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Comparing Olympic Opening Ceremonies and their impact in aesthetic legacy of humanity


Comparing Olympic Opening Ceremonies and their impact in aesthetic legacy of humanity


The symbolic centre of the Olympic village is the Olympic stadium. Yet, although it serves as space for staging the artistic segment of the opening ceremony, among other IOC protocol parts, nowadays, the Olympic stadium architecture destines more space to accommodate spectators than the largest theaters in history, and as stage, the arena floor is used as theatrical venue for artistic and cultural representations. This represents an enormous challenge for the organisers and the creative team of the opening and closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. In fact, the techniques for staging a great spectacle in Olympic stadiums have changed dramatically over the past thirty years; technological and engineering resources were used to achieve aesthetical dimension of great impact to both the live spectacle and the recorded to be transmitted by the most influential media networks. However the creation of such large proportions spectacle requires innovative studies that go beyond traditional techniques. In most cases, due to the size of the arena, the participation of thousands of volunteers, dancers, actors and other artists is needed. Yet, this massive participation and crowd’s synchronism has attracted criticism that considers such forms of representation as the result of totalitarian or state aesthetics. However, to analyse spectacles of this kind requires a multidisciplinary approach and an extreme ethic care that goes beyond aesthetical concerns. As MacAloon (2006) points out:

I insisted that spectacle had to be treated carefully as a performative genre in its own right, engaged in complex dialectical and functional dynamics with the other master genres, and not just as a loose, imperial trope for everything dubious about the contemporary world (MacAloon, 2006, 15).

Therefore, instead of focusing on probable ideological messages present in most artistic representations of recent Olympic opening ceremonies, without ignoring the relevance of topics such as idology, state aesthetics, political propaganda or cultural pollution, crowds and hegemony, soft power and power of mass delivery systems, among others, in this article, I would like mainly to focus on issues concerning the creative efforts that refer to the set of elements composing the fictional scenarios staging the artistic Grand Ouverture of the Olympic Games.

Hence, I launch the following questions: 1) can the artistic and cultural representations of the Olympic opening ceremonies be a unique opportunity to study and improve the artistic creations in so large arenas as the Olympic stadiums? 2) It is possible to achieve new forms of great aesthetic impact in so huge venues without stumbling into the trap of totalitarian aesthetics and political propaganda? And finally: 3) are Olympic opening ceremonies also an arena to discuss cultural diversity of nations and to rehearse more humanised aesthetic creations for future generations to understand the complexity of globalization and cultural changes going on in this millennium?

Looking for answers, in this article I propose to focus the attention at some key moments, images and audible elements as well as technical changes and technological resources adopted in the Olympic opening ceremonies since 1980 Moscow Games until the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. These key elements will be extracted from audiovisual archives available in web pages on the Internet1, combined with more online survey data and other references, and beyond the eight editions of the summer Olympic Games since 1980, due to great technological advancements applied, some observations on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony will be required.

The symbolic elements chosen to make this map of analysis in a period of little more than thirty years of Olympic Games of the modern era can reveal trends and gaps in the current aesthetic conceptions and indicate possible changes for the future. Actually, an Olympic opening ceremony can be a great showcase to stage the modernization power of each host country, but this impulse can also be transformed in political propaganda.

Aesthetics, ideology and social imaginary are strongly related to each other; however the vain glory of each nation could leave more room for discursive se- quences of human holistic vision and creativity2 . Agonism and competition between nations should mainly be shown in sports modalities and the ludic dimension of the artistic segment in the opening and closing ceremonies could act as interface to join and connect people and to dissolve many conflicts.

Besides this introduction, this article is composed of two more sections. In the first section I propose a concise content analysis and comparisons of the artistic segments of the Olympic opening ceremonies since 1980, and in the second one I discuss main aesthetical trends and possible variations for the future.

