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28 Jul 1984
Los Angeles 1984

Hollywood fanfare welcomes world to Los Angeles

As one would expect from a city that contains the world’s showbusiness capital, the opening ceremony at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles lacked nothing for glitz, glamour and spectacle.

The Games organisers were determined not to let the Soviet-led boycott of the Games distract from making it the greatest show on earth and all the razzamatazz Hollywood could muster made it one of the more memorable opening ceremonies ever seen.

Disney were initially hired to provide the ultimate entertainment start to the sporting events but eventually it fell to a team of Hollywood veterans led by David Wolper to mastermind the curtainraiser.

After the torch relay had crossed 33 states following its arrival in New York City, over 92,000 people piled into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to watch the opening ceremony.

The show was packed with memorable moments; from the Rocketman propelling himself high over the crowd using a NASA-deigned jet-pack and perfectly hitting his landing spot to the 85 grand pianos playing in harmony for the show’s bigger set-pieces.

The United States had become the first country to stage the Games for a third time when the IOC elected it as its 1984 host and the opening ceremony was a marker for the rest of the event; huge exuberance, animated American crowds and immense homegrown pride.

Film composer John Williams unleashed his now famous Olympic Theme before planes filled the sky to mark out the word ‘Welcome’ to the watching crowd and world.

The best of American music was on show with Etta James singing the Star Spangled Banner to the flotilla of pianos playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

After the parade of nations, the Games were officially opened by President Ronald Reagan before the Olympic cauldron was lit.

Another first for Los Angeles was that the same cauldron was used from the 1932 ceremony as former decathlon champion Rafer Johnson was accorded the honour of lighting the Olympic flame, all to the tune of The Olympian by composer Philip Glass.

While Carl Lewis and the Mary Decker fall stole the headlines in the field of competition, the curtainraiser in Los Angeles left an indelible mark and was the standard for which all future opening ceremonies would strive.

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