The Opening Ceremony at the Olympics is a spectacle of showing off the host country's long history condensed in three-plus hours of pomp and spectacle. They weren't always this way, but the 1984 Games in Los Angeles are credited with starting the over-the-top movement of the opening ceremonies. Look back on some of the best ones:
#6. Atlanta, 1996
These Summer Games had one of the most memorable, moving moments in Olympic history - Muhammad Ali lightning the cauldron. The rest of the show, with a theme called "Summon the Heroes," is memorable for other reasons. Like children dressed as Olympic rings, cheerleaders on top of pickup trucks, marching band performances and Celine Dion singing, since she's totally a Southern American. But there were other nicer moments like a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the flying of the 100 dove kites.
#5. London, 2012
The Summer Games happened and then a concert broke out. If you weren't sure of all the great musicians that have come from Britain, this "Inspire a Generation" theme at the Summer Games made sure you did by the end of it. It felt more like a royal get-together with the likes of Mr. Bean, Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth, especially when the ceremony paid homage to way the British have cemented themselves into pop culture playing music by The Who, the Rolling Stones and Queen, just name a few.
#4. Athens, 2004
"Welcome Home" was the theme of these Summer Games paying respects to the very first Olympic games. Leaning on inspiration of Greek mythology, the show had a mystical element about it as it bridged the past and present together. The dancing, choreography and music were all mesmerizing, and it came together in a cohesive, enjoyable performance. And who can forget Bjork, who wore a dress with a 100-foot train that displayed a world map?
#3. Sochi, 2014
The show must go on was the opening message at these Winter Games that carried the theme of "Dreams of Russia." One of the Olympic rings failed to launch and therefore couldn't be illuminated, and there was nowhere for the show to go but up. The visually stunning show displayed a past rich with science, music and literature, celebrating the positive aspects of its history, including opera singers, elegant Russian dancers and a performance of a scene from War and Peace.
#2. Bejing, 2008
In terms of sheer spectacle, it's hard to imagine how another ceremony could top this one at the Summer Games. In the theme of "One World, One Dream," the host country took this time when all eyes were on them to showcase their present while honoring the its ancient past through precision choreography, unbelievable acrobatics and lots and lots of fireworks. Though massive in scope, there was a sense of effortlessness to the artistry that you couldn't tear your eyes away from.
#1. Salt Lake City, 2002
It was a time of uncertainty, the wounds still fresh as these Winter Games were hosted by the U.S. a mere three months after 9/11. Under the theme of "Light the Fire Within" patriotism was at an all-time high. The ceremonies were emotional event that inspired a message of worldwide peace. The flag that was flown at Ground Zero was displayed by an NYPD officer singing "God Bless America."
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)