Key frames and audible symbols

Despite a US-led boycott, the 1980 Moscow Games produced several legendary Olympic moments3. One of the most impressive ideas was the huge cards stunt panel. In order to make larger animated designs, volunteer member of the audience held up plaques of different colours. During the closing ceremony, the image of the Olympic mascot Misha –striking symbol of that edition– appears with a tear in the eyes. “Never before had the Olympics seen such a spectacular show of artistry as they did in Moscow – the world’s greatest ballet dancers, the world’s most extravagant production in size and in complexity, and one of the world’s greatest composers (Shostakovich who died in 1975) all collaborated for this one event!”4

At the height of the Cold War (1947–1991), the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games were hit by political boycotts as well. “The Olympic Committee in Los Angeles viewed the Opening Ceremony as an artistic competition against the massive show of Moscow 1980”5. Both Olympic opening ceremonies were displayed in the afternoon, and both make use of crowd synchronism to form large designs on the stadium’s floor. In Moscow “live” vases forming the Olympic Rings and mosaic with all the performers were displayed, and in Los Angeles for the “Americana Suite” 800 member marching band created effects of massive synchronic movements, and as striking symbolic moment, 84 black grand pianos and 1 white, with orchestra and 200 dancers, performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. Popular music played a big part in the 1984 opening ceremony, and more music by Aaron Copland, John Williams, Philipp Glass, and Beethoven were played. According to Guegold (1996): “The musical/visual extravaganza was titled The Music of America and was divided into six segments depicting different aspects of American culture”.

The 1988 Seoul Olympic Games were the largest and most media-intensive sports and television event in history to that date (Fields, 1995).

“Seoul to the World. The World to Seoul” was one prominent Olympic slogan; “Harmony and Progress” was another. Similarly, the meticulously planned theme introduced in the opening ceremony, “Beyond All Barriers”, reflected a restoration of harmony to the Olympic Movement following the US- and Soviet-led boycotts of 1980 and 1984, and the theme also was intended to promote a new era of political and economic relations between South Korea and the socialist world, most specifically with North Korea, the USSR, China, Hungary, and other East Bloc countries (Larson, 1991, 75).

Kim Chung-gill composed a fanfare for the entrance of the Olympic Flag into the stadium, and Kang Suk-hee –both professors at the National University of Seoul– “composed The Fire of Prometheus which was used for the lighting (Legend of Fire) and extinguishing (Harmony) of the Olympic Flame” (Guegold, 1996). According to the official report of the Seoul Olympic Games the Opening ceremony consisted of a prelude, an official ceremony and an epilogue, and was held for three hours from 10:30 a.m. on September 17, 1988. “The compositions of the music to accompany the performances during the opening and closing ceremonies involved various difficulties because they had to match the ceremonies’ scenario the directors’ intentions and the movements and forms the choreographers desired” (p. 396). 13,625 performers take part in the diverse segments of the Seoul opening ceremony; it would be the last Summer Olympic ceremonies to occur in daylight.

Watching recorded files, the synchronization of multitude of performers and children displayed in the epilogue of that ceremony is just awesome. Since the Flower Dance - dance for peace followed by Chaos - Mask dance; giant balloons, mask poles with traditional Korean masks; Beyond All Barriers - Taekwondo demonstration; Silence-Child rolling a hoop runs to the torch stand; New Sprouts-Children play together; Confrontation - Konori rope battle; and finally “One World” segment unfold moments of truly sound-images apotheosis.

Barcelona hosts the games in 1992, and for the first time since 1972, the Olympic Games were boycott-free6. The Barcelona Olympic Games were considered a big success in the mass media, and its opening ceremony displayed innovation creativity and enthusiasm – first Olympic Cauldron Ignited by Archer (remote control ignition of cauldron).

Finally, since the instauration of the Cultural Olympiad model, a common feature has been design of thematic festivals, one for each year of the event. In Barcelona, the themes evolved from “Cultural gateway” in 1988, to the “Year of Culture and Sport” in 1989, the “Year of the Arts” in 1990, the “Year of the Future” in 1991 and the Olympic Arts Festival’ in 1992 (Garcia, 2002, 9).

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the official song of the 1992 Summer Games–Friends Forever. The Barcelona opening ceremony was enhanced with a performance by a group of the world’s most famous opera talents. According to the official report the Orquestra Ciudad de Barcelona was commissioned to record the six hours of music for the ceremonies, and “The scripts for the ceremonies grew out of certain fundamental ideas: Mediterranean expressiveness, gaiety, diversity, visual impact, imagination” (p. 42). Of great aesthetic impact was the artistic segment The Mediterranean – organised in five exciting movements: 1) Herakles runs to the end of the earth; 2) Herakles separates the heaven and earth; 3) Herakles creates civilization/the Mediterranean; 4) Herakles guides a boat through the treacherous sea, fighting sea monsters; 5) Boat gets caught in a storm, but is guided to land by a rainbow, founding the city of Barcelona. This dramatization lasted 21 minutes full of tension and emotion.

