How the Olympic Opening Ceremonies Work

The Evolution of the Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremonies Sochi Winter Games Opening Ceremonies Sochi Winter Games
Former Olympic rings champion Dimosthenis Tambakos carries the Olympic Flame in front of the ancient temple of Parthenon atop the Acropolis hill in Athens during the torch relay on Oct. 30, 2017 for the 2018 Winter Olympics. IOC/Milos Bicanski

The opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games have evolved greatly over the years. It wasn't until the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London, 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 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, and the cauldron lighting didn't become customary until the 1928 Summer Olympic Games in Amsterdam. And even then, there wasn't a torch relay until the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin [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 Summer Olympic Games 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.