Fireworks have long been a staple of Summer Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. Symbolizing righteous warfare (and rockets' red glare), they punctuate the grandiosity and global impact of the Olympic Games. But now that Los Angeles has virtually secured the 2028 event, some animal-welfare activists are urging organizers to do things differently.
They want to see silent fireworks, or possibly even a Summer Games without fireworks at all, so that animals aren't traumatized by the simulation of artillery. It feels like a strange idea, but PETA argues that it can be done. The organization donated $5,000 for this summer's silent fireworks show organized by the city of Costa Mesa.
"We have seen success with silent fireworks," says PETA's associate director of online marketing, Kate Tuggle. "Silent fireworks are generally more colorful."
The organization recently sent a letter to Casey Wasserman, chair of the Los Angeles Summer Games organizing committee. "Put on the first major Olympics display that uses only fabulous silent fireworks — for the sake of wildlife, companion animals, people with post-traumatic stress disorder and others — making it a show that everyone can enjoy and admire," it reads.
Tuggle says every Fourth of July sees "an increase in cats and dogs who end up in shelters."
"They get so frightened they leave homes and backyards to flee what they perceive to be danger," she says.
The organization also has criticized pollution created by traditional fireworks. "In addition to being frightening, fireworks produce plumes of smoke that are harmful to animals' respiratory systems, and they contribute to 'acoustic stress,'" according to the letter.
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Los Angeles–based Vello Virkhaus, who has produced visual artistry for countless live pop, rock and dance music acts, including Skrillex, Tame Impala and Red Hot Chili Peppers, says a completely fireworks-free opening and closing ceremonies could be an opportunity to explore cutting-edge technology that could be virtually pollution-free.
"Some type of dimensional, spatial lighting, a laser- and video-based show, could be just as immersive as fireworks and not as destructive — while producing less waste," he says.
He says drones and "holographic laser mapping" could be employed to wow the world. "We don't need to blow things up to celebrate athletics and being healthy," he says.
We reached out to the L.A. 2028 Olympic Bid Committee but did not get a response.