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04th Jun 2018

The most memorable opening ceremonies revisited

Here are some of the best, but mostly the worst, opening ceremonies ever

Kyle Picknell

Brought to you by YouTube.

There’s nothing like an overlong preamble to drain you of your excitement. Opening ceremonies have an impossible task. We don’t always watch them and when we do we’re overly critical and impatient because we just want the real show to start. Jack Whitehall: Training Days is going to solve this eternal predicament once and for all with their own, alternative, opening ceremony the evening before the tournament kicks off proper.

It will be airing live on YouTube on Wednesday 13th at 7pm and with that in mind, these are some of the most memorable opening ceremonies of all time. Would they compare to Big Narstie giving us a deep tactical breakdown on the intricacies of Poland versus Colombia or Maya Jama and guests juggling footballs like their lives depended on it?

Probably not. But here they are anyway.

1994 USA

This was actually really good to be honest with you. Well into this, actually, as Diana Ross, adorned in an elegant red blazer/trouser combo, gets the Chicago crowd completely hyped as she hops, skips and jumps her way through the stadium to take a penalty.

In typical England-in-the-Quarter-Finals fashion she completely scuffs the spot-kick, spooning it horribly, toe punting it wide and then has to run up onstage to sing ‘I’m Coming Out’ with all the enthusiasm of a cat watching a dog chase after a tennis ball.

It was terrific, it really was.

Brazil 2014

Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad. Pitbull was there, singing the terrible ‘We Are One (Ole Ola)’ rather than just covering the greatest football song of all time, ‘Wavin’ Flag’ by K’Naan from the previous tournament. Not only was he there, as if his actual physical presence wasn’t enough, but he was wearing one of those horrible counterfeit shirts you see at the market stalls when you’re on holiday AND NOT ONLY THAT, he decided to match them with some glistening white trousers tucked up to his podgy little belly button. Again, bad.

Hey, at least the seemingly ageless Jennifer Lopez was there looking all glittery and dancing and stuff.

2012 Olympics – Great Britain

The 2012 opening ceremony, speculatively titled Isles of Wonder and orchestrated by Danny Boyle, had its moments, good and bad. The Queen and James Bond, two of our most famous fictional characters accompanying each other to the games in a fancy little video? Bad. Current day Muse and not early 2000s Muse performing live? Bad. The Spice Girls reforming? Good or bad. I can’t tell. I have no idea. I have no feelings either way.

Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean pissing about on camera because apparently the London Symphony Orchestra are just too dull for all the people at home?

Extremely good. This, right here, is our Olympic legacy and I will not hear otherwise:

2014 Winter Olympics – Sochi, Russia

This one is a personal favourite of mine, and it has nothing to do with the opening ceremony itself or even the lightbulb failure that meant one of the rings didn’t light up to form the proper Olympic symbol.

No, this is about the excuse made. This one comes down to Konstantin Ernst, the producer of the event, who defended the technical mishap with the following statement:

“Among the five rings, one of them didn’t open. And you know, Zen Buddhists have an idea: if you have a perfectly polished ball, you must then leave a scratch. So you have an idea of how perfectly it was polished.”

As excuses go, this is phenomenal. This is the creme de la creme. It is basically ‘yeah we messed up, but we only messed up so you could see how amazing everything else was, duh, you idiots, you absolute imbeciles’ and for that, I give Mr Ernst a standing ovation. Sitting down. Silently.

England – 1966

Back to a simpler time now, when the opening ceremony literally only consisted of a bunch of schoolboys dressed up in the various kits of the competing nations whilst sheepishly holding up a little hand-painted sign detailing exactly which country it was, as presumably about 80% of them played in red at the time.

You could tell there was no expense spared as the N.Korea schoolboys strutted out onto the historic Wembley pitch, leaving 82,000 people squinting and confused trying to work out exactly what team it was.

Why did this make the list? Because we won the damn thing. That’s why. Don’t ask silly questions.

South Korea and Japan 2002

Not the opening ceremony exactly but worthy of inclusion through the sheer magnitude of the occasion. Senegal’s shock 1-0 win over reigning champions France in the opening game of  2002 was the very best start to any major competitive event in the history of the world. Do not @ me, do not send me emails, and do not, whatever you do, underestimate Papa Bouba Diop, the man they call ‘The Wardrobe’, scoring the best worst goal in history and taking former Premier Leauge winning centre midfield duo Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit back to school for a lesson in woodwork.

Also, to note: El Hadji Diouf was weirdly good in this game. He played upfront on his own, with only a bunch of lumbering defensive midfielders behind him (with the exception of the unbridled dynamism of  The Wardrobe), and turned in his best Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima impression for 90 minutes.

If this has whetted your apetite for the giddy delirium of an opening ceremony done right, or perhaps done completely wrong, be sure to tune in as Jack Whitehall takes on this summer’s tournament for a live special.

To Russia 2018 all I say is: More. Of. This. Please. More of it. As much as possible. Thank you.

Watch Jack Whitehall: Training Days exclusively on YouTube.