Live-Blogging the Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony

cyn3matic Have decided to live-tweet the Olympics opening ceremony. From far away, performers look like giant Lite Brite.

cyn3matic Wow, bilingual countdown. Fireworks–a Chinese invention, naturally. French/Eng/Chinese the official languages. Hu Jintao with his

cyn3matic with his lenscrafters glasses. The scale is breathtaking. So many people. Silver MATRIX-ish caftans and kungfu. So over the top.

cyn3matic Playing replicas of ancient drums unearthed outside Shanghai. So glad they didn’t decide to rock out to like, er-hu.

cyn3matic Don’t you want to see *these guys* do the Thriller video? All 15,000?

cyn3matic Oops, I mean 2008 drummers. 15,000 performers in all.

Switched over to live-blog:

8:11 pm PST: OK. Too many commercials.

8:12 pm PST: Footsteps in the air, interesting concept. Unreliable Narrator likes the Olympic rings. “Whoa! Wha? What the–?” Very Cirque du Soleil-ish, the suspended aeralists. I like how the rings are lifting off the floor. The light sabers waving in the background like fireflies. Beautiful.

8:22 pm PST: Unrolling of a giant scroll made of light. Display of calligraphy and painting using humans to paint. Awesome! It looks great. It’s like they’re dancing it into being, rolling and writhing/writing with their whole bodies. The background of the scroll has images also and is moving. “One of the world’s largest LED screens.” AWESOME! Hubs: “Bill Gates made a mental note: must buy one of those.”

8:25 pm PST: Trying to figure out the effect. So cool! Way to go Zhang Yimou! Now the scroll is lifting up. We’re impressed.

8:29 pm PST: Morgan Freeman, the voice of god, and VISA. That commercial was kinda compelling. GO WORLD.

8:36 pm PST: The Unreliable Narrator’s getting incredible ideas for his ongoing Cirque du Soleil show. I really want him to watch this with us because he will probably never see so many Chinese people on tv ever again.

8:30 pm PST: Bamboo scrolls: they’re gonna feature every last thing that Chinese invented (paper). I’m waiting for pasta. Moving blocks? Wind? Interesting.

8:32 pm PST: Ok, now characters created in multidimensional blocks. The blocks do the wave. Pulsating rings. The character “harmony.” We realized it’s actually people inside the boxes moving up and down. It’s not computers, it’s people.

8:38 pm PST: I’m really impressed by this hapa mc. His mandarin rocks. Hubs and I said, “Who is this guy? His whole life has been building up to this moment.” Rock ON, hapa journo guy!!

8:35 pm PST: The wall comes down and “a thousand flowers bloom.”

8:40 pm PST: Now, Tang dynasty men in blue. (Dude, when are we gonna see some kungfu??) Now they’re showing Chinese nautical history. Magnetic compasses, yet another Chinese invention. What’s next, THE YO-YO????? Ha, in-joke.

8:41 pm PST: The scrim around the top is a permanent feature of the stadium. The stadium was built to house the performance, not the other way around. Zhang Yimou: “Well, we have the people.” In talking about the scale of performance, how to make it special.

8:43 pm PST: Cool “popsicle” stick fu. Now the ship metaphor/image. We’re talking about the emphasis on the group, no individuals except for the little 9-year old girl singing. Apparently none of the performers repeat; that’s why there’s 15,000 of them.

8:47 pm PST: Joshua Cooper-Ramo (sp?) is the hapa journo. A return to glory–Chinese will remind you that 9 out of 10 centuries the Chinese GDP was highest in the world. Geez, the costumes are incredible. Hubs: “It’s kinda ironic that Zhang Yimou’s movies used to be banned by the government.” Look at the cool pillars rising up out of the floor!

8:49 pm PST: My child’s never seen so many commercials before in his LIFE.

8:51 pm PST: We’re now in the modern age, conveniently skipping from the Tang dynasty to 1978. Goodbye Cultural Revolution! Goodbye inconvenient 20th century colonization by the west, and WWII!

8:53 pm PST: Lit up people walking in patterns. Hubs wants a lit-up suit to ride his bicycle at night. Hubs: “It’s like Busby Berkeley times one million.” Okay, how do they change the color of their lights? They’re taking the shape of the stadium, the bird’s nest. Now they’re touting the Chinese invention of the kite.

8:56 pm PST: We’re impressed. Lo-fi and hi-fi all rolled into one. Meat puppets moving around and high-tech effects and hydraulics.

