2008, but it will certainly be Brazilian, and most importantly FOR Brazil.  It is part hilarious, vivacious, intimate, serious, colorful, and unbelievable - but when you watch, pay attention to the crowd if the coverage allows you to.  Their joy will infectiously bring a smile to your face.

It will also be an education for the viewing audience not only in the history of Brazil, but also for its music.  I've mentioned some of the major styles in previous posts, but honestly, I think the ceremony will be a great teaching tool for all these Brazilian music genres.  I realized yesterday that I didn't mention a style called Funk Carioca or Favela Funk when I was covering the other music genres.  It may seem pretty harsh at first (especially to stuffy academes like myself) but keep an open mind and the visual elements will help you to understand it.  Actually,what you will hear is mostly favela funk and samba fusion.  More on that to come, but just like many popular music genres, it often reflects culture and allows for people/groups to uniquely and passionately express themselves.  And this music, just like the other major dance genres in Brazil, originates in the favelas.

Teaser...well, I've run out of rather ambiguous teasers it seems...maybe tomorrow you'll get a really good one!

List of Olympic Ceremony Records - Olympic Ceremony Database


The following is a list of known records as it regards the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.  The learn more about every Olympic Ceremony, please visit

(*) designates records that regard either unofficial Olympic Games (1906) or unofficial ceremonies (1900,1904)


  • First Opening Ceremony - Athens 1896
  • First Opening Ceremony Spanning More than One Day - Athens 1896
  • First Incorporation of a Religious Service with the Olympic Opening Ceremony - Athens 1896
  • First Olympics Without an Opening Ceremony - Paris 1900
  • First Christian Prayer Read - Stockholm 1912
  • THE FIRST OLYMPIC FLAME - The two towers of the stadium were fit with oil-burning beacons used previous to the 1912 games and later during the 1956 Equestrian Games. This was the first Olympic Flame in history as the extended official report (not included) details the specifics of the beacons, that they would burn during the "greatest festivals" held at the stadium, the IOC President first mentions the "Olympic Flame" in his speech at the Closing Ceremony, and the 1956 Equestrian Games Official Report confirms that these were indeed lit during the 1912 Olympics - according to the International Olympic Committee, the first Olympic Flame was lit in 1928 in Amsterdam, and the first Olympic Torch Relay was in 1936 in Berlin. - Stockholm 1912
  • First Opening Ceremony to be Canceled (World War I) - Berlin 1916
  • First Athletes' Oath - Antwerp 1920
  • First Release of Doves - Antwerp 1920
  • First Olympic Flag - Antwerp 1920
  • First Olympic Torch Relay - Berlin 1936
  • First Athlete's Oath Taken on Horseback - Stockholm 1956
  • First Presentation of the "Antwerp" Olympic Flag (the Olympic flag from the Antwerp Olympics of 1920 - actually from the 1924 Paris Olympics because the 1920 flag was stolen when an American diver climbed the pole and stole the flag only to return it in 2000 at the age of 103 - is presented to the Mayor of the host city who will keep the flag in the Town Hall until the following Olympics) - Rome 1960
  • First Woman to Take the Athlete's Oath - Munich 1972



  • First Use of the Olympic Anthem - Athens 1896
  • First Use of an Orchestra - Athens 1896
  • First Use of a Choir - Athens 1896
  • First Playing of the National Anthem at an Official Opening Ceremony (The Star-Spangled Banner was performed in 1904 but it was neither the official National Anthem of the U.S. nor was it an official Opening Ceremony) - London 1908
  • First Use of a Christian Hymn (Our God, He is a Castle Strong to the hymn tune EIN FESTE BURG) - Stockholm 1912
  • First Marching Band - Melbourne 1956
  • First Opening Ceremony Theme Song - Tokyo 1964
  • First Use of Electronic Music - Tokyo 1964
  • First Use of a Gospel Choir - Los Angeles 1984
  • First Use of Pianos (most pianos used - 85) - Los Angeles 1984
  • First Opera Written and Performed for the Opening Ceremony - Atlanta 1996
  • First Summer Olympic Ceremony to Not Sing the Current Olympic Hymn (instrumental version performed: this version of the Olympic Hymn was performed in 1896, 1960-present) - London 2012