Two years before the Games of Barcelona, on 18 September 1990, the proclamation of Atlanta as the host city for the Centennial Olympic Games of the modern era intrigued and bothered many observers. “Atlanta had spent $7 million in its campaign, but Athens was the sentimental choice for this Centennial Games” (Senn, 1999, 249). Besides the criticism on this subject and about the lack of security in the city considered by some journalists the “murder capital of the United States”, Atlanta had to face the enormous challenge of creating an opening ceremony that could ever compete with the class of artistic creation presented in Barcelona. According to the official report of the Games:

In creating music for the show, the producers chose composers that would represent a wide range of American musical talent, from the traditional and highly acclaimed John Williams and major film composers, such as Basil Poledouris and Michael Kamen, to successful popular music writers. Mark Watters was selected as music director for the Opening Ceremony, and was joined by Harold Wheeler as co-music director of the Closing Ceremony7

Alone for the Olympic opening ceremony Atlanta spent $15 million, world’s prominent pop stars and classical musicians participate of the ceremony. An opera was especially composed for the event and the artistic segment was choreographed containing an overriding dramatic plot. Nevertheless, due the drums rhythm, masks, costumes and allegories the first part of the ceremony recalls a carnival parade. This sequence of drummers, dancers and children lasted more than three minutes and half; at the end the performers’ bodies take form of the Olympic rings and the children in white costumes form the number 100. Next, John Williams conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs his composition “Summon of heroes” while the white dressed children took form of a white dove. Crowd’s synchronization of volunteer was also displayed, but, the most exciting part of the ceremony began at night introduced by the melody of George Gershwin’s Summertime, so the first parts of the opera “American South” was performed and lasted 15 minutes. Then, a tribute to the Centennial of the Olympics entitled Temple of Zeus began; with the effect of silhouette imagery giant figures were displayed and a quote by de Coubertin finalized the tribute, next the parade of nations began.

The Stadium Australia with its original capacity to accommodate 110.000 spectators8 was the formidable stage for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony. “According to director Ric Birch, the ceremony was allocated a budget of around $50 million”9. Despite critics and comments on the artistic legitimacy of the Olympic ceremonies, in the case of Sydney, due to the size of venue new original ideas changed the way of staging the giant spectacle. For “Deep Sea Dreaming” artistic segment, for example:

In the opening segment, arranged by acclaimed choreographer Meryl Tankard, the main protagonist, (a little blonde-haired girl) was suddenly hoisted some 30 metres into the air, swooping and diving on an unseen harness. Thus the sports ground was transformed into a three-dimensional space, with the 110,000-strong audience enveloped in a sea of blue light. Exotic sea creatures floated up to 45 metres above the ground (Tenembaum, 2000).

The result of that space involvement and artistic fantasy was prodigious. The live three-dimensional performance it represents one of the effective resources to display a show in so huge arena. This spatiality reform will occur again ten years later on occasion of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. But, the 2000 Sydney opening ceremony presented other remarkable artistic segments such as “Awakening” with the aboriginal dance/ceremony; “Nature”; “Tin Symphony”; “Arrivals” and finally “Eternity” a lively spectacle that lasted more than one hour and ten minutes. As any other Olympic opening ceremony of the modern era –metaphor of humanity and peoples– the recourse of crowd’s synchronism was constant in deferent parts. The idea of multicultural society was also explored in the exuberance of colours, costumes and in form of carnival parade. Celebrating its modernity and future, the Sydney opening ceremony unfolded in a multitude of young people coming from everywhere in the stadium accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra commemorating in a vivid tap dancing performance; more than 2,500 performers took part in “Eternity”; designed and directed by Nigel Triffitt.

Most successful passages of the 2000 Sydney Olympic opening ceremony were possible due to the Olympic Arts Festivals organised and produced since 1997, beginning with the Festival of Dreaming directed by Roberts Rhoda followed by the 1998 A Sea Change and the 1999 Reaching the World Festival both directed by Andrea Stretton, and finally the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival directed by Leo Schofield10.

