I'd estimate that about 95 percent of my sports watching within any given two year period takes place during the few weeks when the Olympics take over TV. Winter or Summer; curling or triathlon; the Olympics appeal to me in a way that year-round televised sports never have. I can't help it. I'm a sucker for the pomp and circumstance of it all. And I love to see athletes who've spent their lives eschewing beers and the snooze button to train for athletic pursuits that don't usually come with soft drink endorsement deals showcasing their skill on a global stage. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio kick off Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET with one hell of a welcome party: the Opening Ceremony. Host countries spend years and millions planning an audacious welcome to the rest of the world. Add whatever Brazil has up its sleeve to the traditional Parade Of Nations, and Olympics fans are in for a long night. Exactly how long will the Opening Ceremony be?
The short answer is that it depends. The length of the Opening Ceremony differs at each Olympic Games. The runtime can change for countless reasons, including the amount of countries participating, the scale of the production, and the quickness of the transitions. In 2014 the Winter Olympics were held in Sochi, Russia. That Opening Ceremony lasted for a relatively speedy two hours and 40 minutes. 88 countries were represented during the Parade of Nations.
The last Summer Olympics was in London in 2012. London's Opening Ceremony is probably my favorite that I've seen in my lifetime. (The "Queen" repelled out of a helicopter!) Realized by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, the 2012 broadcast lasted for just short of four hours. The flags of 204 competing countries were carried through the stadium. That's 116 more teams walking the Ceremony in London than they did in Sochi. That gap accounts for a portion of that run-time difference. According to the official Olympic site, 206 countries are competing in Rio.
As you may have noticed if you've already set your DVR for Friday, NBC has blocked out four and a half hours of programming for the Opening Ceremony. If the show comes down before that, commentators will likely fill the rest of the time with reactions and replays.
Recent comments from the executive producer of Rio's Opening Ceremony suggest that this year's show may not be as lengthy as London or Beijing in 2008 simply because it won't be as extravagant. "It does not have the grandiosity of Beijing, the huge special effects of Athens, the eccentricity and technological skills of London. It is an analogue opening ceremony," Marco Balich told Reuters. The production has been scaled down, Bailich said, in respect to the current recession conditions in Brazil. "It is a very contemporary ceremony. Even without special effects it talks to people about the future. In a very humble way," Balich explained.
Still, I'm sure there will be much pageantry and national pride on display in Rio this Friday and beamed out to the rest of the world. With this information in hand, it seems unlikely that the show will hit or break that four and a half hour mark. But clear your schedule anyway for a very inspiring night.