This paper examines the ways in which nationalism and the narratives of the nation were constructed in the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. The ritual of the opening ceremony represents a concentration of features, qualities and messages that combine the local and global, the culturally specific and universal, in a complex production. Using textual analysis of the telecast of the above two opening ceremonies, the study found that the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony used a grand narrative of progress, emphasising the unified identity of Chineseness, while privileging the official narrative of the nation and one collective identity. In contrast, the London 2012 opening ceremony highlighted the fragmented but diversified identity of Britishness, transpiring social inclusivity, cultural hybridity and multiculturalism. This may be related to the rise of different type of nationalism in the context of increasing globalisation. The Beijing opening ceremony represented the Sinocentric Chinese new nationalism, whereas the London 2012 counterpart, up to a point, highlighted civic‐based multicultural nationalism.