The tradition of Cultural Olympiad began on occasion of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. An important aspect of this four-year festival programme anteceding the Games is the commitment to facilitate longer-term benefits and legacies for artists and arts companies, as well as to connect most interesting parts and artistic creations in rich aesthetic sequences to be displayed at the Olympic opening ceremony11.

The HD version of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic opening ceremonies provides new insights into the events, favoring the sound-images context of both spectacles. The counterpoint between two distant and in many ways opposite cultures is an exciting opportunity to compare artistic and cultural key-elements of Athens and Beijing Olympic opening ceremonies. In a previous article (Boccia, 2012); I have outlined a comparative analysis of some parts of the artistic segment of both ceremonies, and their great emphasis to its sound projects. Indeed, the sonorous dimension in so huge a venue is the invisible element that allows the multitude of spectators and performers to congregate together.

In Athens, Eros guides the “Clepsydra” procession accompanied by vigorous motives composed by Konstantinos Bita, and in Beijing, strong and ostinato Confucius verses embrace the fluid movements of “disciples” and the human bodily harmony in the movable-type printing blocks. As an ancient musical echo, in both segments traditional musical instruments wake the soul of early times. Yet, remarkable aesthetic divergences are obvious in the way each spectacle for the artistic programme of both ceremonies was conceived.

The first and major contrast is how the creative teams use the arena as a stage; the space sheltering the artistic parts was conceived in opposite ways. For the Athens project, the centre of the arena was filled with water receiving key passages of the programme; however, this also deprived the venue of performers’ free movements on the central space of the representation. The processional form of characters was really great for the TV and video audiences, but less for the spectators in the stadium.

Both stadiums had huge screens to show detail from different camera perspectives while music and sounds accompanied live movements of the performers.

In the Beijing project the whole arena floor was thought as a gigantic screen; each performer’s body was though as a pixel of giant live images; the visual results of that effort touched every spectator in the stadium. Cameras needed to take more panoramic shots and fewer close shots. The sharpness of HDTV files makes it easy to visualise details and dimensions of representation, and both ceremonies could be enjoyed with the best audio and visual quality; however that does not correspond to the real spectacular scale in both stadiums (Boccia, 2012, 2272).

Unedited and stunning sound projects were assembled in both Olympic stadiums as a proof of the value placed on the virtual Audiosphere to improve the spectacle and to provide best quality for broadcast in real time and for the postproduction on DVD. Audio and visual technological advancements allow interactions between old and new forms of live spectacles. “In such gigantic proportion and distance from most of the audience, the representation could hardly touch the whole venue – except for the sound, if audio reproduction systems are well projected” (Boccia, 2012).

Behind all those spectacular creations in Athens and Beijing, in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games many of the early artistic concepts took new forms at the extremely innovative aesthetic-technological opening ceremony in Canada. “With the opening of its third Olympics, Canada tried to prove to the world that it is about more than just maple leaves”12. David Atkins of Australia-based David Atkins Enterprises (DAE) served as the ceremonies’ executive producer and artistic director13.

Putting on a show of this scale required a lot of precise synchronization, with much of the show running on timecode. There were certain portions of the show where timecode would not work due to safety considerations and had to be run manually. One such sequence was called “Field of Dreams” where a field is projected on the floor as a young boy is flying, but at times looks as if he is running when he touches down on the ground. This was just one of the many beautiful images used throughout the Olympic ceremonies. The content creation was handled by the Spinifex Group, based in Darlington, Australia14.

Despite manual interventions, electronic synchronism was the core resource to master the spectacular projections; in the Vancouver stadium bodily synchronization gave more space to precise timecode results. However, as well as in 2000 Sydney Olympic opening ceremony a young boy (in Sydney a little girl) was hoisted over the “Field of Dreams” – (in Sydney “Deep Sea Dreaming”) – filling the three-dimensional space with emotion, music and amazing projections and visual effects15.

During the ceremony, the music came from pre-recorded musical segments mimed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: “Vanoc also apologized for putting the orchestra ‘in an untenable position’”16. “For international televised live spectacles of this size and scope, it is standard practice to pre-record the musical segments to ensure the integrity and security of the broadcast transmission”, said David Atkins, executive producer of the 2010 ceremonies”17. Furthermore, audio director Bruce Jackson used 2,000,000 watts of amplifier power in his sound system design, “design director Doug Paraschuk, and other members of his team to get their take on producing the largest spectacle ever mounted on Canadian soil”18.

