This August marks the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was a memorable Games–the first in Spain, the first boycott-free since 1972. The world had changed dramatically in the last four years, with the end of both the Cold War in Eastern Europe and apartheid in South Africa. The breakup of the Soviet Union saw Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania competing independently for the first time in decades. Germany’s teams were reunified. Other former Soviet republics banded together as a “Unified Team.” Due to the conflict in Yugoslavia, the IOC banned that country but allowed its individual athletes to compete.
Barcelona was also the debut of the Dream Team, the first time professional basketball players were allowed to compete, meaning that the U.S. mopped the floor with the competition. Other debuts in medal sports were baseball (now off the program, but re-added for Tokyo 2020), badminton and judo. Exhibition sports were taekwondo (now a medal sport), roller hockey and Basque pelota.
But Barcelona 1992 stands out also because of its amazing Opening Ceremony, in particular, the most innovative torch lighting yet–and arguably the best. Have a look:
Now to celebrate the 25th anniversary, you can carry the Barcelona torch on the Olympic Channel’s game, You Can’t Torch This. It’s a Frogger-like game to get the torch to its final destination. Can you do it in 60 seconds?
The Opening Ceremony’s full of pomp and circumstance, probably the most impressive of which is the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. After a long journey from Greece and around the host nation, the Flame gets transferred to some type of cauldron and is the visible reminder to the whole city that the Olympics are on.
Since the Flame’s one of the biggest Olympic symbols, the lighting of the cauldron’s taken on a pretty big air of mystique–and the person who lights it is generally one of the best-kept secrets of the Opening Ceremonies.
The other big secret (and show) is how the cauldron will be lit. Arguably the best-ever lighting method was in Barcelona 1992. Barcelona’s cauldron was atop the stadium so that the Flame was visible from afar. This isn’t always the case–sometimes the Flame is on display at ground level around the central Olympic area. Personally, although those cauldrons have been pretty cool, I still think there’s something a little more magical about the stadium-topping cauldron that you can see from far away.
Anyway, here’s how Barcelona stunned the world:
Can you imagine how many ways that could’ve gone wrong? And what would’ve happened if it did? But no! It was pretty darned amazing.
Here’s the story behind one of the most difficult ways to light the flame:
It’s the day we’ve been waiting for–the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, the night when South America officially joins the list of continents that have hosted the Games.
We’re excited for pageantry; we’re excited for traditions and rituals; we’re excited about the Carnival aspect we’ll hopefully be seeing. It should be a fun Opening Ceremony–perhaps not the same as bottomless-wallet Beijing, but hopefully better than that wacky pickup truck crap from Atlanta.
The big show tonight will have a lot of exciting things, but one of the best elements is who will light the Olympic Flame?
This has traditionally been a mystery–and done well, it can be super-powerful, like at Atlanta (wacky pickups aside, this was one of the best moments of any Opening Ceremonies, and…wait a sec….I’ve got to find a Kleenex).
But in Rio, could the cat already be out of the bag? The choice for the Flame lighter is somewhat obvious–you can’t do any better than Pelé, the greatest football player of all time (though not an Olympian). But dude said a couple days ago that he was asked but had some sponsor thing going on and might not be around. Then the story is that he’s not in great health.
Which is sad, but dude. Dude! Let’s get some treatment for that running of the mouth disease you’ve got going on there. Keeping this part a secret is part of the fun. Maybe a first-time host continent doesn’t get that, but still. Let’s keep it special.
We’ll see tonight what happens. Are you ready? What party plans have you got going on? Share photos and thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll share pics of our celebration as well. Time to samba on out of here and finish prepping. Enjoy the show, everyone!