For the first time, doves were released during an Olympic Games opening ceremony at Antwerp 1920. The image of one soldier for each country’s delegation releasing doves – a symbol of peace – was a striking visual representation of the role the Games hoped to play.
The success of this intention is reflected in the fact that this symbolic gesture has been replicated, in one format or another, at every Olympic opening ceremony since. Live doves were released at each Games until those held in Seoul in 1988, when a number of the flock were drawn to the Olympic cauldron and sadly perished. Since then, Organising Committees have avoided a repeat of the incident by choosing to emulate the tradition symbolically.
For example, 75 white-clad, winged cyclists completed a lap of London’s Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Opening Ceremony, while dancers interpreted the flight of the doves at the Olympic Games Sochi 2014.