8 memorable Olympic opening ceremonies

As London gears up to launch the 2012 Olympics, CBC News looks back at some memorable opening ceremonies, from controversy in 1908 to Muhammad Ali's lighting of the flame in Atlanta in 1996.

Pageantry, controversy, emotion staples of Games opener

Fireworks are set off over the National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/AP)

As London gears up to launch the 2012 Olympics, CBC News looks back at some memorable Summer Olympics opening ceremonies, from controversy in 1908 to Beijing's massive production in 2008.

London 1908

American athletes marching around White City Stadium, at the 1908 London Olympics. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The first Olympics that London hosted courted controversy right from the opening ceremony. While flags of most competing countries flew around White City Stadium, organizers neglected to include the flags of Sweden and the United States.

In protest, the Swedish athletes refused to participate in the ceremony at all. While the Americans did march in the parade of nations, flag-bearer Ralph Rose broke with protocol and refused to dip the U.S. flag to the Royal Family sitting in their designated spectator box.

Berlin 1936

The last Olympic runner reaches Lustgarten in Berlin at the 1936 Olympics. (Fox Photos/Getty Images )

The opening ceremony to "Hitler's Olympics" was a spectacle of pageantry in the style of a Nazi rally. Fans greeted the parading athletes with the Nazi salute as the airship Hindenburg passed overhead.

The 1936 Games also marked the debut of the torch relay and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the ceremonies.

Tokyo 1964

Yoshinori Sakai carries the torch up the stairs to light the cauldron at the National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. (Keystone/Getty Images)

In an effort to show the country's progress since the end of the Second World War, organizers selected Yoshinori Sakai to light the Olympic Flame.

Sakai — dubbed the "Hiroshima Baby" — was born on Aug. 6, 1945: the same day the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.

Los Angeles 1984

Bill Suitor donned a jetpack and astronaut costume for the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles (Tony Duffy/Getty)

The opening ceremony in L.A. featured Etta James performing the national anthem.

But the spectacle is most remembered for Bill Suitor's jetpack-powered arrival to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Seoul 1988

The 29 degree heat ensured that the 1988 Seoul Olympics was the last to hold its opening ceremony in the day time. (Joe Patronite/Getty)

The opening ceremony in Seoul is best remembered for one of the most notable gaffes in the history of the spectacle.

Organizers released a flock of doves as a symbol of peace, but did so before lighting the Olympic Cauldron. As a result, when the flame was lit, a number of the birds roosting on the structure were burned alive.

Barcelona 1992

A time exposure shows the path of the arrow lighting the Olympic flame after being shot by an archer during the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympics (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)

Paralympic archer Antonio Rebello lit the Olympic Flame with an arrow fired over the crowd and into the Cauldron.

Later, it was revealed that organizers told Rebello to shoot the arrow over the target, a safety precaution lest he undershoot the target and launch an arrow into the stands of a packed Barcelona Stadium.

Atlanta 1996

Muhammad Ali's lighting of the flame at the 1996 Games in Atlanta remains one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history. (Michael Probst/AP)

In what many regard as one of the most emotional moments from any Olympics, former gold medal winner Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic Torch despite visibly shaking due to the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease.

Beijing 2008

China's flamboyant Olympics opening ceremony lost some of its lustre after it was revealed that nine-year-old Lin Miaoke ad lipped-synched her performance (Zhou Liang/Xinhua/Associated Press)

Although widely praised as the most spectacular in Olympic history, the opening ceremony at the 2008 Games was marked by controversy.

After the ceremony, it was revealed that nine-year-old singer Lin Maoke had mimed her performance on the instructions of the governing Communist Party.

Officials judged seven-year-old Yang Peiyi to be a superior singer, but not as photogenic.