Culture Magazine

Top 10 Olympic Opening Ceremony Failures

By Pinkall @pinkall
The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games is among the world's largest theatrical and artistic events.  This live event inevitably contained some of high-stakes moments that ended up in failure.  Let's take a look at the top 10 failures in Olympic Ceremony history!
And if you're interested in further information, please visit for more history about the Olympic Ceremonies.

Some of these videos may require you to view them on youtube instead of this blog.
10.  Tokyo 1964 - Perfume Explosion
At the opening ceremony in Tokyo, the cauldron entered the stadium carried by a survivor born in Hiroshima on the day of the Atomic Bomb blast.  For many in the stadium and as described by athletes in attendance, the cauldron lighting would be far more memorable not as the climatic moment we see on television, but they described it as a "perfume explosion" and "gas attack" when ceremony organizers decided to mass disperse chrysanthemum perfume to coincide with the entrance of the torch.

9. Rio 2016 - Where have all the athletes gone?
The Rio Opening Ceremony in 2016 was smaller in scale than the several prior games, but one oddity occurred after the athletes entered.  Many abruptly left!  Without volunteers to keep athletes in the middle of the stadium floor, the extremely long parade of nations left many athletes bored and tired leaving around 2,000 of originally over 10,000 to watch the end of the ceremony.

8. Athens 2004 - Hydraulic Lift
Bjork performed at the 2004 opening ceremony in Athens during the Dove of Peace segment.  She was to be raised by an hydraulic lift several stories above the athletes on the field while her skirt extended over the entire field where a dove would be projected onto it.  The hydraulic lift failed leaving Bjork awkwardly drowning in a mass of white curtains.

7. Los Angeles 1984 - Swarm of Athletes
As the torch entered the stadium in the 1984 Opening Ceremony in Los Angeles, the athletes weren't surrounded by enough volunteers and they swarmed onto the track impeding the torchbearer, slowing her down to a walk as she tried to round the track.

 6. St. Moritz 1948 - Sexism
The official video of the 1948 Olympic Games in St. Moritz included a male narator and a female commentator.  The video is filled entirely with extremely sexists comments especially during the lighting of the cauldron.
On the entrance of the Norwegians:
Female: "Look, they're still wearing the old style of trousers!"
Male: "Trust a female to notice that!"
On the entrance of the Italians:
Female: comments on the "handsome boys"
Male: scolds her for the comments and concludes, "you're very embarrassing"
On the cauldron lighting:
Male: "...and the Olympic Fire blazes up!"
Female: "Well it's nothing more than a gas burner!"
Male: "That, my dear, is a symbol.  But who could expect women to have an understanding of abstract things."

5. Albertville 1992 - Premature Cauldron
In 1992, the cauldron lighting featured a strange anomaly.  It was accidentally lit remotely slightly before the flame reached the cauldron.

4. Sydney 2000 - Mechanical Cauldron
Near disaster hit in 2000, when the cauldron was lit in water, rose above the torch bearer and became stuck for several minutes until a worker hit a straining bar, freeing the cauldron to rise up above the stadium.

3. Sochi 2014 - Asterisk
A devastating moment to begin Russia's massive ceremony, one mechanical ring failed to open, leaving the look of an asterisk.  An auspicious symbol for the criticism surrounding the bribing and doping scandals which would see Russian athletes banned from future games.  On Russian TV, the rings were shown to work perfectly, using video from dress rehearsals.

2. Seoul 1988 - Burning Doves

In 1988, the Olympic cauldron was placed in an unusual spot, alongside the track.  Before the lighting, thousands of doves were released, and conveniently, the edge of the cauldron provided the perfect place for the birds to perch.  When the cauldron was lit, the birds lit up in flames flying into the stands, falling upon the athletes below, and subsequently, live doves were banned from use after 1992.

1. Vancouver 2010 - Cauldron Failure
The biggest failure in the history of the Olympic Opening Ceremony must be the cauldron lighting in 2010 in Vancouver.  The cauldron was to be formed by four arms hydraulically controlled and emerging from the ground - one of the arms did not cooperate.

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