The Opening Ceremony – Trees, Lederhosen & Giant Footballs

(Posted on 14/06/18)

It’s the pinnacle of your career the icing on the cake if you will, and now it’s arrived, the FIFA World Cup.

 

Great goals will be scored and legends will be made and it all starts today, but first is an occasion that’s got all the glitz and glamour associated with football’s American sporting counterpart, it’s the opening ceremony.

 

Over the years the humble curtain raiser has gone from a quiet affair of national pride and showcasing heritage, to a sponsored fuelled minefield of fireworks, popstars and Pepsi adverts.

 

In the 1960’s and early 70’s the ceremony consisted of children in their national shirt holding flags, and that’s about it. But from 1974 when West Germany added a spectacular exploding football to the event, it’s been all uphill – or downhill depending on your stance – ever since.

 

Typically of the 1980’s the scene spiralled. Music, dance and one or two banned substances really hit the heights, whether or not those things and the opening spectacle had any link you’d have to ask around, try Diego Maradona. But In Mexico 86 the game saw significant change, exotic dance and letting it all out, it was still a celebration of heritage but it had lots more, however, it would have nothing on four years later.

 

Italia 90 is favoured by most who saw it as the greatest World Cup of them all. It was a time where music and fashion became a focus point in mainstream football. No more Bovril and flat caps, it was time for mullets and some of the greatest kits ever seen, this was Italy after all. From the Germans tri-coloured masterpiece to Gazza’s famous Umbro shirt with Three Lions on the front and famous number 19 on the back. As the opener began our screens were full of girls pulled straight off the catwalk and men wearing full lycra body suits, to this day we still don’t understand why

 

As the momentum built and built towards where we all knew it was heading, if Italia 90 was weird, then four years later it was outright bonkers.

 

Eyebrows were raised when the 1994 World Cup was handed to the USA. Those in Europe weren’t best pleased, I mean come on, they call it soccer!

 

In an ironic twist they managed to pull off one of the most fondly remembered tournaments, but it was unique for being perhaps the most watched and repeated opening night ever seen. Just one name needs to be mentioned and for millions of football fans they think of USA 94, Diana Ross.

 

It was always going to be incredible, the ‘parade of nations’ took place in the blazing heat of Chicago right ahead of the opening match between Germany and Mexico. As America pulled out all the stops, bringing out pop diva Diana to sink us into a month of pulsating football, all was going well. You see, the Americans live and die by the sword. It’s a land where the show must quite literally go on. You can picture the meeting now, can’t you? ‘Diana, what you’re going to do for us doll is run up to the 12-yard zone and put that soccer ball right past the dfence and then it’s going to explode right before the crowd, they’re going to go wild for it, sound good? Awesome, latte?’. It went well for a bit, then she toepoked it wide from literally a few yards out like Emile Heskey in an England shirt, but the goal on cue explodes, crowd goes wild, latte’s all round. Ironically that World Cup ended with yet another superstars missing a penalty, only this time it was Roberto Baggio handing the World Cup to Brazil after dragging his side to the final, damn you Diana.

 

France 98, honestly, I’ve literally no idea what to say. A load of toxic waste ridden cockerels run around playing basketball for some reason, some of which were on MASSIVE stilts. All whilst surrounded by about 100 grown men dressed as cabbage run around confused before releasing a green sheet with flowers springing out of it which in turn release some footballs. If you haven’t seen this, you’re missing the worst thing to happen to football since the appointment of Sepp Blatter, it’s unreal.

 

In 2002 we moved on to the first Asian World Cup, where we’d see the first ‘arena spectacular’ as it were. Weird costumes and impressive lighting did Korea/Japan justice, nothing too embarrassing although the mascots will haunt my dreams for a while.

 

Germany 2006 can be summed up in a word, lederhosen. There was a lot of it and it brought back the traditional feel of the ceremony. They danced around, banged their drums, roped in a modern German band and left. It was simply put the best of German efficiency. Quite the opposite to 2010.

 

South Africa was a mammoth occasion for the FIFA World Cup and for football. An often-overshadowed continent in world football who’d finally have their turn.

 

When they finally drew back the curtain and greeted the world it was with colour, non-stop music and not just national but continental pride. The song of the tournament was fought over between K’naan, a Somalian artist and the song ‘Wavin flag’ which you couldn’t get away from for weeks, which might have something to do with it’s backing from Coca-Cola, and Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’. Shakira, a Colombian, was the pin-up for music at the tournament, but it’s not like South Americans to take the limelight at the World Cup, is it?.

 

But to be fair to her, that song was everywhere and her husband Gerard Pique won the tournament with Spain a month later which isn’t a bad few weeks. The ceremony had a full on stage constructed for both artists to perform and all round is was probably one of the, if not, the best.

 

Last time out before the big kick-off in Russia we had Brazil. The kings of the World Cup and favourites to win it in their own nation, before being pumped 7-1 by Ze Germans anyway. It was almost like a throwback to 98, drama graduates dressed as giant trees and flowers whilst regretting every decision they’ve ever made stood on a colourful surface, although this time it actually made sense when based on the Amazon. It was all done round a huge luminous ball which opened up and saw pop stars Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull pop out to perform the official song of the competition. Pioneering stuff.

 

Now it’s Russian turn, they’ve never hosted it before and it’s an opportunity to do something different. At times of such political upheaval so expect to see some painted on smiles during what is a tournament they’ve billed as ‘for everyone’. It’s cheesy, it’s often terrible but we love it, it’s the indicator that it’s all began. The madness of a World Cup couldn’t begin any other way whether it’s dancing trees or lederhosen, or a dancing tree dressed in lederhosen! We can’t wait to see what’s in store and we can’t wait for the big kick off!

 

Here’s to the next month…

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