Aesthetical trends and possible variations

If we discuss the aesthetics of live spectacles such as the live representation in the artistic segment of the Olympic opening ceremonies, we need to take into account media aesthetics as well; both dimensions are strongly related to each other.

In the modernization process the live representations, especially those displayed in giant arenas, had to face several changes. Now, recorded and transmitted in HD formats, many performance failures will not just appear but will also be registered and stored as analogical/digital document in different formats.

Therefore, audio problems, acoustic gaps, troubles of live music performance, sound and visuals synchronization, among other live representation possible mismatches are pre-recorded and reproduced free of any inconvenience. On this subject, maybe provoked by idealistic aesthetic conceptions of live spectacles or by a lack of knowledge or even by a conservatism attempt to delay, filtrate or stopping the media morphosis process going on in this millennium, sharp critics has been periodically launched asserting that the pre-recorded procedures are a fraud19.

This kind of critics gained preeminence in the international media that disapproved the pre-recorded parts in the Olympic opening ceremonies, disqualifying the lip-synching of little girl occurred in Beijing and the musician’s mime of the Sydney and Vancouver’s Symphony Orchestras. Sustained by a pinch of sensationalism to grab worldwide attention, and considering the pre-recorded parts a “faking scandal”, those critics provoked global negative repercussions. Yet, this is a common expedient in cinematic and TV productions, and by the hybridization of live spectacles with recording and broadcasting procedures this seems to be a proper way to guarantee the final and wished form of live and recorded spectacle in the Olympic stadiums.

However, this technological care to achieve high-resolution audiovisual outcomes –live or not– for HDTV transmissions has also intensely modified the way to produce a live spectacle for the Olympic opening ceremony. In turn, the virtual Audiosphere produced and reproduced by giant sound systems assumes the role to congregate all spectators around the stadium. And for visual compensation, due the blurred images seen by the most part of the audience seating far away, huge screens showing details of the live show in the arena serve to mitigate and to bridge the visual gaps in such architectural dimensions. In this sense, the 2010 Vancouver Olympic opening ceremony and its embracing well-synchronized projections can be considered an effective attempt to convert a live spectacle in a cinematic production ready to be transposed in digital video files, and at the same time of great live aesthetical impact; a paradigmatic twist and a really new medium for the social imaginary of the twenty-first century. Now, “The imagination has broken out of the special expressive space of art, myth, and ritual and has now become a part of the quotidian mental work of ordinary people in many societies” (Appadurai, 2008, 5). According to Appadurai, the mass-mediated imaginary frequently transcends national space and transforms the way migrants adapted themselves to new environments and politics. The distinctions between imagination and fantasy and between the individual and collective senses of the imagination are part of his reflections, and as he pointed out: “the imagination is today a staging ground of action, and not only for escape”. Yet, according to Castoriadis:

The modern world presents itself, on the surface, as that which has pushed, and tends to push, rationalization to its limit, and because of this, it al- lows itself to despise –or to consider with respectful curiosity– the bizarre customs, inventions and imaginary representations of previous societies. Paradoxically, however, despite or rather due to this extreme “rationalization”, the life of the modern world is just as dependent on the imaginary as any archaic or historical culture (Castoriadis, 1987, 156).

The creation and production of the artistic segment of the Olympic openingceremony due to its live and electronic mediaded scale will touch the individualand collective imaginary in most regions of the world, and this massive distribution of symbols may be improved in holistic sense to feed the hope of a better world.

However, the relation of mass art20 to ideology concerns scholars in the humanities. According to Carrol:

Undoubtedly the reason that contemporary critics in the humanities are so preoccupied with the topic of ideology with respect to mass art rests on their conviction that the propagation of ideology by mass art is a major lever by which oppression is sustained in the modern world (Carrol, 1998, 361).

Although, some contemporary critics tend to overestimate the importance of ideology for maintaining systems of social domination, according to Carrol: “economic arrangements may be of far greater importance for explaining the persistence of systems of social domination than ideology is” (p. 361), and considering that mass art is a great and powerful vehicle to communicate ideological beliefs, this critics are not mistaken in drawing our attention to this topic.

