Sunday, August 10, 2008


I have been looking forward to the Opening Ceremony ("ceremony" not "ceremonies") since... well, probably since I knew I was coming. I didn't get to attend - tickets are hot real estate - but it ended up being an amazing night that I'll always remember. I was at work until about 9:30 but only serving as backup in case things went haywire. Lucky me was able to sit and stare at the tvs with my jaw on the floor - completely oblivious to the chaos going on around me. When I finally came to, it was a shock to realize that people had been working like busy bees the entire first hour of the show! I was so mesmerized I barely noticed.

It was unreal.

Seriously. That was unreal.

2008 people working in unison? And not just one group of 2008 people but SEVERAL? No lines on the floor? No one directing them. Just total precision and unison. 2008 people moving as one. I wish I was eloquent enough to describe it. But I'm way better at quips so I think I'll just keep the memories alive in my head and not try and ruin them with words. I will say that I was touched and moved beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Wasn't it almost like a North Korean pageant in it's perfectness and unison though? If it hadn't been so beautiful, it might have bordered on creepy. North Korean shows give me the heebie-geebies.

Which brings me to another point - I'm still in China and I'm still on Chinese internet so I won't comment on what I saw, I'll just tell you what I saw while I watched the Opening Ceremony (you can probably insert a nash-style sarcastic quip on your own). Someone emailed me that they thought it was hilarious that I was blogging about communism in China and I was like hmm... yea... that's probably only funny till I get arrested and sent to Mongolia... I should probably watch it.

So I watched the Opening Ceremony with a friend who's a gymnastics researcher here for NBC. We had originally planned to go to a bar and watch but I ended up working late and he was pooped from flag bearer research. How many times do you hear that excuse? Insert comment about large poles being exhausting here. You know how Bob Costas seems to know all sorts of fun facts about the various countries? That's because there' sa room filled with people constantly on the phone getting that info - of if you're Jeff, you walk down to the Iran Olympic committee office, knock on the door and say 'hi, can you tell me who's carrying your flag?' Awesome. I digress.

So we ended up sitting on the floor of the Main Press Center lobby in front of a huge plasma tv surrounded by about 200 chinese volunteers and random press people from around the world. I'm usually bored to tears by the athlete march in but surrounded by this group, the significance of the range of cultures and athletes competing was driven home.

The Chinese people clapped for the most random things - well, random is perception so I should qualify that with it seemed random to ME. They went crazy for African countries - and Switzerland. Actually - it was more like they went nuts for black people and blonde people. They would giggle like school girls for both. I guess it's because it's a rarity to see in China and so it flat out amuses.

The other thing that was surprising was who they booed. I guess if I was more sensitive to world issues, it wouldn't have surprised me, but being more into MTV than CNN, I was taken aback. When (South) Korea entered, there were audible hisses and stony silence from most. And we were in the main press center where these volunteers are aware that they're being watched and monitored to be on their bet behavior... I can't imagine what the reaction was like in a local bar on the outskirts of Beijing. Jeff and I kind of looked at each other thinking, well, that was weird. But they had done the same for Japan, except louder so we didn't think a whole lot of it. But it was when North Korea entered that I truly got shivers down my spine. The Chinese people went crazy clapping and applauding this country's entrance. They also applauded ... and I can't remember now but it was either Iraq or Iran. Sooo... well.... I guess that's all I can say about that for now. I'm in China.

But the absolute best part was when the chinese athletes entered the arena. People were on their feet the second the Chinese flag was spotted back in the tunnel, shouting "Jai yo! Some--thing!" (haven't been able to figure out what the second part of the cheer is yet) Over and over again - it was like the "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!" except more forceful and intense. I took a video that I'm going to try to get onto youtube soon. It was so exciting. The Chinese people's pride in their country was on full display and it was really emotional to be smack in the middle of that wave of national pride. When Yao Ming was on the screen, it was so loud and energetic. It was such a frenzy!

After the lighting of the torch - which EEEK!! Li NING!!! 1984 Olympic gold medallist!!! A gymnast lit the torch! EEEEEKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But after the lighting we all hit the streets to watch the fireworks. I skipped them on the fourth of july and since I can only stand one fireworks display a year... well, I'm glad I picked this one.

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