  • First Mass Demonstration Performed at an Opening Ceremony (mass Gymnastics display) - Stockholm 1912
  • First Dancing Display in the Opening Ceremony - Stockholm 1912
  • First Mass Artistic Demonstration Performed at an Olympic Games (The Great Choral Festival) - Stockholm 1912
  • First Airplane Flyover - Antwerp 1920
  • First Use of a Canon (canons were also used in the Closing Ceremony of 1920 Antwerp) - Paris 1924
  • First Use of Loudspeaker - Paris 1924
  • First Large Open-air Play Performed at the Olympic Games - Amsterdam 1928
  • First Use of a Mechanical Scoreboard - Los Angeles 1932
  • First Olympic Bell - Berlin 1936
  • First Use of an Audio Recording (voice of Baron Pierre de Coubertain - deceased founder of the modern Olympics) - Berlin 1936
  • First Official Olympic Film/Broadcast - Berlin 1936
  • First Mass Artistic Display in an Opening Ceremony - Berlin 1936
  • First Use of an Electric Scoreboard - Helsinki 1952
  • First Mass Dance Display at an Opening Ceremony (the mass play of the 1936 Olympics occurred immediately following the opening ceremony, however this was part of the official program, breaking IOC ceremonial protocol) - Stockholm 1956
  • First Use of Balloons - Tokyo 1964
  • First Use of Fireworks - Tokyo 1964
  • First Release of Perfume - Tokyo 1964
  • First Use of Sky-writing by Airplane - Tokyo 1964
  • First Videoboard - Montreal 1976
  • First Live Broadcast from Space During the Opening Ceremony - Moscow 1980
  • First Large-scale human picture-board (thousands of people carrying flip cards forming pictures throughout the ceremony) - Moscow 1980
  • First Use of Large Props in an Opening Ceremony - Moscow 1980
  • Largest Cast (16,000) - Moscow 1980
  • First Use of a Jet Pack During the Opening Ceremony - Los Angeles 1984
  • First Ceremony to Present the Artistic Portion Before the Ceremonial Portion (current design) - Los Angeles 1984
  • First Ceremony to Use Audience as Artistic Participants (card stunt) - Los Angeles 1984
  • First Parade of Ships - Seoul 1988
  • First Parachute Stunt - Seoul 1988
  • First to Use a Floor Covering - Barcelona 1992
  • First to Cover Stadium Floor and Peopel (athletes) with Olympic Flag - Barcelona 1992
  • First Mass Use of Puppetry - Barcelona 1992
  • First Artistic Use of Cars - Atlanta 1996
  • First Use of Silhouette Imagery - Atlanta 1996
  • First Use of Puppets in Dove Release - Atlanta 1996
  • First Tribute to an Individual Not Associated with the Olympics (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) - Atlanta 1996
  • First Use of Suspended Puppetry - Sydney 2000
  • First Use of Suspended Performers - Sydney 2000
  • First Use of Fire-breathers - Sydney 2000
  • First Opening Ceremony to Fill Stadium Floor with Water - Athens 2004
  • First Holograph - Athens 2004
  • First Olympic Ceremonies to Use LED Projection Floor - Beijing 2008
  • First Stadium Specifically Designed to Host a Ceremony Performance - Beijing 2008
  • First to Use LED Screen Effects in Stadium Seating - London 2012
  • First Emphasizing Live Film Production - London 2012
  • First to Use Livestock - London 2012
  • First to Cover the Stadium Floor in an Interchangeable Stage - London 2012


  • First Parade of Athletes (not separated by country) - Athens 1896
  • *First Parade of Nations in Alphabetical Order - Athens 1906 Intercalated Games
  • First Parade of Nations in Alphabetical Order - London 1908
  • First Parade of Nations to Use a Standard Displaying the Country Name - London 1908
  • First Parade of Nations Led by Greece and Concluded by the Host Nation - Amsterdam 1928
  • First Opening Ceremony Requiring Athletes to Not Give Olympic Salute (This was a salute with the hand held up and outstretched with palm down - identical to the Nazi salute - you will notice many old films on this site show the Olympic salute. Because of the similarity, the salute was banned.) - London 1948
  • First Opening Ceremony to Feature the Parade of Nations on Horseback - Stockholm 1956
  • First Flag-bearer to Hold their National Flag with Prostrated Arm (without carrier) - USSR - Mexico City 1968
  • First Parade of Nations Not Enforcing a Strict Marching Step Order (athletes could now walk casually out of step) - Montreal 1976
  • First Entrance of the Athletes from a Ramp Above the Stadium - Atlanta 1996

Largest Stadium to Host the Opening Ceremony Record Timeline
(45,000) - Athens 1896
(68,000) - London 1908
(105,000) - Los Angeles 1932
(110,000) - Sydney 2000

Largest Crowd to Attend the Opening Ceremony Record Timeline
(80,000) - Athens 1896
(105,000) - Los Angeles 1932
(110,000) - Sydney 2000