8:59 pm PST: We were talking about the earthquake and how heartwrenching the NPR story was.

9:00 pm PST: OK, now qigong. Time for some HEROES/CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON? We know Zhang Yimou was SO jealous of Ang Lee’s success with that film. Hubs: “They shoulda gotten the Jet! (Jet Li). And Michelle Yeoh!”

9:02 pm PST: Beautiful waterfall effects. Now children learning in a “classroom” about global warming, etc, surrounded by 2008 men doing tai qi. It sounds kinda crazy but it works, ya know? Joshua C. points out all performers have no marks (on the floor, to help them “hit their marks”). They’re moving in relation to each other. But precisely. Wow. The choreography literally kicks ass.

9:05 pm PST: OK, thousands of guys doing tai qi rocks. Now the children are waving off the tai qi masters and the scroll the humans were writing/writhing is back with color accents. And a smiley face sun.

9:10 pm PST: Titanauts: Chinese on the moon by 2024. Cool conversion of the stadium into planetarium. Me: “China has built its own Bucky Ball.” Hubs: “China has built its own Death Star. And people are stuck to it like flies to flypaper. Zhang Yimou should not make a scifi movie….Okay, it’s not the Death Star, it’s the Earth. OK, now it’s a beehive.”

9:13 pm PST: Sarah Brightman is popular in China??? I’ve never heard of her. I like how they’re projecting images on the ball-scrim. Brightman is singing in Mandarin. How ’bout that?

9:16 pm PST: Awwww, umbrellas open like flowers with faces of children from all over the world all over them. Hubs: “Awww. Ultimately the Chinese are a sentimental people. …More fireworks! It’s like ‘more cowbell, more fireworks’!”

9:17 pm PST: We agree that it was a masterstroke to hire Zhang Yimou. Me: “That was pretty spectacular. But damn if Chinese aren’t proud and have face, and damn if they aren’t going to have a FANTASTIC opening ceremony. It’s a hospitality thing. If you come to my country, I will bankrupt myself showing you a good time. Also with weddings: If you’re a guest at my wedding, I will bankrupt myself showing you a good time.”

9:20 pm PST: Now the introduction of the countries. Awwww. Athletes are waving country flags. Hubs always feels for the countries that only have 3 athletes. True underdogs. A reminder by the announcers that 90% of the countries have never won a medal. Geez, the Turkmenistan contingent had to get their uniforms approved by the prime minister or something. And his fondness for martini olives is apparent. We’re thinking and talking about how sad it is that some countries might only have one or two athletes to send. And what tremendous disparity there is in opportunity, nutrition, training, and so on. Only mirroring the disparity in the wealth of nations. How poignant and heartbreaking that not everyone has what we take for granted here in America.

9:35 pm PST: Oldest competitor is from Japan and is 64 years old. His event: equestrian. The Taiwanese have to follow the (hated) Japanese into the stadium. A huge cheer for the Taiwanese, called the “Chinese Taipei” team. Generous of the crowd to cheer so warmly for them. Hong Kongers get a big cheer too.

I like the Beninian gold hats.

9:39 pm PST: The march of nations is only marginally interesting.

There is an unfortunate nation whose costume consists of bright white pants/shirt combo, or white dress, decorated with irregular-sized bright red splotchy flowers. Which has the awful effect of making them look as if they’ve been strafed by automatic gunfire. Oh, terrible we are. We’re going straight to hell for noticing that, and then commenting.

Athletes are so young and fresh and filled with hope. It’s sweet.

How about a global economy based on festivals and athletic and cultural events? Could we find peace in that? Harness the human desire to be competitive into a positive expression of it?

CODA
My mother likes to point out that the Chinese (who invented everything worth knowing about, including probably computers and *things that have not yet even been invented, but we’ll be glad we have them once they are*) invented gunpowder and complex navigation by sea. And yet, were they colonizers? No.

Their gunpwder was used for fireworks. Their ships, to explore surrounding waters–not to subjugate and annex other peoples.

Good point, mom.