The notion of ideology is confusing and the aesthetic concept is contradictory, both are double-edged conceptions that lead to contrasting insights. In an extreme effort pushing rationalisation to its limit, all the possible combinations between aesthetics, ideology and social imaginary can lead to extremely rich intellectual and sensitive contexts of discrepant interpretations. In Baumgarten Aesthetica (1750), for example, the delicate balance, which aesthetics seek to achieve, mediates between the generalities of reason and the particular of sense in a “confused” mode. But, according to Eagleton (1990):

(...) this does not mean that such representations are obscure: on the contrary, the more “confused” they are –the more unity-in-variety they attain– the more clear, perfect and determinate they become. A poem is in this sense a perfected form of sensate discourse (Eagleton, 1990, 15).

So when we turn to the analysis of live spectacles and the technological recourses to convert those representations in new forms of mediated spectacles, we need to bear carefully in mind the complex rational and sensitive plot of performative genres in its own right and at the same time the aesthetical creation in its “confused” reality. The third layer of this interplay can be partially calculated and hardly organised by technological mediation in timecode synchronisation of projections and audiovisual effects.

The artistic programme has also displayed manifestations of national pride and self-promotion of the host cities and countries, and in some cases of political propaganda and ideological messages. This part floats in a very delicate balance between aesthetic and ideology, and could result as dissonant for the Olympic spirit as for the aesthetic legacy of Humanity. In the previous section of this article key elements of the artistic segment of the Olympic opening ceremonies since 1980, linked to the audiovisual files of each spectacle, showed the continued modulations and intensive changes that this kind of live representation suffered during the past three decades. The somatic effort to form giant designs on the arena floor was considered once as a “state aesthetic” or totalitarian power in form of crowd’s synchronisation. In fact, this expedient was largely used to impress the spectators in the stadium and the world audience of different nationality.

But, the arguments of totalitarian aesthetic seem to be partially inadequate to explain the artistic efforts that the organisers and performers had to face to achieve that synchronism. Furthermore, crowd’s synchronisation is an element present in almost all ceremonies, just as a form to celebrate human body and the beginning of mega-sport-event. Even after the media morphosis of recent decades, technological advancements don’t succeed to diminish the power of organised multitude movements on the stadium floor, and the massive presence of spectators continues to be a formidable element to achieve the apotheosis of live representation; its recording and broadcasting.

This analysis of the audiovisual archives and the comparison of some keyelements and symbols selected from the Olympic opening ceremonies since 1980 show that the hybridisation of the artistic segment has created a new balance between human bodies, sound reproduction and audiovisual projections. This new balance is already practiced by youth cultures connected by mobile technology; young people spend much time playing video games or listening to music through headphones and stay together in the virtual environment more than personally. This kind of media symbiosis modified the way in which live mega-events are staged, and the presence of smartphones in the stadiums is now the constant hyperreality of the live spectacle, and part of the same.


Looking for answers to understand the aesthetic impacts that the artistic segment of the Olympic opening ceremonies have, and which mutations this aesthetic dimension brings to the legacy of Humanity, in order to organise a map of observation, I have collected and analysed key moments and audible elements of nine opening ceremonies since 1980.

In this period of little more than thirty years the artistic segments presented during the Olympic opening ceremony has undergone strong transformations. Although the live shows continue celebrating the human body and the crowd in synchronised movements, it is to note that the aesthetic dimension reveals robust evidences of hybridisation between live representation, visual projections and music or sound pre-recorded parts reproduced technically and juxtaposed to the scenic action.

This common expedient in cinematic and TV productions was often criticised as a faking scandal, a try to glorify the “noble” live spectacles as a unique form of live representation and to disqualify any other form of live show. Following that ideal, an orchestra could never mimic the pre-recorded music even if recorded by itself and nobody may use the cheesy trick of lip-synching the voice of another singer. This purist conception, however, is hardly applicable to hybrid live rep- resentations where the human body and its virtuose faculties are interlaced with high definition visuals and sound technology and have to be delivered error-free to the world audience.

