The Opening Ceremony, Then and Now ​​​​​​
Fireworks illuminate the sky during the Opening Ceremony of the most recent Olympic Games on July 27, 2012, in London, England

The prelude to the world’s most celebrated sporting event is a spectacle in its own right

he Olympic Winter Games have certainly come a long way since they were first held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Back then, there were only 10,000 spectators over the course of the event’s 11 days. Since their first television broadcast in 1960, the Olympics have expanded their viewing audience from a few thousand people to billions around the globe. But because of time differences, viewers must pick and choose which of the varied events to watch.

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California, took place on February 18, 1960. It was orchestrated by a committee led by filmmaker Walt Disney and welcomed athletes from 30 nations


Yet one event never fails to draw viewers because of its pomp and ability to swell feelings of national pride. The Opening Ceremony—watched by billions no matter what time it airs—is a rare unifying moment that captures the attention of the world and represents the spirit of the Olympics, which celebrate passion, sportsmanship and peace. While a similar format for the Opening Ceremony has been used throughout recent years—the presentation of the athletes, the raising of the Olympic flag and, finally, the lighting of the Olympic cauldron—each ceremony is seemingly more elaborate than the last. In 1960, Walt Disney was chairman of the committee that planned the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California. He imbued the celebration with all the magic and whimsy he had come to be known for, coordinating more than 3,000 performers and the release of thousands of homing pigeons, which symbolized doves of peace.

The Opening Ceremony is a rare unifying moment that captures the attention of the world and represents the spirit of the Olympic Games.

The Olympic rings appear to rain fire in an iconic display at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Made to look as if they were cast from molten steel, the rings symbolized the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain


At the most recent Opening Ceremony in Vancouver, Canada, the first held indoors, more than 60,000 people attended and 32 million US television viewers cheered as Team USA made its entrance. The USA delegation was made up of 216 athletes, who would go on to win more medals for Team USA than in any previous Olympic Winter Games.

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  • Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images