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The growing spectacle of the Olympic opening ceremonies

Fireworks explode next to the National Stadium, also known as the
Fireworks explode next to the National Stadium, also known as the "Bird's Nest", during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on August 8, 2008.

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The 2012 Olympics get underway tomorrow with opening ceremonies that start at 1pm California time. Along with the closing ceremonies, the inauguration of the Olympic Games is a gargantuan spectacle with much on the line for the host country when it comes to bragging rights.

The 2012 ceremony in London will feature a dedication by The Queen of England and the traditional lighting of the torch - along with speculation that celebrities like soccer star David Beckham, Paul McCartney and Mary Poppins will make appearances. The current James Bond, actor Daniel Craig, is slated to appear in a taped short film from Buckingham Palace. Director Danny Boyle and games chief Sebastian Coe promise a celebration befitting the nation of Britain. But this grandiose production wasn’t always the case.

The first opening ceremony took place in Athens in 1896 and didn’t feature the pyrotechnics of modern opening ceremonies. The torch relay that saw the flame begin in Greece and end at the ceremonies in the host city of Berlin, Germany began in 1936. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China set the bar pretty high with nearly 14,000 participants and an awe-inspiring show.


How big can the Olympics opening ceremony get? How have the opening ceremonies become another way for countries to compete?


Daniel Durbin, director of the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media and Society

Rich Sands, editor of TV Guide magazine