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8 memorable Olympic opening ceremonies

07/27/2012 02:25 EDT | Updated 09/26/2012 05:12 EDT
As London gears up to launch the 2012 Olympics, CBC News looks back at some memorable Summer Olympics opening ceremonies, from controversy in 1908 to Beijing's massive production in 2008.

London 1908

The first Olympics that London courted controversy right with the opening ceremony. While flags of most competing countries flew around White City Stadium, organizers neglected to include the national flags of Sweden and the United States.

In protest, the Swedes athletes refused to participate in the ceremony at all. While the Americans did march in the parade of nations, flag-bearer Ralph Rose broke with protocol and refused to dip the U.S. flag to the Royal Family sitting in their designated spectator box.

Berlin 1936

The opening ceremony to "Hitler's Olympics" was a spectacle of pageantry in the style of a Nazi rally. Fans greeted the parading athletes with the Nazi salute as the airship Hindenburg passed overhead.

The 1936 Games also marked the debut of the torch relay and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the ceremonies.

Tokyo 1964

In an effort to show the country's progress since the end of the Second World War, organizers selected Yoshinori Sakai to light the Olympic Flame.

Sakai — dubbed the "Hiroshima Baby" — was born on Aug. 6, 1945: the same day the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.

Los Angeles 1984

The opening ceremony in L.A. featured Etta James performing the national anthem.

But the spectacle is most remembered for Bill Suitor's jetpack-powered arrival to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Seoul 1988

The opening ceremony in Seoul is best remembered for one of the most notable gaffes in the history of the spectacle.

Organizers released a flock of doves as a symbol of peace, but did so before lighting the Olympic Cauldron. As a result, when the flame was lit, a number of the birds roosting on the structure were burned alive.

Barcelona 1992

Paralympic archer Antonio Rebello lit the Olympic Flame with an arrow fired over the crowd and into the Cauldron.

Later, it was revealed that organizers told Rebello to shoot the arrow over the target, a safety precaution lest he undershoot the target and launch an arrow into the stands of a packed Barcelona Stadium.

Atlanta 1996

In what many regard as one of the most emotional moments from any Olympics, former gold medal winner Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic Torch despite visibly shaking due to the advanced stages of Parkinson's Disease.

Beijing 2008

Although widely praised as the most spectacular in Olympic history, the opening ceremony at the 2008 Games was marked by controversy.

After the ceremony, it was revealed that nine-year-old singer Lin Maoke had mimed her performance on the instructions of the governing Communist Party.

Officials judged seven-year-old Yang Peiyi to be a superior singer, but not as photogenic.

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