The necessity of art for the Olympic Games is indisputable –is one of the principles in the definition of Olympism by Pierre de Cubertin–21 that as Plato (Πολιτεία) had knowledge the value of art for the education of youth to achieve highest levels of civility. One of the problems, however, is that art definitions are multiples and modernity and its mediamorphosis had transformed the way to create and produce works of art. Hybrid forms of art are frequent and compete with virtuose somatic faculties of artists and performers. On this subject, some cynical critic has argued that the artistic segment of the Olympic opening ceremony has nothing to do with art or aesthetics it would be more a form to sell the image of host countr and city. Yet, since 1992, the tradition of Cultural Olympiad had changed the way the host countries and cities prepare itselves for the quadriannel sport-mega-event and the results of that artistic and cultural warmup are finally displayed in the artistic segment of the opening and closing ceremonies.

The play around the artistic segment of the opening and closing ceremonies may be more aesthetical and less politically tendentious; an effort of human desire for a peaceful world. In this sense is needed to give more attention to artistic programme to communicate in the Olympic spirit in a renewed opportunity to understand cultural differences and to accept world’s diversity. “The aesthetic is a kind of fictive or heuristic realm in which we can suspend the force of our usual powers, imaginatively transferring qualities from one drive to another in a kind of free-wheeling experiment of the mind”. (Eagleton, 1990, 107). And: “Obviously, the aesthetic dimension cannot validate a reality principle. Like imagination, which is its constitutive mental faculty, the realm of aesthetics is essentially ‘unrealistic’: it has retained its freedom from reality” (Marcuse, 1955, 172). However, in that unrealistic dimension it is possible to learn more about reality, and inside our imaginery we can placate insidious intrigues and experience the collective hope to turn a dream into reality. Therefore the artistic programme has to be considered as one of the essential axes of the Olympic Games then through it it will be possible to build good dreams together.

