[FOUNTAIN]Harmony remains key themeUruguay was the first country to stage the World Cup. At that first tournament in 1930, held in Montevideo, only 13 countries, including France, Italy and Spain, participated. Since airplane trips were not widely available at the time, European players had to endure long ocean journeys to compete. To encourage participation, the Uruguayan government paid for the trips and the accommodations of the European teams.
A rather cozy opening ceremony was held at an auxiliary stadium because Montevideo's main stadium had not yet been built. As soon as the competitors entered the stadium, with a declamation of World Cup ideology -- "Soccer will last forever and solidify true peace" -- France and Mexico played the first match.
Even by the 1970s, when televisions had become the focus of all media, the World Cup was not accompanied by the magnificent opening ceremonies of the Olympics. For the 12th World Cup in Spain in 1982, young girls from Barcelona entered the stadium throwing flowers at spectators and presenting traditional dances. After young boys from Barcelona released pigeons from special soccer balls, the opening match began.
Themes for the World Cup's opening ceremonies became more definite and appealing in the 1990s. For the 15th World Cup, held in 1994 in the United States, the opening ceremony was held at a stadium in Chicago. During that ceremony, songs with themes that the World Cup can bring the world together, and traditional dances of participating countries were presented.
The most fascinating World Cup opening ceremony came four years ago in France, where this theme was used: "A dream of soccer." The ceremony went on as if the stadium ground was fertilized, for out of the turf shot sprouts, and then soccer-ball-like flowers bloomed and bore more soccer balls.
The opening ceremony held at Sangam Stadium in Seoul on Friday night was even more splendid, and conveyed messages of harmony and unity in the world by using information technology. There were four sub-themes including "From the East," and "Communications," under which Eastern philosophies of harmony and reciprocity were represented.
The fact that Korea is co-hosting the World Cup with Japan, which occupied Korea in the past, and that the first match was between France and one of its former colonies, Senegal, was perhaps meant to further encourage the world to come together in harmony.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo