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A brief history of Olympic opening ceremony mishaps

The Olympics opening ceremonies always have high hopes but there is plenty of room for error.

The Olympics are supposed to represent the shared values of humanity, and each host city tries to capture that spirit in the opening ceremony. But humanity’s true common trait—abject failure—occasionally pokes its head into the festivities.

At an event the scale of the Olympics, mistakes are going to be particularly glaring. But why cut the Olympic committees any slack when we could revel in their public failures instead?

Here’s a look at four opening ceremony fails that show the best of human error. 

Seoul Serves Fried Dove

This is pretty much as bad as an opening ceremony failure can get. In 1988, Seoul released a flock of beautiful white doves to symbolize peace during the games' opening event. Unfortunately, those hopes for world peace immediately took a big hit when several of the birds landed on the Olympic cauldron right as it was being lit, sending the avian symbols up in smoke.

Hydraulics Will Let You Down

The Vancouver opening ceremony featured what should have been a four-person cauldron lighting, including basketball player Steve Nash, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, Paralympic athlete Rick Hansen and speedskater Catriona LeMay Doan. However, a hydraulic malfunction kept LeMay Doan stuck holding a torch with nothing to light while her Canadian counterparts got the games started.

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Beijing Will Not Tolerate “Not Suitable” Faces


The Chinese Olympic Committee had big plans for its opening ceremony, originally contracting Steven Spielberg to oversee the affair. The megastar director dropped out over concerns about China’s not-so-great human rights record, and while the end product was an amazing spectacle, the performance of the Chinese national anthem created some controversy. The adorable 9-year-old Lin Miaoke appeared to belt out “Ode to the Motherland,” but shortly after the spectacle ended it was revealed she was actually lip–syncing along with the performance of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, whose face was found to be “not suitable” for television, according to The Washington Post.

Russia Needs More Rings

Russia ran into a little hiccup at the Sochi premier when a display that was supposed to show five stars expanding into the Olympic rings ended up looking like four rings with an asterisk next to it.

The former Soviet state had some fun with the mishap at the closing ceremony with some clever choreography.


The Rio 2016 opening ceremony will take place on Friday night.