Monday, August 11, 2008

opening ceremonies

The opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China was one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles I have ever witnessed. Sitting in front of my television, I found my jaw actually dropping, watching the over 20,000 performers from all over China come together for one amazing night of martial arts, dancing, singing, storytelling, fireworks, light shows and so much more.

A creative team, selected from many proposals, began work on this ceremony back in 2006 - and I can believe it would take years to develop such an incredible event. I'm actually surprised it didn't take longer! According to the official web site of the Beijing Olympic Games, "The concept of a 'painting scroll' emerged and most of the original program ideas unfolded around it, forming the artistic concept of 'displaying the world on a small square,' demonstrating the progress of blending Chinese culture with world culture." Eventually, after many different ideas were thrown around, they decided on what would become by far my favorite part of the ceremony. As part of one of the performances, Chinese artists drew a beautiful, yet simple, landscape scene on a scroll of paper. Later, during the parade of nations, every person who walked in the parade walked through different colors of ink and then over the bottom half of the scroll. Every athletes' footprints blended together, almost as one. This was so incredible and beautiful to me - I get chills just thinking about it.

There were tons of other very symbolic and amazing parts of the opening ceremony, including 2008 drummers performing on drums that lit up when hit to form incredible patterns from above. There were also 2008 martial art masters, forming a perfect circle around the center scroll, with no lines drawn on the ground to go by. They moved in and out of formation flawlessly. There was 60 performers suspended by wires walking, jumping and flipping around a model earth - some sideways, and some upside down. There were musical performances, including Sarah Brightman and Liu Huan singing the office song of the 2008 Olympic Games, "You and Me," and firework displays, beginning with "footprints" leading through Beijing all the way to the National Stadium, the "Birds Nest."

The way all of these performances and displays looked from a bird's eye view is what amazed me the most. Every light, every movement was timed perfectly to form different patterns and shapes seen from above. The creative team behind the opening ceremony really thought every little detail through, and conceptualized something that I can't even begin to wrap my brain around.

Unfortunately, I fell asleep about an hour before the ceremony concluded, but what I got to see was absolutely amazing. Those few hours of television I watched on 8-8-08 will stay with me for a very long time, and I think that sentiment is felt by many people, all around the world. The Olympic Games bring together athletes from 204 different countries from all the corners of the world. They put aside wars, politics, disagreements, and come together to compete for bronze, silver and gold medals. It's such a simple idea, yet very complex, and I think the 2008 opening ceremonies in Beijing really captured this idea so perfectly and so beautifully.

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