Olympic Games opening, Chinese style: The wow factor

Wow! Wow! Wow! I could go on.

Even though today’s news brought the missive of the out of character stabbing of an American tourist in Beijing, the opening ceremony of the Olympics was certainly in character.

It was amazing–and I only saw the last bit. That’s one detail about traveling; world events swirl about in the periphery until a thought passes through, like, “Didn’t the Olympics start today?” and the TV is flipped on to the right channel. I remembered the Olympics just in time to catch the finale.

The NBC TV commentators were as amazed by the ceremonial hoopla as much as I was– maybe even more. Even though they expected a spectacular showing from China, the result was brilliant.

As Matt Lauer asked about the opening, “Is it usually this way?” Bob Costas said, summarized in a word, “No.”

The synchronized acrobatics and dance routines in the final clips before the credits rolled were versions of performances I saw at the school where I taught in Taiwan– X 100, of course. Once a year there is Field Day where the entire school day is given over to athletic competitions. Each grade also performs a synchronized performance that takes hours of practice.

To see what can be done with hundreds of school kids who pay attention is astounding. I wasn’t surprised to see what can be done with adults. Still, the result was a spectacular feat of skill and wonder.

My favorite part, hands down, was gymnast Li Ning’s trip around the top of the stadium while he was suspended by cables. As he held the torch aloft, making perfectly executed running motions, a scroll screen unfurled to show a video montage of the torch’s trip around the world.

At the end, he lit the torch by lighting a fuse which carried the flame to the main torch that burst into flames. This was followed by a fireworks display like no other–several mimicked the shape of the Olympic rings.

As I said to my friend who was watching it with me, “Can you imagine, the group of people sitting in a room thinking up ideas for what could be done to light the torch? Isn’t it fantastic that someone came up with this? Isn’t it great what people envision?”

I’m a sentimental sap though. My husband thinks I should be in “Up with People.” If one puts cynicism aside, and forgets that perhaps governments stage events to show off might, to focus on those with the creativity to orchestrate such pleasure, the world does look brighter.

This video clip from the The Wall Street Journal On-Line gives an interesting overview of what the Chinese were thinking and doing on August 8 before the opening ceremonies started. Getting married and having babies were part of the activiites. It finishes with a bit of the fireworks. I wish it showed Li Ning.

Sometimes, it’s good to feel a bit of wonder and leave problems aside for a moment or two. Just call me Mary, as in Mary Sunshine. For a wonderful slide show, check out this link from The New York Times. Li Ning is number 12.