Moscow, 1980Russian dancers perform a folkloric dance with a human mosaic depicting birds in the background.
Moscow, 1980Russian dancers perform a folkloric dance with a human mosaic depicting birds in the background.Comitè International Olympique (CIO)
Moscow, 1980Russian dancers perform a folkloric dance with a human mosaic depicting birds in the background.
Moscow, 1980Women dressed in Greek costumes form a procession in front of a human mosaic depicting the Kremlin.
Los Angeles, 1984Bill Suitor hovers over the stadium by means of the Bell Aerosystems rocket pack.
Los Angeles, 1984Actors perform the show, "Pioneer Spirit".
Seoul 1988 OG, Opening ceremony - Performers waiting.
94th IOC Session, Seoul, 1988 - Opening ceremony, a dance.
Flamenco dancer Cristina Hoyos rides a horse 25 Ju
Performers train for the opening ceremony of the B
Atlanta 1996 OG, Opening Ceremony - The show, children in white costume.
Atlanta 1996 OG, Opening Ceremony - The show.
Sydney, 2000Performers dressed as pink petals step into formation to represent some of Australia's indigenous flowers.
Sydney, 2000A segment entitled "Awakening" celebrates Australia's aboriginal history.
Athens, 2004This opening ceremony presented Greece through a progression of performers dressed to represent different periods in Greek art.
Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony
Beijing, 2008Widely regarded to be the most spectacular opening ceremony, Beijing's performance was directed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou and focused on ancient Chinese culture and creativity.
Beijing 2008 OG, Opening ceremony - The show, "Glorious Era".
London 2012 OG, Opening Ceremony - The show, "frankie & june say... Thanks Tim".
London, 2012Women dressed in ornate suits during a rehearsal for "Isle of Wonder".
Moscow, 1980Russian dancers perform a folkloric dance with a human mosaic depicting birds in the background.
Comitè International Olympique (CIO)
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See Spectacular Costumes From Past Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies

Aug 04, 2016

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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