In April, I wrote — Extinguishing the 2008 Olympic Beijing Flame — and I wondered then about the passion and the fruitfulness of the Olympics in Red China.
After watching the opening ceremonies on Friday night, I cannot think of a more effective spectacle explaining how True Art meets politics to conflate the nobleness of the human body into one giant, shared, sigh of relief.


The amazements were many on Friday night.  Performers were instructed to “smile” by their home country because they otherwise looked too threatening and militaristic during their welcoming performances.

The mechanical boxes that lifted and fell to create designs and semiotics like — “Harmony” as seen below — were mechanical only in that they were people-powered and not juiced-up machines.  The Mechanical Boxes Were People!  PEEE-PULLL! 

Getting a brief history of Tai Chi was also engrossing, though the white-encompassed energy controllers obviously didn’t get the memo on smiling.  Sure, they find calmness in Tai Chi, but they can also rip your head off if you look at them the wrong way.  

The 2,008-strong “box drummers” stole the night with their pasted on smiles and choreographed energy. 

If you ever wondered if China still had the capacity to march in unison and take over the world — wonder no more — for the drummers made it clear they can smash us at will and do it with such grace, and an expert aesthetic, that we will beg them for our beatings.  

I was disappointed the women in the pageantry of the evening — encompassing the “three stages of Chinese history” — were purely ornamental.  Their job was to stand there, or fly around with lights in their eyes, and look pretty. 

The women didn’t get to bang a drum or look evil into our eye while controlling their Chi — they were just totems that were too delicate to be interesting and too stereotypical to be inspiring.

The end of the ceremonies started with a “run in the air” around the rim of the bird’s nest stadium and it ended in a flash of fire as the Olympic torch was set aflame.  

There was no question the $40 million China spent on their opening
ceremonies was money well-spent and you knew London — home of the 2012
Summer Olympiad — was busy begging to quintuple their measly $12
million budget for their opening ceremonies. 

Politics ain’t beanbag
— but Olympic Politics are a memeingful spectacle celebrating the human spirit
that must never be conditional or lesser than what came before.

10 Comments

  1. The thought that just entered my mind was if there was such a thing as singing composed of melodic sighing – would that be sad music or what?
    From what I have read, China has quite a lot of money in their “war chest” so to speak – and $40,000,000 is apparently a drop in that bucket. Makes you wonder how the money is apportioned when people buy officially licensed olympic shirts, hats, etc.

  2. Gordon!
    I think there was sort of melodic sighing during the ceremonies! It was certainly guttural, at least, and it was incredibly moving and effective.
    I agree China is fantastically rich — but they know how to spend their money. We saw all $40 million on display Friday. Not a yuan was missing from the performance.
    It would be interesting to know how much China gets for their logo and how much the Olympic committee gets for their involvement. My feeling is China gets very little from the trinkets and t-shirts but they make up for it in the tourist revenue… that is… when the tourists aren’t being knifed to death in the Drum Tower…

  3. Oh I loved the opening ceremony. Such magic. I liked the use of loud and soft and dark and light. Very Asian. I, too, wished women had a more meaningful role in the history of China. They seem more like adornments and afterthoughts.

  4. The forced, societal, passiveness of Asian women is a fascinating topic, Anne. Are the women more respected and revered for that role? Or are they suffocated by it?

  5. Hi David!
    Between this and that, didn’t really get around to watching the opening ceremony. but what with the mechanical boxes and pasted-on smiles and being bullied by drummers, i don’t think i missed much!
    splendid images! did you get them off the high definition source?