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Get ready to watch the Opening Ceremony: Olympic flag and anthem

1976 Montreal Opening Ceremony Olympic flag
© 1976 / Comité International Olympique (CIO)

Get ready to watch the Opening Ceremony: Olympic flag and anthem

A symbol of unity, the Olympic flag is carried into the Opening Ceremony by individuals who have made a positive impact upon humanity.

The Olympic flag made its first appearance at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games.



1920 Antwerp Olympic Games Olympic flag

In 1920, the Olympic flag made its Opening Ceremony debut in Antwerp, Belgium. Credit: (C) 1920 / Comite International Olympique (CIO)

The song heard as the Olympic flag is raised is an anthem composed by Spiros Samaras which was first performed at the 1896 Games. Although not generally used, the song does have lyrics, written by Kostis Palamas.

The Olympic flag enters the Opening Ceremony horizontally, carried by eight people specifically selected for their contributions to humanity.  During the 2012 London Opening Ceremony a ninth flag bearer was named to those bestowed the honor, which included a unifying musician (Daniel Barenboim), a Nobel peace prize laureate (Leymah Gbowee), a humanitarian who saved hundreds of lives (Sally Becker), a civil liberties advocate (Shami Chakrabarti), a former heavyweight champion of the world (Muhammad Ali), an Olympic double-gold medalist (Haile Gebrselassie), a mother whose son was murdered because of his race (Doreen Lawrence), the Secretary-General of the United Nations (Ban Ki-moon), and a Brazilian environmentalist and politician (Maria Silva). 



Muhammad Ali Olympic flag bearer at the 2012 London Opening Ceremony

Muhammad Ali served as the 9th Olympic flag bearer at the 2012 London Opening Ceremony. Credit: 2012 Getty Images

Athletes competing independently have marched together under the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremony. Reportedly, more than 40 migrant athletes from the refugee camps of Europe, who fled their homes due to war or persecution, will march in Rio's Opening Ceremony under the Olympic flag ahead of host nation Brazil - bringing the sociopolitical crisis to the world's attention.

Get ready to watch the Opening Ceremony

Click the options below for more details:

Olympic flame | Final torch bearer | Parade of nations

Athlete uniforms | Artistic program | Olympic flag and anthem

Olympic oath | Heads of state | Release of doves

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