A standing ovation is a form of applause where members of a seated audience stand up while applauding after extraordinary performances of particularly high acclaim. In Ancient Rome returning military commanders (such as Marcus Licinius Crassus after his defeat of Spartacus) whose victories did not quite meet the requirements of a triumph but which were still praiseworthy were celebrated with an ovation instead, from the Latin ovo, "I rejoice". The word's use in English to refer to sustained applause dates from at least 1831.
Standing ovations are considered to be a special honor. Often are used at the entrance or departure of a speaker or performer, where the audience members will continue the ovation until the ovated person leaves or begins their speech.
Some audience members worldwide have observed that the standing ovation has come to be devalued, such as in the field of politics, in which on some occasions standing ovations may be given to political leaders as a matter of course, rather than as a special honour in unusual circumstances. Examples include party conferences in many countries, where the speech of the party leader is rewarded with a "stage managed" standing ovation as a matter of course, and the State of the Union Address of the President of the United States (see ovations at 6:15 and 7:00on YouTube). It is routine, rather than exceptional, for this address to be introduced, interrupted and followed by standing ovations, from both the president's own party and his political opponents. However, by tradition all ovations that occur before the speech begins, as opposed to those that interrupt it, are given in praise of the office itself, rather than the individual office-holder, and the president is never introduced by name.
Standing ovations are also often given in a sporting context to reflect an outstanding individual performance, or to celebrate a beloved sporting hero past or present that has a strong connection with the team’s fans and home city. This practice is especially notable among sports fans in Montreal, Quebec, Canada throughout the years, where many athletes have received standing ovations lasting several minutes long as a way to show appreciation. Examples include:
In 1996, Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice Richard received a 16-minute long standing ovation from the fans at the Montreal Forum following the conclusion of the Forum’s final Canadiens home game as he and other Canadiens greats who played at the Forum were presented to the crowd. Richard’s ovation is said to be the longest in the history of the Forum and of the Canadiens.
In 2002, Montreal Canadiens legend Saku Koivu returned to the Canadiens’ lineup following a battle with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of cancer. Koivu received a standing ovation of 8–9 minutes long from the Montreal fans prior to puck drop. It was officially listed as the second longest standing ovation in Canadiens history at the time, until it was surpassed in 2022 by the Canadiens’ pre-game tribute to Guy Lafleur following the announcing of his passing.
In 2003, after Montreal Expos star player Vladimir Guerrero Sr. played his last game with the Expos, he saluted the Olympic Stadium crowd alongside his son, then three-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The two wore matching Expos uniforms and tipped their caps to the Montreal faithful as the crowd cheered.
In 2022, following the announcing of the passing Canadiens great Guy Lafleur, the team held a tribute to him prior to the Canadiens’ game against the Boston Bruins at Bell Centre. The ceremony featured highlights of Lafleur’s career being played on the JumboTron and many players and coaches paying respects and saying thanks to Lafleur. The fans in attendance then did a standing ovation for a total of 10 minutes and 10 seconds to celebrate Lafleur—ironically, Lafleur wore the #10 jersey number with the Canadiens—which included cheers, chants of “Guy! Guy! Guy!”, and an “Olé Olé Olé” chant, the latter of which is commonly heard in Montreal and especially at Canadiens games. The ovation was officially clocked in as the second longest in Canadiens history, behind Maurice Richard’s from 1996. As for the game itself later on, the Canadiens fell to the Bruins, 5–3.
In 2023, one day before American professional wrestling promotion WWE was scheduled to hold the Elimination Chamber premium live event in Montreal at the Bell Centre with Laval native Sami Zayn competing in the main event for the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship, the promotion hosted WWE SmackDown from the same venue, and to close the show, Zayn made his grand homecoming a day early in front of the Bell Centre fans. He received massive cheers when his song began to play (notably, his former entrance theme “Worlds Apart” was used for the first time in several years), and was then given a standing ovation lasting 5 minutes and 22 seconds by the Montreal fans, which included cheers, chants of “You Deserve It!”, and an “Olé Olé Olé” chant. The crowd also directed vulgar chants towards Zayn’s opponent the following night, Roman Reigns, which were censored on the broadcast by FOX in the United States but not by other networks. Zayn then cut a promo in both English and French promising that he would defeat Reigns the next night, and the program concluded with the fans cheering and leaving the arena in delight.