Since the first Olympic games, held in Athens in 1896, the opening ceremony has grown in size and complexity into the dramatic, eye-popping and expensive show we know today.
During each Olympics, a part of the opening ceremony called the artistic program invites the host nation to showcase its culture through music, dance and even fireworks, according to the International Olympic Committee. Since the 1980 summer Olympics, held in Moscow, the opening ceremony has grown to feature everything from rocket men to live animals and the Queen of England parachuting out of a helicopter.
Host cities spend lavishly on these displays, outfitting thousands of performers in spectacular costumes. Suttirat Larlarb, the costume designer for 2012’s London Summer Olympics, spent two years creating costumes for the 10,000 performers. “I spend my day prepping and then we have these mass costume sittings in the evenings and on weekends,” she told TIME four years ago. “There are pretty much no days off.”
The details of the opening ceremony are kept secret until the day of the performance, so we won’t know what Rio has prepared until Friday’s event. This year, viewers at home with a Samsung Galaxy headset will be able to see the ceremony in virtual reality (VR) for the first time.
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