The Olympic opening ceremony offers the host nation an opportunity to showcase their country and culture to the world

With billions of people around the world tuning in to watch, there is always a huge amount of pressure on the host nation to put on "the greatest show on earth". 

Over the years countries have taken this challenge to heart, providing millions of pounds in order to produce some truly stunning spectacles which are hard to forget. 

From the music to the lighting of the Olympic cauldron , the creativity and originality of each ceremony is astounding. 

As Tokyo prepares to take its show to stage, here are some of the most memorable moments from previous Olympic opening ceremonies...

Rio 2016

A moment from Rio's opening ceremony that instantly went viral was Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua's traditional Tongan dress and apparent baby oiled chest, which delighted and united social media users around the world.

Aside from the flag parade, Brazil also hit the headlines with its subtle claim to the first man to ever take flight. 

A small plane which took off within the stadium was a nod to Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont, who flew outside Paris in 1906 in what many people believe to be the first flight. 

It caused some controversy however, with many claiming the first men to fly were American brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, who are officially credited with inventing the first motor-operated airplane. 

Rio used the occasion to make a subtle dig and share the lesser known story of Santos-Dumont. 

London 2012

London of course holds a special place in the heart of Brits. 

Taking defining historical moments and cultural icons, Danny Boyle's ceremony offered a nostalgic view of the country and has been described as "a love letter to Britain". 

With thousands of volunteers and a salute to the NHS, to pick just one memorable aspect is impossible; who could forget the Queen teaming up with James Bond to "sky dive" into the stadium, or Mr Bean joining the much-celebrated London Symphony Orchestra for a rendition of Chariots of Fire? 

The ceremony featured some of Britain's best known music, and focussed heavily on the motto "Inspire a Generation" with hundreds of young volunteers performing. 

It received wide critical acclaim, so much so that Boyle was offered a knighthood at the end of 2012, a proposal he turned down saying: "I'm very proud to be an equal citizen and I think that's what the Opening Ceremony was actually about."

Beijing 2008

The 2008 ceremony has been called "the greatest ever in the history of the Olympics", with Danny Boyle acknowledging that "you can't get bigger than Beijing" when planning London's own ceremony. 

A synchronized drum sequence, which saw 2008 musicians gather in the stadium to play the fou drum, a traditional chinese instrument, stays with many viewers to this day. 

Meanwhile, gymnast Li Ning's lighting of the Olympic cauldron was nothing short of spectacular; one of China's most decorated Olympians, he flew through the air in a lap of the stadium as if he was running, signifying the 129-day long Olympic torch relay. 

Athens 2004

Athens Opening Ceremony saw Icelandic singer Björk perform in an expanding dress, which throughout the song spread to envelop to entire stadium. 

The ceremony also began with a 28-second countdown which signified the number of Olympics since Athens had last hosted the modern games in 1906. 

Greece's capital was the first host of the modern games in 1896. 

The event was much better than people expected due to a mad rush to finish building works in the final lead up to the games. 

Reports at the time compared Beijing's preparations to those of Athens, with some claiming China was as far along with their preparations as Athens was just 3 months before the Greek city hosted the games. 

Despite this, the opening ceremony was deemed "spectacular" and the games a "success". 

Sydney 2000

The culmination of the torch relay stands out from Sydney's opening ceremony. 

Considered to bring the Olympics to everyday Australians, the relay wove between over 1000 towns and even went underwater in order to showcase the Great Barrier Reef. 

Once the relay reached the stadium during the opening ceremony, the final succession of runners were all female to signify 100 years of women being allowed to compete in the games.

It saw female medal winners from nearly every Olympics from 1948-2000, before the torch was finally passed to Aboriginal sprinter Cathy Freeman, who lit the cauldron surrounded by a waterfall in a pool of water. 

Emulating the torch relay, the entire ceremony was a nod to the diversity of Australia and saw a young girl exploring the different aspects of Australian culture.