In Shanghai last night, two elderly Chinese sojourners were sitting in their apartment watching the opening ceremony and getting weepy with pride. They were thinking of all the times they’d heard China derided (the garbage, the spitting, the snot-rocketing into the gutter, the babies pooping everywhere and anywhere, the backwardness, the ugly architecture, the cheap manufactured goods, the human right violations, the disputes over Tibet and Mongolia’s self-determination, the lack of religious freedom, the coercive society, the poverty, etc). And they watched the astonishing, just marvelous and universally acknowledged as magical, opening ceremonies. They knew that as they watched, the whole world was watching. And with every bit of awesome spectacle, they knew people around the world shared their appreciation and wonder. More than anything, those two aging Chinese people–my parents–felt a pride so big it welled up out of their hearts and seeped out of their eyes.

Thank you, thank you for showing my country at its best. We may not be perfect but we are trying and the Chinese people will embrace the future in a distinctly modern way, on its own terms.

I can almost hear them saying that to each other.

9 thoughts on “Live-Blogging the Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony

  1. Oh, man, Cynematic, you killed me dead with this post. It was hilarious and then at the end I totally burst into tears. KILLED ME DEAD.

    Also, great recap since I missed the opening ceremony!

    M.

  2. loved your play-by-play :-)

    we started the opening ceremony this morning, BC and i, though we were preempted by jools’ screaming desire to “get my turn” on the TV (and let us watch yet another time yet the same episode of ben ten.) so i havent’ finished it yet.

    but can’t wait to see sarah brightman, who i would have never pegged as big in china (but what do i know?) fyi, she used to be mrs. andrew lloyd webber, star of his huge shows basically from 1978 until somewhere in the early 90s i think.

    so far, i am wowed. i cried when i saw those children, those beautiful children, all dressed up in traditional outfits. i was amazed by the dancers who were painting while moving. the drummers scared the bejeepers out of BC for awhile. the entire experience appears to be very, if you pardon the word, cynematic. :-)

    one thing that i read today, while googling around, that disturbed me a bit. check out this:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2241705.ece

    and this:

    http://mickhartley.typepad.com/blog/2008/08/an-architectural-language-of-bombast.html

    i’m honestly not sure how to process it :(

  3. Hi, you have good info about Olympic, just inspiring by you I have also made a post of Olympic 2008, please review it and if possible,

    make a comment to make it more better.

  4. Wreke,
    I’d written a response earlier, and it was one of a bunch of open windows that was on my stolen laptop. Grrr.

    Anyway, I had that dismaying feeling of “here we go again” after reading about the use of Speer’s architect son to create the Olympic buildings. Huge, just whopping blind spot when it comes to anti-Semitism. I mean, Chiang Kai Shek, general of the Nationalist forces during WWII and one of the first leaders of Taiwan after the war, quite openly said that he admired Hitler. He thought Germany had done an admirable job of pulling itself up out of its troubles during WWI. (!!!) (Yet another reason why I can’t get excited when some Chinese Americans boast about how their parents/older relatives were part of Chiang’s Nationalist anti-Communist army. Ick.)

    Ugh, the litany of Hitler apologists or supporters just goes on…I’m also reminded of Henry Ford and his approving comments, and the German car manufacturers BMW and Mercedes (and I think also French leather goods maker Luis Vuitton) who quite happily and prosperously collaborated with the Third Reich. Yet they’ve never been called to account either. Yuck.

  5. taylor spencer on

    8:12 pm PST: Footsteps in the air, interesting concept. Unreliable Narrator likes the Olympic rings. “Whoa! Wha? What the–?” Very Cirque du Soleil-ish, the suspended aeralists. I like how the rings are lifting off the floor. The light sabers waving in the background like fireflies. Beautiful.
    => lucky u get to see footsteps in the air cuz u usually see ur own in the mud.

  6. taylor spencer on

    8:22 pm PST: Unrolling of a giant scroll made of light. Display of calligraphy and painting using humans to paint. Awesome! It looks great. It’s like they’re dancing it into being, rolling and writhing/writing with their whole bodies. The background of the scroll has images also and is moving. “One of the world’s largest LED screens.” AWESOME! Hubs: “Bill Gates made a mental note: must buy one of those.”
    => ahhh you’re so funny, i am dying. your jokes are so over the top. can’t stop laughing ha ha ha

  7. taylor spencer on

    8:29 pm PST: Morgan Freeman, the voice of god, and VISA. That commercial was kinda compelling. GO WORLD.
    => wooow i am laughing like hell ha ha ha

  8. taylor spencer on

    8:25 pm PST: Trying to figure out the effect. So cool! Way to go Zhang Yimou! Now the scroll is lifting up. We’re impressed.
    => of course we’re impressed.

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