Sunday, August 10, 2008

Open ses'me

Things seem to have moved on a little since the first Olympic Opening Ceremony:

Mind you, it is noticeable that they did take the time to take a photo - suggesting even back then that they were aware of the importance of the media and of the need to promote ... but what were they promoting?

Whatever it was, it doesn't look too much like sport - or at least, not sport alone. There are important people in the forefront.

Why the 2008 Olympics should be expected to be anything other than an inheritor of this tradition is beyond me.

And it has to be said, the Chinese did do it a lot better than the rather naive originators who seem to think, if you go by the picture, they don't have to work too hard to get the world's attention.

Whatever else you think of the Chinese - they are workers and one of the things that seems to be missing from all the commentary about the opening has been the sheer effort that has gone into the ceremony. Forget the cost (not so much if you split it between the population of China - and even less if you think of the world audience for it) look at the human time and organisation.

There were 2008 drummers to open, coordinated better than any marching army or Broadway musical I've ever seen.

This very strong statement reminded me, as did several other sights during the ceremony of the terracotta army: It was not just the mass of participants, it was the expectation of order under pressure, of the assurance of pre-planning and the human resources available.

If the original opening ceremony was nod in the direction of the world that the Olympics were back - look at the shape of the building they are in, very Ancient Greek - then this ceremony says - China is back too - Ancient China, Not so Ancient China, Recent Past China and China Future!

Perhaps most disturbing for the Western Liberals amongst us ( and that does include me) was the military presence. Nice looking young men in uniform is one thing - but did they have to goose step?

It would be impossible for the Chinese military not to have participated (indeed, I suspect they really were a very strong element in the success - both for the logistical support and the provision of people) but to the world outside the strong statement of military significance might just seem a little inappropriate.

What China did get over to the world in this ceremony was what brilliant film makers they are - because that is what you were watching - a one shoot only film.

I am certain the viewers of screens around the world got a much better view than anyone in the Stadium - maybe not quite the atmosphere. For the person who took the decision to make a film director take control knew how to choose people.

One thing I was a little uncertain of was the inclusion of Sarah Brightman. I'd never noticed before how 'Chinese' her voice was - maybe that is one reason I don't rate her as a Western Singer. Here, she worked brilliantly - as did her 'pop' partner ... Liu Huan.

As befits an opening ceremony, the torch did a Kitsch lighting - at least it was the actual flame that lit the big one (unlike in the famous USA case of the arrow not actually lighting the torch).

How much a flying Chinese Hero is really representative of Sport is debatable, it is certainly representative of popular culture.

And that I think is indicative of how far China has come - we did not need this ceremony to establish the position of China as a cultural entity- it was already there. What it did was state loud and clear - We are here.

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