I have seen so many memorable Winter Olympics opening ceremonies - on television, that is. As I recall them (and re-watch them on my videos) they are:
1964: Innnsbruck, Austria. Black and white television. Absolutely nothing was telecast live in those days, and sometimes we saw events a day or two after the fact. The opening ceremonies were simple, and the march of athletes was impressive as always.
1968: Grenoble, France. Finally, color television! ABC-TV had a brief interview with Peggy Fleming prior to the start of the opening ceremonies. She and her American teammates were dressed in outfits that spoke volumes of the 1960's -- sort of a mild version of mini skirts, boots, and coats for the women, and rather nondescriptive outfits for the men.
1972: Sapporo, Japan. The opening ceremonies were held in the outdoor speed skating oval, and a Japanese skater glided around the rink with the Olympic torch in hand. I only saw a small portion of the ceremonies, as I was living away from home at that time and did not have access to television. And of course, those were the pre-Internet days, so we did not have the instant access to the news that we have today.
1976: Innsbruck, Austria. The opening ceremonies were simple and featured local Austrians in costumes, music, and dancing. The US team was shown parading into the outdoor stadium that was used for the ski jumping events. Dorothy Hamill, wearing her glasses, was shown marching in.
1980: Lake Placid, New York. Finally, live television coverage!! The opening ceremonies were, again, low-keyed, and had a sort of down-home touch to them. A group of skaters from the local area skated around the outdoor rink, balloons were set up, and Mayor of Innsbruck presented the Olympic flag to the Mayor of Lake Placid, Vice President Mondale was in attendance, and the US team was led into the parade area by Scott Hamilton. I recall the commentators focused on the US figure skaters. Jim McKay said he thought Linda Fratianne "a lovely girl from California", had an almost-frightened look when she entered with her teammates. David Santee, Charlie Tickner, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner and the rest of the US skaters were noted in the crowd.
1984: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Very colorful, impressive opening ceremony - full of local dancers and performers. I recall that Christopher Dean carried the Union Jack to lead the team from Great Britain. The American figure skaters were pointed out in the crowd, especially World champions Scott Hamilton and Rosalyn Sumners, both of whom were favored to win gold medals.
The stadium was packed, and the crowd was very warm and applauded all of the teams with a lot of enthusiasm. When the Yugoslavian team entered, everyone erupted in a loud, noisy ovation. Very nice.
1988: Calgary, Canada. Oh, Canada! What a great opening ceremony -- plenty of Western flavor with horses, wagons, show riding, roping, and that wonderful "Catch the Spirit" theme song. A cast of several thousand citizens from Calagary and its environs had practiced their dance routines for months, and they put on a wonderfully impressive and entertaining show. The team parade was ablaze with color. The American team wore blue coats, white hats, and everyone carried a small flag. The Canadian team wore those cool red coats with white shoulder fringe and white cowboy hats. Let the Games begin!!
1992: Albertville, France. The great Jean-Claude Killy, triple gold medalist in alpine skiing from 1968, was one of the committee who had organized the games. He was interviewed prior to the opening ceremonies. What a hunk, and what a nice gentleman! There were interviews with a clownish Christopher Bowman, and with Paul Wylie and Kristi Yamaguchi prior to the parade of athletes. Cool! And after the games had been officially begun, a terrific circus-like performance was put on - typically French and somewhat offbeat but really, really entertaining to watch.
1994: Lillehammer, Norway. Would Nancy and Tonya parade in together? Of course not - Nancy Kerrigan did not appear, and Tonya Harding was still in Oregon at the time of the opening ceremonies. The show put on by the locals was simple, sweet, and downright homey. The King and Queen of Norway entered the stadium on a sleigh drawn by horses, after which they got off and sat with the rest of the people. No posse of body guards for them. It appeared to be absolutely frigid cold, but the huge, SRO crowd seemed to have a glorious time. It was very touching when they sang their national anthem.
1998: Nagano, Japan. Terrific Japanese show! Suma wrestlers, music, dancing, etc. The "snow children" who accompanied each of the teams were absolutely charming. A group of these little girls were interviewed prior to the opening ceremony. They told the reporters that they had studied each country they would be "leading" into the Olympic stadium, and the little girl who led the US team said she thought the US had many famous people and was a very impressive country. When asked who her favorite athlete was, she said, 'Tara Lipinski'. Tara walked into the stadium with her teammates, with a transmittor which she used to speak with the broadcasters. Tara said she was "thrilled" to be a the Olympics, and she clearly showed that emotion.
2002: Salt Lake City, Utah. GREAT SHOW!!! The opening portion featured a skater who carried a flag representing each of the countries that had hosted Winter Olympics, starting back with 1924 in Chamonix, when separate Winter Olympic Games were first held. Each skater wore a costume representative of the era and host city.
As an American, I was very moved to see one of the flags that had been recovered from the destroyed World Trade Center brought into the arena with an honor guard of US athletes, including Todd Eldredge. The talented New York policeman who had sung "God Bless American" numerous times in the wake of 9/11 sung this beautiful piece at SLC. President George Bush welcomed the enormous crowd into the stadium. As reflective of the times, the President and Mrs. Bush sat behind a bullet-proof protected screen, and they were surrounded by Secret Service agents.
The "show" contained a variety of snapshots of life in the American West. Frankly, I thought that part of the opening ceremony was a bit overdone, but it was presented with a lot of style and enthusiasm.
Kristi Yamaguchi came out and skated at the end of the ceremony. When she finished her program, she faced the athletes, who were now all assembled, and she mouthed, "Good Luck!" to all of them.
All of the teams received wonderful applause. When the Americans entered the arena, the noise was incredible.
Dorothy Hamill and Dick Button were two of the Olympic torch carriers, and they entered the stadium with the torch. They passed it off to Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton, who skated around the rink and passed it on to the next athletes. Eventually, the cauldron was lit by Mike Erizone, the captain of the 1980 US gold medal hockey team.
Wonderful, wonderful memories!!