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BACKGROUND Memorable moments at past Olympic opening ceremonies

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Olympic organizers usually spare no efforts or costs to plan intricate and memorable opening ceremonies, which mark the official start of the Games with an artistic programme and a parade of participating athletes.

As Rio prepares for its opening ceremony on Friday, here are some memorable moments from past events:

1984 - ROCKET MAN: A high point was reached as early as the Los Angeles Games, when a rocket man landed in the stadium, powered by a jet pack on his back.

1992 - FLAMING ARROW: The Barcelona Games saw Paralympian Antonio Rebollo light the cauldron with a flaming arrow, as the lighting methods and opening ceremonies in general started to get more and more spectacular.

1996 - THE TREMBLING BOXING LEGEND: One secret that organizers always seek to preserve is who will light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony. To the surprise of all spectators in Atlanta, Muhammad Ali was the last torchbearer. The former boxing world champion and 1960 Olympic gold medallist was suffering from Parkinson‘s disease and struggled with tremors, but managed to light the flame with a shaky arm under the cheers of onlookers. The boxing legend died this year.

2000 - WATER GAMES: When Aborigine runner Cathy Freeman was revealed as the last torchbearer at the Sydney Olympics, it seemed like an apology from Australia for its handling of the country‘s native inhabitants. The later Olympic champion lit the Olympic cauldron in a spectacular way at the end of an imaginative opening ceremony featuring surrealistic maritime creatures. Freeman stood in a bowl of water surrounded by a ring of flames, which then rose above her, leaving her standing in the middle of a round waterfall.

2008 - CHINESE EXTRAVAGANZA: The Beijing Olympics outdid everyone else before with an opening extravaganza that featured 14,000 people, spectacular fireworks, playback singing and reportedly even meteorological surgery to make sure it did not rain. The event reportedly cost more than 100 million dollars to produce.

2012 - JAMES BOND AND THE QUEEN: British Queen Elizabeth II had declared the Montreal 1976 Olympics open, as the head of state of Canada. Thirty-six years later, she astounded as an actress in the London opening ceremony. The 86-year-old monarch starred in a video in which she appeared to be taken to the Olympic stadium in a helicopter by Bond actor Daniel Craig. As they seemed to parachute down to the ground, the real queen appeared in the arena to take her seat to wild cheers and applause.

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