Thursday, August 04, 2016

GHOSTS OF OLYMPICS CEREMONIES PAST



 

 

It’s the Olympics, baby!

I cannot recall where I heard or got that phrase from, but like my bottom box’ (special occasion) clothes which I seldom use, this phrase pops into my head without fail every Olympic year!

Hours from now, the world’s spotlight will beam on the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the opening of what is unarguably the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The opening ceremonies are always highly anticipated and it has been said that since Los Angeles 84, each host country has sought to surpass its predecessor by staging a bigger and more spectacular show. 
 
Back in the 80s, there were only two television stations in the whole of what was then Bendel State -  National Television Authority (NTA) and Bendel Television (BTV). BTV later metamorphosed to Edo Broadcasting Service (EBS) with the split of Bendel State into Edo and Delta States respectively. Both stations ensured that viewers were kept fully updated with on-going events at the Olympics by dedicating one or more hours daily for the highlights. But these days, without an active cable television subscription, OYO (On Your Own) is your case!
                     


Spaniard Archer - Anthonio Robello aiming at the Barcelona 92 Olympic cauldron 
 The aspect I most anticipate during the opening ceremony is the lighting of the Olympic cauldron which symbolically opens the Games. The ceremonies began making an impression from Barcelona 92. That Olympic Games, I held my young breath with millions of viewers the world over as the archer – Anthonio Robello took aim at the cauldron with a flaming arrow. The tension was palpable; one could only imagine how it would be live at the Olympic stadium. Hearts must have stopped beating for some seconds! My eyes closed involuntarily at some point. What if the arrow missed its mark? But I had to witness it for myself, so I opened my eyes in time to watch the arrow fly in a perfect trajectory. Collective breaths I believe were expelled in unison the world over!

It is only until recently I got to know that the arrow was not shot into the cauldron but intentionally shot past the target, instead the flames of the arrow ignited the gases in the cauldron. But this still made for edge-seat viewing!


Muhammed Ali at the Atlanta 96 Summer Olympics
 
I believe that the late Muhammed Ali’s fan base increased exponentially at the Atlanta 96 Olympic Games. He was given the singular honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron. In the throes of Parkinson disease, the world watched with loving patience and admiration as the legendary Ali struggled with visibly shaking hands to light the projectile which would ignite the cauldron. I bet there was not a dry eye in the stadium and around the world by the time Ali succeeded with his task.   

The Sydney 2000 Olympic cauldron
Next up was the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony. The cauldron lighting is indelibly etched in my memory and actually inspired this article. Who can forget when Cathy Freeman the Austrailian sprinter received the Olympic torch, her run up the stairs to stand in a pool of water and the ignition of the oval shaped cauldron fully submerged in the pool. Upon full ignition, the cauldron which looked like an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) began a rapid vertical ascent spewing fire and dripping water simultaneously with Freemen standing in the pool. It was mind blowing watching water and fire; age long sworn enemies unite in such a beautiful spectacle. The cauldron continued its journey up an inclined waterfall flanked on either side by the spectator stands to its final location. This particular cauldron lighting sequence was the sublime stuff that UFO bestselling movies are made of.  Some scriptwriters and directors must have drawn inspiration from that particular scene.
 
The Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games was the centennial celebration of the founding of the modern games by Pierre Du Coubertin in 1894. For such a significant date, the opening ceremony fell far short of expectations with no significant moments for me. For inexplicable reasons, I missed the opening ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. I did try to catch-up on YouTube, but nothing compares to watching the live broadcast.   
The five Olympic rings during the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony
Then came the award winning London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony whose creative director was Academy Award winning Director, Danny Bolye of the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ movie fame. From the onset; he was intent on creating a ceremony that was a marked departure from what critics agree was the extravagance and magnificence of the Beijing 2008 ceremony. With a budget of £27 million in comparison with Beijing’s £65million, Boyle did not actually have much of a choice. He set out to create a ceremony that had in his words ‘something for everyone’. The ceremony dripped with light-heartedness, warmth, individualism and national symbolism. Some notable moments included the James Bond scene that had Queen Elizabeth in her cameo appearance with Daniel Craig at the Palace ( while her body double parachuted into the Olympic Stadium), the orchestra performance with Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) who also ‘starred’ in a hilarious remake of the famous beach race scene from the Chariots of Fire movie and of course, there was the scene with British heartthrob, ‘fine boy no pimples’ David Beckham driving the speedboat conveying the Olympic torch.

Flaming copper petals converging to form the London 2012 Olympic cauldron
The London 2012 Olympics cauldron must have dropped from design heaven. It consisted of 204 copper petals brought in by participating countries during the Parade of Nations and placed on copper ‘stalks’. The norm of a singular notable Olympian figure lighting the cauldron was ditched, instead the lighting was done by a group of seven young British athletes nominated by past Olympians. When lit, the radially arranged copper stalks which were outspread prior to the lighting converged to form a giant flaming unit.  Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the concept of the cauldron was one that was demountable, hence after the Games; each participating nation was presented with its copper petal. I wonder where Nigeria’s petal is presently located. 
 
So come the evening of Friday, August 5, 2016, I am joining millions of excited viewers the world over to see in what manner the Olympic Games will be opened. This time however, I hope the Nigerian contingent will be adventurous in their choice of parade outfit and ditch the usual green head tie, white blouse and skirt for the female athletes, and white top and trouser for the male athletes. Keeping my fingers crossed.
 
Photocredits: Google Images.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

4 comments:

  1. Babe, you just finish work for this piece. My eyes could not stay dry as I read the part of Muhammad Ali.

    Excellent piece. Well written.

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  2. I see this article! I mean, I see it!
    Nice read. The excitement was contagious.

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  3. Aww.. I can hardly wait. This article made the wait harder.

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  4. Great article.... i never really "saw" the opening ceremonies like this before. Your excellent writing skills made me feel each moment! Well done!

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