With the United States hosting the World Cup in 1994 you knew a bit of misplaced and uncomfortable razzmatazz was going to be injected in to the big event to get your average American Joe interested. The opening ceremony was particularly memorable when the tournament leapt in to life in Chicago before the Germany v Bolivia opener.
With Bill Clinton and Helmut Kohl in attendance and most of America watching the OJ Simpson police chase on every other channel, Chicago native Oprah Winfrey MC’d the opening ceremony that featured the usual rock eisteddford dancing and flag twirling that seemed to be lost on most in the bright Illinois sunshine. Winfrey then introduced fellow diva and another Chicago native to take centrestage: Diana Ross.
Ross emerged from one end of the field with a troop of dancing children in white surrounding her like under her spell before she strutted down on to the pitch and lined up to take a choreographed penalty kick with a gigantic football past a dancer/goalkeeper who was perhaps more used to doing dance routines on a Madonna tour. The idea of this part of the ceremony was for Ross to score the penalty, the goals would then split apart and old Rossy would run up to the stage to symbolise the kick off of the tournament. Why couldn’t the AFL think of this.
Ross probably had scored in the rehearsal but in front of 60,000 in the stands and countless millions overseas she managed to shank the kick and miss the entire goal with a camera crew almost being taken out in the process. The keeper still did his job and pretended to be beaten as the ball the trundled off to the left while the goal still split apart as planned. Ross, ever the pro, continued to dance past the disaster and go on singing up on stage but it was a truly cringe worthy moment as many watching worldwide laughed their collective arses off.
It was also quite fitting that the horrible penalty miss by the then 50 year old Ross would bookend with Baggio’s penalty miss in the final that handed Brazil the World Cup. A memorable moment in ensuring that if you’re going to do something of a performance in front of a world wide audience you make sure it’s going to work. It’s an easy moment to fine on youtube.