The opening ceremony of the summer Olympics is in my opinion if not that of any other person; one of the greatest spectacles on earth as it is one nation demonstrating through a city all that its culture has to offer that distinguishes it from any other. Dances, music, customs delight spectators both present at the place of the events and those who are receiving the image on their TV sets or perhaps computer screens.
The World Cup also has an opening ceremony and though football perhaps is the greatest sport on earth the ceremony of the World Cup does not even begin to match that of the Olympic Games. It was during my stay in Argentina in 1992 that I really noticed for the first time why so many individuals from all over the world; from all walks of life from the very affluent to world leader to the average man (or woman) make it such a priority to be present at this ceremony which if one really gives thought to the matter does nothing but give start to a sporting event. Yet, it does so in a way that is breath taking as it combines the best of what every country has to offer in to one arena; leaving no room for what is not harmony of nations.
Barcelona; for my part was the first time I ever witnessed this ceremony which has so much to offer in the way of passion of mostly though not exclusively the hosting nation as to make one see with one’s own eyes that it is really one big world after all.
While writing this article I am reminded of a conversation I had with a man from Barcelona whom I asked in my thirst to learn more of the world if he considered himself to be from Spain or Catalonia; this being a question which at first surprised him, made him say that my question was not such an easy one to reply to. He even asking me what I felt about the issue which I replied that I did not know enough facts regarding the matter to form any kind of what I would call “educated opinion” but I was willing to listen to the issue as I had heard many people from his region claiming to not be Spaniards but Catalonians. I even remarking that it seemed different to me than what I was used as I did not know of anybody from New York who when asked if he was American would respond in the negative that he was a New Yorker instead.
Perhaps it was my answer that made him feel my question to be one of curiosity rather than judgment that made him reply that his nationality was the Spanish one though he did feel that his culture was different. Him giving the example of how bullfighting was not a sport which was practiced in his region of Spain with him claiming that to its credit did not even have a ring for such a purpose. I naturally had to confess to my ignorance with regards to this fact though not to the one that the language of Catalonia was just that and not a dialect of Spanish as some might mistakenly think.
Like all other Olympic ceremonies the one in Barcelona also displayed folk dances of the region performed by equally colorfully attired dancers who in a tour de force made those present weather it be via their attendance at the “Neu Camp” or television as was the case with myself who was watching it from Buenos Aires, feel what it was like to be from that area of Spain called Catalonia. The Barcelona inaugural ceremony however I must confess was special to me not only for the above given reason but simply because my idol “Placido Domingo” performed along with the voice of Catalonia Jose Carreras in a soiree that included Zarzuela and some opera arias that to my mind set the night a blaze with passions of highest nature. Unfortunately or perhaps not the Spanish apparently wanted to keep this night foreigner free with regards to those who performed which might have been the reason why Pavarotti was left out of what would have been a reunion of the “3 Tenors”.
The concert was truly dazzling as how else would it be when you get Domingo and Carreras singing together; not wanting to leave out Monserrat Caballe performing the Olympic song. This being a number she most likely would have performed with Farrokh Bulsara (AKA Freddy Mercury) had it not been for his death which took place the year before the Olympics. The concert put on by those amazing singers was one of the most memorable moments of my life but the day or evening in this case was not theirs but of those athletes who marched in that stadium. All of which representing their countries by carrying its flag along with the garments they wore; some of which were typical of their country and culture; while some were simply nicely designed. It was as if every country had something in its presentation that was unique while at the same time sharing something that made one see that they also had many of the same ideas which on that day came to together to show that in spite of ours being a world divided by many countries, it is still just one world.
I recall seeing the nations of Africa with their traditional decorative costumes, while most of the European nations wore suits as did those of the Americas though with regards to the Asians they well at least some of them put on the wears of their ancestors. This parade of nations to me was one of the finest moments of the opening ceremony as it is in every Olympic games and though there are some who wish to cut it out of the program as it is time consuming; I would urge them not to do so because it is then that we observe that the Olympic games is really about bringing nations and their peoples together more than it is about winning medals of one kind or another.
In all this however there was another moment I will never forget which though short in its time span will probably last a lifetime in most of those who bore witnessed to it. What I have in mind can be no other than when the Olympic flame was about to be ignited. Usually this moment I must say had always been slightly anticlimactic as it basically involved one person (a man or a woman) placing a torch on top of a round plate which would turn on the Olympic flame. This was the tradition which I had become quit familiar with but on that occasion the Catalonians went outside the norm when rather than do the conventional thing they put the flame on an arrow which was shot from the bow of a Spanish archer; who fired this arrow set aflame through the night’s air on to the target which was where the Olympic flame would burn through out the time that would be the games. The sight was spectacular in its simplicity and even romance as all one could see was fire gliding through the air as if carrying the hopes of not only a nation but that of the world that the aim of he who had shot be true. Speechless was my reaction at first as it had really caught me of my guard to see something of the sort; specially since I was expecting something completely different however as is the case with ideas that are simply brilliant; it would be followed by other nations who also strived to be original as were the Catalonians on that day.