The Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a quiet, spectator-less affair. But thanks to the power of the internet, everyone watching from home was treated to the fashion spectacle that was singer Misia’s dress, which she wore while performing Japanese national anthem “Kimi Ga Yo”. Made from recycled organza, the Tomo Koizumi design was a frothy white confection—with oversized puffy sleeves to boot—that trailed off into the colours of the rainbow, and cemented Misia’s place in the Olympics’ fashion hall of fame.
Broadcasted to millions worldwide, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies have always been a prized opportunity for the host country to show off the best of its culture. And where there is culture, there is fashion. From Gisele Bündchen walking her final runway in 2016 to Björk’s 10,000-feet gown in 2004, we’ve gone down memory lane to round up the 5 most memorable performer outfits from Olympics ceremonies past.
2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony: Gisele’s final runway
As one of the greatest supermodels ever, it is only fitting that Gisele Bundchen’s last-ever runway would be on the biggest stage possible—the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics held in her home country. Backdropped by the iconic song The Girl from Ipanema, one of Brazil’s most famous international exports did what she does best: sashay down the 150-metre catwalk in a gold sequined column dress by Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch that took four months to make.
2012 London Olympics Closing Ceremony: Brit supermodel pack
We wonder if the mastermind behind Gisele’s runway performance took inspiration from the Closing Ceremony of the preceding Olympics, which saw a contingent of British supermodels strut across the stage in gold ensembles from a selection of the most renowned British brands. Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss led the pack in Alexander McQueen designs, while Georgia May Jagger wore Victoria Beckham and Jordan Dunn paired a relatively simple Jonathan Saunders dress with a dramatic Stephen Jones headdress.
2012 London Olympics Closing Ceremony: Spice Girls reunite
On the same night Georgia May Jagger showed off one of her dresses as part of the supermodel contingent, the designer herself Victoria Beckham took to the stage in an entirely different role: Posh Spice. In the much-hyped Spice Girls reunion that featured a medley of their greatest hits, Beckham did more posing than actual singing in her strapless black Giles Deacon dress with a thigh-high split, but the whole thing was just so wonderfully Posh that no one complained.
Each of her former bandmates also opted for outfits that recalled their stage monikers: Baby Spice Emma Bunton looked bubbly in a bubblegum pink Maggie Cooke dress; Sporty Spice Mel C chose a fuss-free white jumpsuit and silver sneakers; and Scary Spice Mel B went for a bold gold Zuhair Murad look. And of course, it would have been blasphemous for Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell to wear any colour but red, which she did in an outfit from Suzanne Neville.
2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony: Lang Lang’s flamboyant robe
The curtains rose on the Beijing Olympics with a spectacle chock-full of symbolism from start to finish—the Opening Ceremony started at 8pm on 8 August 2008 (8 is a lucky number in Chinese culture), and opened with a performance by 2,008 drummers. As such, the flashy silver jacket worn by internationally acclaimed pianist Lang Lang stood out—because everyone knew China was going for gold on all fronts. Then again, the ostentatious robe (paired with bright blue pants) was characteristic of the musician’s flamboyance—both in his playing and in his wardrobe. And at least the unsubtle metallic shimmer captured the host nation’s determination to shine on the world’s largest sports stage—and shine it did, ranking first overall with 100 medals.
2004 Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony: Björk’s ocean-inspired gown that covered the whole stage
Fashion-wise, Björk is best remembered for the swan dress that she wore to the Academy Awards ceremony in 2001. But three years later, the Icelandic songstress made her biggest sartorial splash yet—literally. As she belted out her song Oceania, the folds in her blue gown unfolded, flowing like ocean currents over the stage. It was like something out of a magic trick: every time you thought the gown had stopped expanding, more fabric rushed out until 10,000 feet of cloth covered the stage and the watching athletes. With an image of the world map projected onto the train, the Sophia Kokosalaki dress was part of Björk’s plea for unity. As she puts it, “Water touches every continent without thinking about race or prejudice or religion.”