The philosophy and ceremonial aspects which surround the Olympic Games distinguish them from all other international sports events. Through music, song, dance and fireworks, the opening and closing ceremonies invite people to discover the culture of the country in which the Games are taking place.
In addition to these celebrations, there are some very precise rituals at the ceremonies. It was at the 1920 Games in Antwerp that most of this protocol was put in place. It has been developed over subsequent editions of the Games.
Today, Rule 55 of the Olympic Charter specifies some of the protocol that has to be followed during the ceremonies and the words used by the head of state of the host country to open the Games. The other main points of the opening ceremony are:
- The entrance of the host country head of state
- The national anthem of the host country
- The parade by the participants
- The symbolic release of doves
- The opening of the Games by the host country head of state
- The Olympic anthem, played as the Olympic flag is brought into the stadium and hoisted
- The Olympic oath taken by an athlete, a judge and a coach
- The final leg of the Olympic torch relay and the lighting of the cauldron
- The artistic programme