Smallest Stadium to Host the Opening Ceremony Record Timeline
(45,000) - Athens 1896
*(4,000) - St. Louis 1904
(33,000) - Stockholm 1912
(12,711) - Antwerp 1920

Smallest Crowd to Attend the Opening Ceremony Record Timeline
(80,000) - Athens 1896
*(4,000) - St. Louis 1904
(40,000) - London 1908
(33,000) - Stockholm 1912
(20,000) - Antwerp 1920


  • First Olympic Torch Relay - Berlin 1936
  • First double-relay (the Olympic Flame was lit by the rays of the sun in Olympia, Greece, while the organizers planned another relay beginning in the Arctic Circle with a flame lit by the rays of the Midnight Sun) - Helsinki 1952
  • First to Use Two Different Torch Designs (the final torch was unique to the other torches) - Melbourne 1956
  • First Olympic Torch Relay to be Run on the Track at the Ancient Stadium in Olympia, Greece - Tokyo 1964
  • First torch relayed by swimming (amazing photos in the official report of the swimmer swimming with one arm holding the flame high out of the water) - Mexico City 1968
  • Most Torch Designs - 7 (previous Melbourne 1956 - 2) - Mexico City 1968
  • First Electronically Transmitted Olympic Flame (as described in the official report: "She then presents the Olympic Flame to the sensor, which detects the ionized particles, converting them into coded impulses that are transmitted by satellite to Ottawa, where they activate a laser beam which instantly recreates the Olympic Flame in its original shape." - while the statement that it could recreate the flame in its original shape is laughably false, this statement is hyperbole - simply, the flame touched a sensor in Athens causing a computer in Ottawa to shoot a laser) - Montreal 1976
  • First Protested Olympic Torch Relay (people could purchase a spot in the relay for $3,000; this move was objected by the Greek Olympic Committee; the torch lighting and relay in Europe was performed privately, secretly transported to Athens by helicopter, and then by Air-Force One to New York under heavy security to ensure the Olympic tradition continued. The previous plan was to have the flame kindled at the Olympic headquarteres in Switzerland and "electronically" transmitted, a bogus relay method, to a computer in New York - similar to the relay of Montreal 1976 - the purchase program raised $10 million for American youth and handicap organizations) - Los Angeles 1984
  • First Flame Brought into the Stadium from Underground - Atlanta 1996


Longest Olympic Torch Relay Record Timeline
3,075km - Berlin 1936
3,160km - London 1948
4,735km - Helsinki 1952
17,412km - Melbourne 1956
27,065km - Tokyo 1964
34,011km - Atlanta 1996
38,646km - Sydney 2000
132,129km - Athens 2004
137,000km - Beijing 2008

Shortest Olympic Torch Relay Record Timeline
3,075km - Berlin 1936
1,863km - Rome 1960
775km - Montreal 1976

Most Nations Traveled Record Timeline
27 - Athens 2004

Most Torchbearers Record Timeline 
3,308 - Berlin 1936
3,374 - Helsinki 1952
5,244 - Tokyo 1964
6,200 - Moscow 1980
9,484 - Barcelona 1992
13,267 - Atlanta 1996
21,880 - Beijing 2008


  • First Olympic Cauldron - Stockholm 1912
  • First Lighting of Two Olympic Cauldrons - Helsinki 1952
  • First Ceremony to Light Three Olympic Cauldrons at the Olympic Stadium - Stockholm 1956
  • First Olympic Cauldron Not Ignited by Hand-delivered Torch - Barcelona 1992
  • First Mechanically Moving Olympic Cauldron - Sydney 2000
  • First Cauldron Completely Hidden Until Lighting - Sydney 2000
  • First Olympic Cauldron Assembled During the Ceremony - London 2012


  • First Cauldron Lighting by an Individual - Berlin 1936
  • First Olympic Cauldron Lit on Horseback - Stockholm 1956
  • First Woman to Light the Olympic Cauldron - Mexico City 1968
  • First Olympic Cauldron Lit by Two People - Montreal 1976
  • First Person of African Descent to Light the Olympic Flame - Los Angeles 1984
  • First Cauldron Lit Using Hydraulic Lift - Seoul 1988
  • First Cauldron Lit by Three Torchbearers - Seoul 1988
  • First Olympic Cauldron Ignited by Archer* (remote control ignition of cauldron) - Barcelona 1992
  • First Olympic Cauldron Lit by Wire and Pulley - Atlanta 1996
  • First Olympic Cauldron Lit into Water - Sydney 2000
  • First Cauldron Lit by Suspended Torchbearer - Beijing 2008
  • First Cauldron Lit by Seven Torchbearers - London 2012