WOW AND GOOSEBUMPS — The XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, are under way. (NBC is using the Italian “Torino” because it seems sexier.)
The Opening Ceremonies always sets the tone for an Olympics, and judging by this year’s opener, it should be a rousing emotional event that will lift the spirits of both visitors and athletes.
An Opening Ceremony should have two major elements I call “wows” and “goosebumps,” and Turin’s certainly did. The opening was a mutual love affair between Italians, known for their flair, and the audience.
THE WOWS: Three giant flat metal platforms with acrobats in shining gold costumes performing stunts as the platforms slowly raised high in the air to the accompaniment of a mystical music score. As the performers slid down ropes, the giant platforms turned upright to form fiery Olympic rings. They became a stunning background for the entire show.
Then there was the red Ferrari that sped into the arena and did a series of wild spins, spewing smoke as it etched the Olympic rings with streaks of black rubber onto the main stage.
Finally, against a giant black backdrop, 28 silver-clad acrobats hanging from ropes did a series of tricks, ending by forming themselves into a spectacular image of the dove of peace high above the stadium.
THE GOOSEBUMPS: With the entire stadium dark and with peace as its theme, Peter Gabriel and the Olympic Orchestra performed John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The audience and athletes sang along and waved in unison flashlights that looked like twinkling stars against the Turin sky.
The entrance of the Olympic torch and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron were spectacular. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Stefania Belmondo touched the flame to a wire that started a chain of reaction igniting two bands of fire that sped across the stadium floor, then up a 20-story tower to light the cauldron in a dazzling flash of fire. The torch ceremony always puts a lump in my throat.
And then the finale — and what a moment it was. A red velvet curtain surrounded the stage, with a giant chandelier in the center giving the illusion of an opera house. Enter Luciano Pavarotti. With his powerful voice passionately booming throughout the stadium, he performed aria “Nessun Dorma,” which brought down the house. The crowd rose to its feet, cheering and yelling “Bravo! Bravo!” as he extended his arms as if to embrace his audience. How great is that? An Italian, the world’s most celebrated tenor, opening the first Italian Olympics in nearly half a century.
If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, nothing will.
(Film and TV producer David L. Wolper was one of the seven men picked by Mayor Tom Bradley who successfully brought the 1984 Olympic Games to Los Angeles. He was vice chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and producer of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.)