Before athletes from all over the world compete at this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, expect to be cultured and entertained — “K-Style,” no doubt — at the Opening Ceremony. We look back at some memorable performers of past Opening Ceremonies that made us sing, dance, laugh and even shed a few tears.
Whether winter or summer, every Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games carries a theme represented through a storybook mosaic of artistic, historical and cultural expressions from their host countries. And this year’s 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea is no different.
Given the peninsula’s (literal) divided history of North and South and the recent instability in the region, South Korea has aptly chosen “peace” as its guiding theme, along with the official motto “Passion. Connected.” Despite many details remaining secret, the organizers of this year’s Opening Ceremony have announced that among the performers, indie rock star Ha Hyun Woo (from the South Korean band Guckkasten) and Ahn Ji-young, (part of the K-Pop duo Bolbbalgan4), will be performing. Korean R&B singer Insooni is also set to sing a track during the torch relay. (For those who are up on their K-Pop bands, we’ll take your word that these are baller lineups!)
As a lead up to PyeongChang’s opening festivities, here’s a look back at some celebratory, beautiful and awe-inspiring moments of past Opening Ceremonies.
Hey, Paul – London (2012)
Directed by Danny Boyle, the spectacle that was the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics did not disappoint. Not only were there cameo appearances by Queen Elizabeth II and comedian Rowan Atkinson (a.k.a. Mr. Bean), but the great Beatle Paul McCartney was the show’s closer, first singing the penultimate track “The End” from the group’s album Abbey Road. Then, amid the fiery torch, the fluorescent lights and Olympic athletes holding hands and swaying, everyone in the audience joined in to help McCartney sing the chorus of his beloved song “Hey Jude.”
Luciano Pavarotti Performs in Virtual Reality – Turin (2006)
It was at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics in Italy that operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti gave his final public performance before he died the following year from cancer. Enduring great pain, Pavarotti lifted himself from his wheelchair and performed the aria “Nessun Dorma” in front of an audience of millions. However, it was later discovered that, due to his illness, Pavarotti was concerned of his weakening voice and decidedly lip-synched his performance.
Gisele Turtle-Walks the Runway – Rio (2016)
Could anything slow Gisele Bundchen down? Apparently, nerves. The Brazilian supermodel admitted she was feeling the jitters at the 2016 Rio Olympics and thus, sashayed too slowly down the 400-foot long catwalk in the Maracana stadium to the famous tune “The Girl From Ipanema.” Because of her slow progress, an homage to the song’s composer, Tom Jobin, had to be cut at a moment’s notice. Needless to say, the director wasn’t happy, but hey, at least Gisele looked amazing in her sequinned high-slit ensemble by Alexandre Herchovitch. That was almost mostly the point, right?
Projecting Much? Björk’s Dress Steals the Show – Athens (2004)
How could Icelandic songstress Björk ever top her Swan Dress from the 2001 Academy Awards, you ask? Easy. With a 10,000 square-foot mammoth dress with a world map projected onto it that could billow out to all ends of an Olympic stadium, while singing the song “Oceania.” It’s as simple as that — and of course, it blew everyone’s minds just like anything Björk does.
Muhammad Ali’s Fighting Spirit – Atlanta (1996)
If the world thought they knew what “The Greatest” was made of in the boxing ring, Muhammad Ali’s presence amidst the Olympic rings at the 1996 Games in Atlanta became one of the greatest moments in Opening Ceremony history. Despite his hands shaking from his longstanding battle with Parkinson’s disease, Ali fired up the world as he determinedly lit the torch — symbolizing the spirit of resiliency and defiance that defined his life and boxing career and undoubtedly the lives and careers of athletes far and wide.