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.

A Guy Named Matt and Outdoor Adventure

When I was looking for links to Cornstalk Institute for my post,Festival of the Great Unknowns, I came across mattaxling.com. This is a curious place. I think it must be Matt who is featured on the homepage, but don’t know if his last name is axling. Matt is spelled with a double t though. You can see it written on a hard hat in rock climbing picture on the page titled “Work.” Matt does get around. In his play photos you can see him in Argentina, Norway, New Mexico, New York City and Washington State. Wherever he is, he looks like he is having fun. I am curious about what it is that he does since there isn’t a profile about him.

Typing this made me think of Matt Lauer and the Today Show’s”Where in the World is Matt Lauer” segments. Here is a profile of Matt Lauer. I wonder which Matt has a better time? I’d say it’s a toss-up.

Matt of the Web site is an outdoor adventure kind of guy and his work section features many kid’s dreams of what a perfect vacation would look like. For all you Gadling parents who happen to have kids with an adventurous heart, or all you Gadling readers who are enjoying your own adventurous heart, this section is filled with spots where you can get back to nature and get your adrenaline pumping. I assume Matt must be the guy who teaches kids to take risks. I’d love to send my kids his way. Here are the three links Matt lists in addition to the Cornstalk Institute that have outdoor adventure trips and experiences for kids.