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How the Olympic Opening Ceremonies Work


The Evolution of the Opening Ceremony
One of many elaborate, expensive projects that have some British people up in arms, given the price tag of the 2012 summer games
One of many elaborate, expensive projects that have some British people up in arms, given the price tag of the 2012 summer games
Photo courtesy © IOC/Getty Images/Peter Macdiarmid

The opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games have evolved greatly over the years. It wasn't until 1908, for example, that it became a tradition for the Greek delegation to lead the parade of nations and the host country's delegation to enter as the finale. Now that's how it's always done.

The Olympic flag and oath weren't unfurled until the 1920 games, and the cauldron lighting didn't start being a custom until the 1928 games. And even then, there wasn't a torch relay until the 1936 games [source: Time].

Another major aspect that's changed is how much money a nation needs to shell out in order to stage the opening ceremonies. Well, technically they don't have to spend extravagantly, but with billions of eyes glued to TV screens around the world and their reputations supposedly on the line, Olympic organizers tend to pull out all the stops. London's 2012 opening ceremony alone reportedly cost more than 80 million pounds (more than $124 million) [source: Williams]. Quite a change from when the city hosted the post-World War II games in 1948, which were nicknamed the Austerity Games.

Nowadays, the opening ceremonies have several components that are pretty much fixed. We'll go through the rundown on the next page.