10 Bizarre Moments Witnessed During Sports Ceremonies

Some of us only watch the beginning and/or end of huge sporting events simply to witness the spectacle that is either the opening or the closing ceremony (excluding the FIFA World Cup tournament, of course). And sometimes, this spectacle turns into something unexpectedly weird.

10 The F1 Ballerina

F1 races don’t have opening ceremonies per se, but there are national anthems sung and, depending on where the race is being held, sometimes traditional events and activities are arranged.

For the Russian Grand Prix in September 2021, something odd happened in lieu of the Russian anthem. Spectators and drivers looked on in confusion as a ballerina took a seat on top of a grand piano that had been wheeled out to the track.

The strains of a Tchaikovsky composition sounded up, and the ballerina started dancing to the music on top of the piano. Russia was not allowed to have their anthem played or their flag displayed because of a global sporting ban, so perhaps this was the best they could manage in place of tradition.[1]

9 An Unfortunate Accident

When the Olympic cauldron was set alight at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, the three athletes charged with tossing in the torches most likely assumed that the small flock of doves that had gathered inside the cauldron would up and fly away once the first torch hit. Hundreds of doves had been released just a few minutes earlier as “messengers of peace,” and a few of them decided that the cauldron would be a good place to settle.

But no. Instead, at least 12 doves stayed exactly where they were and burned to a crisp in front of thousands of spectators and on live TV in front of millions of viewers.

Needless to say, much greater care was taken at future events whenever doves were involved.[2]

8 The Lone Treadmill Runner

The opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games was slightly cringy, to put it mildly. It started out okay, with Naomi Osaka lighting the cauldron and Keith Urban and John Legend joining a group of singers to perform “Imagine.”

To compensate for the lack of a crowd, the Olympians were instructed to wave at media workers, dignitaries, and Olympic staffers. Also, video clips of the athletes staying fit inside their homes were aired. Then, weirdly, a solo Japanese boxer started running on a treadmill inside the national stadium for at least 15 minutes. At least she was eventually joined by a few other athletes and dancers.

Not to mention that there was a determined group of protesters outside, demanding that the Olympic Games be canceled, occasionally clashing with the spectators that turned up anyway but were kept out by a police-erected perimeter.[3]

7 Entertainment Instead of Warmup

At the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff in 2017, there was not a single player to be seen warming up minutes before the big game between Juventus and Real Madrid was due to start. In their place was the Black Eyed Peas doing their thing in the middle of the pitch.

Fans immediately started asking very important questions on Twitter, including why the authorities were trying to turn the Champions League Final into the Super Bowl and why the players were prevented from warming up just so that the Black Eyed Peas could perform. Both teams’ players were forced to wait out the performance inside the tunnel instead of getting in a much-needed warm-up. Then they had to wait some more for the pitch to be cleared after the performance.

To make things worse, the performance led to the game being delayed by several minutes, which really did not go over well with the fans either.[4]

6 Kayfabe or Just Plain Weird?

So, WWE isn’t a sport in the truest form of the word, and because the match results are pre-determined, most people don’t think of it as a sport. However, WWE is branded as sports entertainment, and it does employ some of the fittest and most athletic superstars in the world. Therefore, some of the weird moments that have taken place at the annual spectacle known as WrestleMania deserve a spot on this list.

There was that time that WrestleMania IX really went all out trying to make a lasting impression in Las Vegas and had Bobby Heenan come out riding a camel backward. And that other time that Big Show came out in a mawashi—the belt (loincloth) worn by sumo wrestlers.

And then, of course, there was the opening ceremony of WrestleMania 36 that saw one of the most bizarre videos in WWE history aired. It featured wrestlers dressed as pirates battling skeletons and a creature resembling a huge crab. Perhaps they should have stuck to the kayfabe they know and love so well.[5]

5 Royal Skit

Rugby is a big-deal sport, and when it comes to World Cup tournaments, no stone is left unturned to create a ceremony of note. But sometimes, those in charge of creating said ceremonies make decisions that leave the viewers at home and around the field slightly baffled.

During the opening ceremony of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a video was aired that showed Prince Harry dressed as a gardener and appearing alongside Jonny Wilkinson, also dressed as a gardener. Afterward, Harry made a pretty normal speech when he came out and addressed the 80,000 fans inside Twickenham. But whether anyone was listening at that point is debatable as they were likely still trying to figure out why Harry specifically was chosen to don the gardener outfit and act in a very brief skit about the infamous William Webb Ellis moment.

That said, Prince Harry’s cameo wasn’t nearly as startling as Queen Elizabeth and Daniel Craig’s big Olympic moment watched by over one billion people worldwide in 2012, which included a jaw-dropping parachute jump.[6]

4 Flipping Off the World

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting spectacle in the world. So it makes sense that the opening ceremonies every four years would be over the top. However, when it was Brazil’s turn to host the tournament in 2014, they took things to a weird level. Even though most fans were probably focused on Pitbull’s white pants and the giant malfunctioning globe in the middle of the pitch, there were robotic-looking dancers dressed as footballs too. Fortunately, the rest of the dancers and actors were beautifully dressed and represented Samambaia ferns and the stunning flowers found in Brazil.

Of course, none of this holds a candle to the weirdness of the ceremony held at the start of the 2018 tournament in which Robbie Williams came out to perform in a much-discussed leopard print suit and then basically flipped off the entire world at the end of his performance. And he did this a few moments after changing the lyrics of “Rock DJ” to “I did this for free.”[7]

3 Diana Ross’s Epic Fail

When the USA won the 1994 bid to host the World Cup, soccer nations around the world rolled their eyes in unison. At that time, America wasn’t seen as a fellow soccer nation, and it was up to the country to prove its counterparts wrong.

Sadly, they couldn’t.

The opening ceremony was staged at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and Oprah, Bill Clinton, and other famous people made an appearance. Unfortunately, Oprah proceeded to promptly take a dive off the stage after introducing Diana Ross. Ross, in turn, performed “I’m Coming Out,” after which she lined up a penalty and kicked.

She missed by a mile, but then the goal itself split in two anyway as it was rigged to do.

Broadcasters around the world couldn’t contain their laughter. Some called it an omen, and this cringy moment will continue to live on for many years to come.[8]

2 Fire and the Lion King

The Super Bowl ceremonies come in the form of halftime shows, and each of these shows is built to outdo the previous. This almost always leads to weird moments, including Bruce Springsteen power sliding into a camera, crotch first, and “Left Shark’s” dance moves during Katy Perry’s performance in 2015.

And then, of course, there was the halftime show dedicated to promoting the “Temple of the Forbidden Eye” at Disneyland in 1995. There were weird Indiana Jones skits, a confused Tony Bennett, and a performance of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” to cap off the strangeness. That’s not even going into the lip-synching and flaming parachutes. [9]

1 Fever Dream

Not everyone was a fan of the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with some viewers calling it a “fever dream” and others commenting that their children had been frightened by some of the images coming out of the event.

Dancers pranced around, and then the lights abruptly turned red. The dancers then placed their fingers on the sides of their heads to announce the next spectacle—a massive mechanical, fuming bull with red eyes. Some fans loved it, while others called it dystopian and even a “disturbing ritual to Baal.”

The people behind the design of the bull said that it was actually done in tribute to the female chain-makers of the Industrial Revolution who were constantly very much overworked and underpaid.[10]


Estelle is a regular writer for Aonzin.


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