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Opening_ceremony_of_the_Games_of_the_Olympiad

Opening_ceremony_of_the_Games_of_the_Olympiad

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Published by: Katalin Freész on Dec 30, 2012
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OPENING CEREMONY OF THEGAMES OF THE OLYMPIAD
UPDATE – JULY 2009
 
HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
 
The modern Olympic Games encompass morethan just the drama and excitement of a sportingcompetition. Thanks to the vision of theirfounder, Pierre de Coubertin, and the creativeefforts of various host city organisers, theceremonial aspects of the Olympic Games haveserved to set them apart from other internationalsports competitions. The protocol and splendourof the Olympic ceremonies, which go hand-in-hand with the celebration of the Games aseveryone knows them today, make this event aunique and unforgettable festival. Althoughthere was an Opening Ceremony at the Gamesof the Olympiad in 1896 in Athens, it bore onlythe slightest resemblance to today’sceremonies. In fact, some of the elements ofOlympic protocol that have become a part oftoday’s traditions were only graduallyestablished over time through a series ofadaptations to the ceremonies of early editionsof the Games.
MAIN ELEMENTS OF THEOPENING CEREMONY
Today, Rule 56 of the Olympic Charter mentionsthe protocol that must be observed at theOpening Ceremony of the Games, as well asthe opening speech by the host country’s Headof State. The other important features of aceremony are:
The parade of the participants;
The speech by the President of theOrganising Committee of the OlympicGames;
The speech by the IOC President;
The playing of the Olympic anthem and theentry and raising of the Olympic flag;
The last stage of the Olympic torch relay andthe lighting of the Olympic cauldron;
The symbolic release of pigeons;
The taking of the Olympic oath by an athlete;
The taking of the Olympic oath by an official;
The national anthem of the host country;
The artistic programme.
PROTOCOL ELEMENTS OF THEOPENING CEREMONY:
1. THE PARADE OF PARTICIPANTS
 
The parade of the participants reflects both thechanging world and the growth of the OlympicMovement.The number of National Olympic Committees(NOCs) present at the Opening Ceremony hasincreased from 22 in 1908 to 204 in Beijing in2008. Tradition dictates that the delegationsparade in alphabetical order according to thelanguage of the host country, except for Greece,which leads the parade, and the host country,which brings up the rear.In Beijing, a bearer with the Greek flag enteredthe stadium first, in front of all the otherdelegations, while the Chinese team concludedthe parade. Each delegation is preceded by aboard bearing its country’s name, and by itsflag. The usual practice is for the athletes tomarch behind the flag of their country, but thereare sometimes exceptions. For example, theOlympic flag has been used by some nations,such as Great Britain in 1980 in Moscow, theUnified Team in 1992, and Timor-Leste in 2000.On other occasions, a special flag has beenused by delegations, such as the two Koreaswhich marched together in Sydney in 2000, andagain in Athens.
 
 
2. THE HEAD OF STATE DECLARESTHE GAMES OPEN
According to the Olympic Charter protocol thathas existed for many years, the duty ofdeclaring the Games officially open falls to theHead of State of the host country. Among thepersonalities that have performed this task areroyalty and presidents, and, in accordance withacceptable political protocol within the countryand with IOC approval, their representatives,whether it be a vice-president, a member of theroyal family, or a governor-general.Since the Games of the I Olympiad in Athens in1896, a total of 19 Heads of State have openedthe Games of the Olympiad.
See table A.
 