* Prof. Dr Leonardo Boccia is a research professor in the Multi-disciplinary Graduate Programme in Culture and Society; in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programme in Studies on University; and in the Graduate Programme in Scenic Arts at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) in Brazil. He teaches at the Institute of Humanities, Arts and Science at UFBA and since 2006 has led the interdisciplinary research group ECUS - Contemporary Cultural Spectacles.
1. Retrieved from: <>, and: <>
2. Any work of art can be used for political propaganda, and artists are not immune to ideological trends and political beliefs. Nevertheless, with “human holistic vision and creativity”, I understand the chance to negotiate with creative team of artists to humanise form and content of aesthetic productionsby ethical concerns that encourage the approximation of peoples at the expense of merely self-promotion. One might argue this is an idealistic point of view, yet the mission of Olympic Spirit is “to build a peaceful and better world in the Olympic Spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play - Olympic Spirit strives to inspire and motivate the youth of the world to be the best they can be through educational and entertaining interactive challenges. Olympic Spirit seeks to instill and develop the values and ideals of Olympism in those who visit and to promote tolerance and understanding in these increasingly troubled times in which we live, to make our world a more peaceful place”. Retrieved March 11, 2013 from: <>.
3. See also: <> accessed March 2013.
4. See also: < html> accessed March 2013.
5. See also: < html> accessed March 2013.
6. “In the years that followed the 1988 Games, the world witnessed important political changes. Apartheid was abolished in South Africa, which allowed the country to participate in the Olympic Games again, for the first time since 1960. Then there was the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of West and East Germany, as well as North and South Yemen. Communism was wiped out in the Soviet Union and the USSR was divided into 15 separate countries. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the independent teams of Estonia and Latvia made their first apparition since 1936 and Lithuania sent its first team since 1928. The other ex-Soviet republics participated as a “unified team”, although the winners were honored under the flags of their own republics”. Retrieved March 11, 2013 from:<>.
7. “In Atlanta, 20 stars performed, 5 new songs were written, and 8 musical scores were composed. A volunteer cast of some 5,500, mostly from Atlanta and other parts of Georgia, performed in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. An additional backstage crew of 2,100 volunteers and 650 field marshals helped make both shows possible” (Atlanta, 1996, 360-364). Retrieved March 8, 2013 from: <>
8. “The original capacity was 110,000, however post-games renovations has reduced this to 83,500”. Retrieved March 11, 2013 from: <>
9. According to Linda Tenembaum: “A unique phenomenon, the ceremony is neither theatre, nor concert; sport, nor military pageant; circus nor parade, but a mixture of them all. Its specific function is to sell the host country: to provide, in the space of just a few short hours, a sample of what it can offer – to both the international and domestic consumer”. In World socialist web site, Sydney, 2000. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from:<>
10. “For Sydney’s final Olympic Arts Festival, Leo Schofield, the Artistic Director, invited artists from Australia and around the world to contribute to a golden moment in the life of our city. Almost 400 cultural events involving 4000 artists took place around the Harbour City over a six-week period, including seven large-scale spectacles and special events, five operas, eight dance projects, 13 music projects, five theatre projects, 50 exhibitions and two film festivals. More than 260,000 people attended performing arts events during this Festival, and in excess of 300,000 people attended exhibitions in the Visual Arts Programme”. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from: <> (p. 307).
11. “These legacies included the commissioning of a number of new works, including plays, musical works, dance works, fine art print portfolios, publications and anthologies. Other significant initiatives included the presentation throughout the cultural programme of major projects by Australian indigenous and Pacific Islander artists and arts companies, the introduction of important audience development and access activities, including sign-interpreted and audio-described performances, and campaigns to reach as many culturally diverse audiences as was possible, both within Australia and overseas”. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from: <> (p. 303).
12. See also: < html> accessed on March 18, 2013.
13. David Atkins, (born 12 December 1955) was recognised in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the entertainment industry and is Australia’s most awarded producer, choreographer and director, and CEO of David Atkins Enterprises, a major-events production company. Retrieved March 16, 2013 from: <>
14. “Working in 3D space brings its own challenges, but then you layer on the movement and there are even more considerations. We created a virtual cylinder - that was 30 meters high by 120 meters in diameter. After we had that virtual cylinder, we could match any object, in any position inside the cylinder”, describes Bouqueniaux. “All the elements were inside the cylinder. Each time you lined up on the rings, when the diameter changed the new destination is applied on all of the video projectors. Each object had to have its own mapping because if you make an overlap for the exterior ring, that overlap doesn’t work for the second ring and its worse on the third ring. There were more than 300 mapping textures applied over all the objects. To give you an example, the mapping texture that was applied to the mountain, altogether had 1,736 points of information to do the right mapping over the mountain”. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from: <>
15. “The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 relied more heavily on screen content that any other Olympic ceremony. We created a full 60 minutes of video content for the entire stadium floor, vertical 30 metre high screens, 360 degree circular screens, circular podiums and one massive 360 degree draped mountain screen. It was a huge logistical task, not to mention the year of work to get the spectacular content across the line. Retrieved March 18, 2013 from: <>
16. See also: <> accessed March 18, 2013.
17. See also: <> accessed March 18, 2013.
18. See also: <> accessed March 18, 2013.
19. See also: <> and: <> or: <> or referring to the 2000 Sydney opening ceremony: <> and: <> accessed march 2013.
20. “I argued that mass art can be distinguished from other sorts of art along the dual axes of technology and accessibility” (Carrol, 1998, 413).
21. Nothing summarises his state of mind better than his definition of Olympism and its four principles: to be a religion i.e. to “adhere to an ideal of a higher life, to strive for perfection”; to represent an elite “whose origins are completely egalitarian” and at the same time an “aristocracy” with all its moral qualities; to create a truce with “a four-yearly celebration of the springtime of mankind”; and to glorify beauty by the “involvement of the arts and the mind in the Games”. Retrieved March 18, 2013 from:<>


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BOCCIA Leonardo, "Comparing Olympic Opening Ceremonies and their impact in aesthetic legacy of humanity", in: K. Georgiadis(ed.), INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC ACADEMY, 53th International Session for Young Participants (Ancient Olympia, 11-25/6/2013), International Olympic Academy, Athens, 2014, pp.150-158.

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Comparing Olympic Opening Ceremonies and their impact in aesthetic legacy of humanity
Prof. Dr Leonardo BOCCIA
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Comparing Olympic Opening Ceremonies and their impact in aesthetic legacy of humanity
Prof. Dr Leonardo BOCCIA
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Article Author(s)

Comparing Olympic Opening Ceremonies and their impact in aesthetic legacy of humanity
Prof. Dr Leonardo BOCCIA
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