Since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the event's opening ceremony has always stood apart from other international sporting competitions for its mix of protocol and spectacle.

The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on the first day of the 1896 Olympics | (Public Domain)

In 1896, spectators packed into the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens were treated to a parade of bands, a choral performance of the "Cantata for the Olympic Games," (which would be named the official Olympic anthem in 1958), a declaration by Greek King George I, and the march of the athletes. Though modest by our contemporary standards, the festivities were quite grand for the time.

In 1920, the International Olympic Committee canonized certain rituals, including the parade of athletes and the torch relay, which provided a ceremonial shell the host country could personalize. Through the decades, the artistic program — the culminating event of the night, kept secret up until the last minute — became the ultimate celebratory spectacle infused with cultural references to the host and era. In recent years, these Olympic festivities have swelled to technological feats of performance, innovation, and showmanship in an attempt to out-dazzle their predecessors. As Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, prepares for its own opening night on Aug. 5, take a tour through 100 years of the opening ceremonies of the Summer Games:

Stockholm, 1912 | Swedish gymnasts enter the old stadium in Stockholm, marching past the Swedish royal families. The opening ceremonies included a gymnastics demonstration, a 12-band concert, and trumpeters dressed in medieval attire. | (Schirner/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Berlin, 1936 | The Olympic torch is carried into the Olympic Stadium on Aug. 1. | (Getty Images)

Helsinki, 1952 | Thousands of carrier pigeons are released over the Olympic stadium in Helsinki to signify the start of the Games. | (Keystone/Getty Images)

Tokyo, 1964 | Gymnasts perform during the opening ceremony at the Tokyo National Stadium on Oct. 10, 1964. | (AP Photo/Mitsunori Chigita)

Mexico City, 1968 | Colorfully dressed performers decorate the Aztec pyramids northeast of Mexico City during a rehearsal of the opening ceremonies. | (AP Photo)

Moscow, 1980 | Performers form into spiraling pyramids on the field of the Lenin Stadium on July 19, 1980, during the opening ceremonies. | (AP Photo)

Los Angeles, 1984 | Bill Suitor hovers with his jet pack over the stadium during the opening ceremony for the XXIII Olympic Games on July 28, 1984, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. | (Steve Powell/Getty Images)

Seoul, 1988 | Dancers form the Olympic rings in the center of the stadium during the opening ceremony of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. | (Allsport/Allsport)

Barcelona, 1992 | A ship symbolizing Mediterranean culture sails through Olympic Stadium on July 25, 1992, during opening ceremonies for the XXV Games. | (AP Photo/Cliff Schiappa)

Atlanta, 1996 | Dancers and a choir perform on July 19, 1996, in Atlanta during the opening ceremony of the Centennial Olympic Games. The ceremony took three years to prepare. | (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Sydney, 2000 | Performers create a map of Australia during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games. | (Adam Pretty/Allsport)

Athens, 2004 | A performer posing as Eros descends during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Aug. 13, 2004. | (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Beijing, 2008 | Participants take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Aug. 8, 2008. | (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

London, 2012 | Performers dressed as the character Mary Poppins descend to the ground during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 27, 2012. | (REUTERS/Mike Blake)