3. THE OLYMPIC ANTHEM
The Olympic anthem, with music by the Greekcomposer Spiros Samaras and words by KostisPalamas, was officially adopted by the IOC in1958 at its Tokyo Session. This anthem wascreated in 1896 for the first Games of theOlympiad in Athens, but for the Olympic WinterGames it was played for the first time in SquawValley in 1960.
4. THE OLYMPIC FLAG
Officially presented at the 17th IOC Session inJune 1914 in Paris, the Olympic flag was raisedfor the first time at the Olympic Games inAntwerp in 1920. The original flag was designedby Pierre de Coubertin. It included the Olympicsymbol – the five rings – and the Olympic motto,Citius Altius Fortius. However, the motto quicklydisappeared and only the Olympic symbolremained on the flag. Contrary to what issometimes written, it is the five rings themselvesthat represent the five continents, and not thecolours of these rings. In fact, the six coloursrepresented on the Olympic flag – the whitebackground, plus the blue, black, red, yellowand green of the rings – were chosen becauseof the fact that at least one of these colours canbe seen in the flag of every nation.
5. THE OLYMPIC FLAME ANDTORCH RELAY
The Ancient Greeks considered fire to be adivine element, and they maintained perpetualfires in front of their principal temples. This wasthe case in the sanctuary of Olympia, where theAncient Olympic Games took place. A flameburned permanently on the altar of the goddessHestia, and such fires were also lit on the altarsof Zeus and Hera, in front of whose temple theOlympic flame is lit today.In ancient times, the flame was lit using the raysof the sun, to ensure its purity, and a skaphia,the ancestor of the parabolic mirror used todayfor lighting the Olympic flame. Today, the flameis lit in front of the ruins of the temple of Hera inOlympia, using the sun’s rays and a parabolicmirror
.
The flame is carried by a relay all the way to itsfinal destination: the Olympic stadium in the hostcity of the Olympic Games about to begin. Whenthe flame finally arrives at its destination, thefinal torchbearer will run a lap of the stadiumbefore the flame is used to light the Olympiccauldron, which remains lit for the duration ofthe Games and is extinguished only at theClosing Ceremony of the Games.Like the messengers who proclaimed the sacredOlympic truce, the runners who carry theOlympic flame encourage the whole world to putdown their weapons and turn towards theGames. The choice of Olympia as a departurepoint emphasises the link between the ancientand modern Games, and underlines theprofound connection between the two.The ceremonial aspect of the Olympic flamehas not always been linked to Olympia inGreece. It is only since the Olympic Games inBerlin in 1936 that the Olympic flame and thetorch relay have become two features ofprotocol which are inextricably linked.Innovation and symbolism often play animportant role in the choice of the last torch-bearers – those who will be remembered foreveras having lit the cauldron in the Olympicstadium.
See table B.
The arrival of the flame at the OpeningCeremony in Beijing was more than merely apart of the protocol that symbolises the start of
Opening ceremony of the Games of the Olympiad / July 2009 Page 2/5
 
 another celebration of the Games. It alsomarked the end of a unique journey. More than21,800 torchbearers had carried the flame over137,000 kilometres during 129 days.
6. THE SYMBOLIC RELEASE OFPIGEONS
As doves are the symbol of peace, it is nosurprise that the Opening Ceremony protocolcalls for a symbolic release of these birds. From1936 to 1988, the release of the pigeons used totake place before the arrival of the Olympicflame. However, following the unfortunatedemise of several pigeons sitting on the edge ofthe Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremonyof the Games in Seoul, this part of the protocolwas moved, but not eliminated. Today, thesymbolic release of the pigeons follows thelighting of the Olympic cauldron.
7. THE TAKING OF THE OLYMPICOATH BY A COMPETITOR
First pronounced by Belgian athlete Victor Boin(water polo, swimming, and fencing) at the 1920Games of the Olympiad in Antwerp, the Olympicoath of modern times was similar to that takenby the Olympic athletes of ancient times - but atthe modern Olympic Games, the athletes swearon the Olympic flag, not on the entrails of asacrificed animal. The modern Olympic oathwas originally written by Pierre de Coubertin,and has been modified over time to reflect thechanging nature of the sporting competition. Thecurrent version of the oath, which was sworn bythe Chinese table tennis player Zhang Yining inBeijing, stated:
“In the name of all competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.” 
See table C.
 
8. THE TAKING OF THE OLYMPICOATH BY AN OFFICIAL
Since 1972, a judge or official from the hostcountry also takes an oath. In Beijing in 2008,Liping Huang, a Chinese gymnastics official,pronounced the following oath: “
In the name of all the judges and officials, I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship 
.”
 
See table D.
9. THE ARTISTIC PROGRAMME
Once the national anthem of the host countryhas been played, the show begins. Usually, thecontent is kept secret until the last minute. Overthe years, Games organisers have managed tofind creative ways to combine Olympic protocolwith just the right amount of entertainment,cultural references, technological innovationsand festive atmosphere. The Sydney 2000presentation covered the history, nature andculture of the whole of Australia. In Turin in2006, the organisers offered spectators andtelevision viewers a ceremony in which theathletes were at the heart of things, with anunforgettable show illustrating the values ofbrotherhood and dialogue between peoples andcultures, to show that “passion lives here”. Forits part, the Opening Ceremony of the 2004Games in Athens, produced by DimitrisPapaioannou, offered a memorable mix ofOlympic protocol and Greek culture. The variousscenes depicted 3,000 years of this historicallegacy, highlighting the links between theAncient Games and this first Olympiad of the21
st
century.
 
The Opening Ceremony of the Beijing OlympicGames was spectacular, unforgettable andstirring. It celebrated the imagination, originalityand dynamism of the Beijing Olympic Games.Under the leadership of Zhang Yimou, 22,000actors gave life to the motto “One World, OneDream”. They retraced the history of China in agrandiose show bringing to life Chineseinventions and culture.
Opening ceremony of the Games of the Olympiad / July 2009 Page 3/5

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