Flooded with intricacy, eye-catching artistry and plenty of hard hitting entertainment, the commencement and conclusion of the Summer Olympic games always harness millions of viewers around the world. So with the Rio Summer Olympics well underway, we take a look back at few notable Olympic musical performances and, of course, the ones that seemed to fall a bit flat.
At the time, Athens was considered to be as problematic as Brazil was in terms preparedness for the games. Overrun by venue faults, budget constraints and construction delays, there was serious doubt as to whether Athens would able to pull it off. The city’s 2004 opening ceremony was the opportunity to erase all doubt and create a sporting extravaganza that would make the nation swell with pride. It was hailed as the ‘unforgettable dream games’ for returning to its historic home, and while it may not be gleaming with awe-inspiring Olympic venues today, Athens turned out to be somewhat of a surprising success. Harkening back to its renowned mythological beginnings, the opening show at the Olympic Stadium in Maroussi, Greece, was a marveling exhibition of Greek culture illustrated through a progression of art. Considered avant-garde in more ways than one, its blazing opening parade of nations only beamed brighter with the performance of Iceland Songstress, Bjork.
A living enigmatic spectacle of unique creative energy, Bjork undoubtedly reigned as a highlight of the 2004 summer opening games. The Icelandic trailblazer stunned with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘Oceania,’ a track that she specifically composed for the event. The anthem was by far one of the most ambitiously abstract selections for the games, however, proved magically refreshing after its live performance. Fused with rippling synths and nautical imagery, Bjork’s heavenly ballads soared throughout the arena, taking a captive hold of all its viewers. As her harmonies encapsulated the room, her dress elegantly unraveled to project a stunning map of the world that spanned over the heads of guests and athletes.
Memorable and picturesque, the quirky singer undeniably stole the show.
With the Beijing opening ceremony coined as ‘the greatest’ ever, much apprehension circulated around the London games. It was unknown whether the UK could create something as upscale, extravagant and of a similar caliber. As oppose to Beijing’s £65m, London spent an estimated £27m on its opening festivities, which was about twice its original budget. Nevertheless, Britain came through and the opening ceremony proved a tremendous success. Directed by Danny Boyle, it was a kaleidoscope opener that showcased the pride, power and intricate history of British culture (from the ancient past, to rural Britain, the Industrial Revolution and so on) and, of course, the very best of British music. Bringing in some of the UK’s biggest musical guns for some killer performances, some of the brightest music moments from the Olympic past hail from the legendary 2012 London Summer Olympics.
The inclusion of the Arctic Monkeys for the London opening ceremony was certainly a no brainer. The Sheffield boys were global sensations, four albums deep and still getting bigger. Suck It and See was released a year prior to the games, however in their performance, the lads kept it classic and belted breakout, debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor.’ The frantic, up-beat track was swiftly followed by a rendition of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ – a refreshing showcase of the Brit boys’ musical talent and a solid tribute.
Sir Paul McCartney
Keeping it quintessentially British, there’s nothing like a Beatle – and no better capper selection for that matter – to close the show and further ignite the excitement of the games. Sir Paul delivered on all fronts despite a dubious lip synching hiccup. His band and him performed ‘The End’ and ‘Hey Jude, ’ providing the stadium with sonic pleasantries that evoked nothing but feel good vibes and a sense of worldwide togetherness. The night’s montage of classic British music throughout the ages was only further embraced with the Beatle star’s performance.
The 1996 Atlanta Games succumbed to a dramatic and emotional start. The lighting of torch by boxing legend Muhammad Ali revealed the early stages of what would be a long and difficult fight with Parkinson’s disease, and eight days into the games tragedy struck when a bomb exploded in the Centennial Olympic Park, killing two people and injuring a further 110. The ‘Centennial Summer Olympic Games’ recovered nonetheless, and made a lasting imprint on Atlanta. After weeks of athletic history and achievements for the books, the closing ceremony ended with a bang. The ceremony concluded with an all-star musical tribute featuring performers such as Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Trisha Yearwood, Sheila E., Faith Hill, Bon Jovi, and B.B. King.
A star-studded event in which many great artists shined, it was the illustrious Stevie Wonder that topped the celebrated Atlanta games. Wonder treated viewers with a treasured rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. His unique take featured plenty of his distinctive vocal runs, and was slightly more up-beat and playful in terms of instrumentals. Still sung with emotive demand, its reception was positive as expected. Similar to most concluding ceremonies, the athletes were invited onto the field below the stadium to sing and dance along to the music. Joining athletes and spectators together, Wonder only added to the harmonious atmosphere of the elaborate celebration.
London 2012 Closing Ceremony
The 2012 London closing ceremony comparatively held the same playful charm and massive line-up of British power-house acts. Boasting music from The Who, The Kinks’ Ray Davies and a plethora of other entertainers, the extinguishing of the Olympic flame was as alluring and over-the-top as expected. Even with its high-profile line-up London didn’t fully steer clear of all musical hiccups, and the closing ceremony acts received quite a bit of criticism.
Rather than an arguably preferred one-off Oasis reunion, the London Games organized a performance by Liam Gallagher’s rock band, Beady Eye. Beady Eye performed a cover of Oasis’ classic hit, ‘Wonderwall,’ and while spectators were happy to sing a long to the timeless tune, Gallagher gave a not so favorable performance. His singing was a bit sonically displeasing for the shear fact that his voice sounded quite pinched and nasally. It almost causes you to question whether a lip-syncing rendition would’ve produced a better result and performance.
‘Survival’ was deemed the official track of the 2012 summer games and was the first single from Muse’s sixth studio album. The track itself, received mixed reviews from fans and critics, however, lyrics aside, its soaring melodies and thunderous instrumentals probably aided in selecting the song as the official number of the games. Regardless, the English rockers’ gave a less than pleasant performance in the sense that it came off highly overly dramatic. Crashing drums, heavily over-done strumming and strained vocal movements made this a flop of an Olympic performance.