Friday, 8 August 2008

Opening ceremony Beijing Olympics: Madam Miaow on the radio tonight


I'm now watching the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and laughing. It's spectacular beyond belief: 2,008 Foo drumers with an amazing light show; 3,000 year old string instruments; fireworks displays across six miles of the Forbidden City axis to the Birds Nest Stadium; dancers painting a huge unfurling scroll combining the arts of dance, painting and music; and mysteriously floating objects rising like magic. Thousands of years of history all designed by movie director Zhang Yimou, so I'm guessing wires will be involved.

Oh, and the mandatory cute kid singing while China's national costumes get an airing and PLA officers march (no that is not a goose-step!) with the national flag in tow.

And puppets!!! (The kind with strings, you cynics out there!!!) As bread and circuses go, that was ace.

Fifty-six Chinese ethnic minorities, 1,000 medals, 300 events, 204 competing nations, 10,000 athletes, 313 Brits, 639 Chinese, plus 7 feet six inches of basketball hero Yao Ming.

A cast of thousands (fifteen thousand to be precise), state of the art technology, imagination and flair. London is so screwed. Follow that!

I'm on Radio 5Live tonight, 10 to 11pm, on the Stephen Nolan Show

Just watched the lighting of the Olympic flame that officially opens the games. Zhang Yimou — you are The One!

Another great blog on the ceremony

9 comments:

harpymarx said...

I wanted to watch but am stuck in work, will have to rely on the edited highlights this evening.

Good luck with the radio tonight.

Oh, and yeah.....London 2012 high tech security and possible very little else.

M@X said...

Hi Anna, it's Max from LSE here. I'm now back in Guangzhou and watched the openning ceremony last night. It was astounding!
From the comments in BBC website I can see the British public loved the openning ceremony. Trunks of criticisms about China flowed all over before the openning, but now it all keeps silent. Because it's Beijing's show time!

ps: just a little correction, all the grand performance, including the drumers and Taichi, are performed in the population of 2008. Formalism or meaningful? You define it.

Madam Miaow said...

Hello Max,

Lovely to hear from you.

Ah! The figure of 2008 — that makes sense now.

I did the Radio 5Live show last night and, while the overall atmosphere was warm and friendly, one gripe from a couple of callers was that the performers were "too robotic". "Like ants". This archaic colonialist projection from some warped inner template still goes on. If it was flawed we would have been sloppy. If we're practised and professional about things, we're machines. The Chinese just can't win.

I get the impression, though, that the general feeling among the Chinese is of pride. Even British athletics star Steve Redgrave described what a great atmosphere he was experiencing among ordinary Chinese.

Good luck with the event. Hope it all goes well. The debate about other issues will still be there so enjoy the sport in the meantime.

ModernityBlog said...

all very impressive

nothing like a bit of pageantry for stirring up those nationalist feelings, beating of drums stomping around, all very militaristic

Still I suppose that these feats of marvellous organisation are only really possible in dictatorships, where subtle coercion goes hand-in-hand with shifting the beggars out of sight, sending out instructions on to how to dress and the State's steel baton is enclosed in velvet, for the duration of the game's.

Ciarán said...

nothing like a bit of pageantry for stirring up those nationalist feelings, beating of drums stomping around, all very militaristic

Still I suppose that these feats of marvellous organisation are only really possible in dictatorships, where subtle coercion goes hand-in-hand with shifting the beggars out of sight, sending out instructions on to how to dress and the State's steel baton is enclosed in velvet, for the duration of the game's.


Yes, I'm looking forward to London 2012 as well.

Steve McIntosh said...

I've just managed to endure the first 15 minutes of the opening ceremony. I'll be offline Olympics wise for the next 17 days.

"PLA officers march (no that is not a goose-step!)"
Sorry Anna .. what exactly was it then ?

Madam Miaow said...

"PLA officers march (no that is not a goose-step!)"
Sorry Anna .. what exactly was it then ?


Um. I think it's called humour. Irony. That sorta thang.

bob276 said...

I thought it was terrifying when the soldiers did the goose step. To Americans the goose-step is a symbol of oppressive, human right abusing dictatorships. It was a grim reminder that many countries do not enjoy the freedom we enjoy in the US.

I've read a little about goose-stepping and have found that there are a few countries that incorporate it into their military pageantry. I've also read that it came from Prussia. I've also read that the Chinese were enemies of the Nazi party during world war 2. For all these reasons, many on the net argue that I should not find it offensive.

However, like the swastika(which has actually been used for thousands of years), goose stepping has become a symbol of evil. Just like I choose not to name my children Adolf or Satan, I would like countries not to use the swastika on their flags and would like them not to goose-step during military pageantry.

This generation of americans has been brought up to believe in respect for other people's cultures. I think that we should do that, as long as those cultures deserve our respect. Silently tolerating the use of symbols that are commonly used to represent evil is not something we should do.

The goose-step opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics was a slap in the face to the world. China will not respect our traditions, our culture, our sensitivities any more than it will respect the human rights of its own citizens. Ideally, the olympics would be solely about the games and the spirit of human brotherhood. However, from the begining they have served as a catalyst for discussion of politics and national policy. People who argue that we should ignore China's human rights abuses should consider that there are human beings suffering horribly over there right now, children being exploited and killed, adults being exploited and killed and Chinese protesters trying desperately to bring our attention to the corruption and oppression that they are suffering. Ignoring them is like walking through a concentration camp and admiring the beauty of the sun and getting angry at those who tell you to look around at what's happening to the people around you. While it is right to admire the beauty of the sun, there should be discussion and action to right wrongs that have no place in the world.

The Berlin games of 1936 was a truly spectacular olympic opening ceremony. The Germans walked in hailing Hitler there was inspirational music. It was crafted with the same flair for cinema that the nazi propaganda films would enjoy for the next 10 years. We can't watch footage of that opening ceremony without being facinated by the knowledge that all those people sitting in the stands would witness some of the most incredibly evil national programs the world has ever seen. Its amazing to think that a modern culture could embrace the ideals of the nazis and its scary as hell that it could happen again. When I watched the chinese soldiers goose-step around I felt similar to the way I feel when I watch footage of that 1936 Olympic opening, except I am more fearful, because I wonder if we had another World War or if there was a slow spread of oppression from China to countries around the world, would good still prevail.

Madam Miaow said...

Bob,

To Americans the goose-step is a symbol of oppressive, human right abusing dictatorships.

Whereas the pointy-foot balletics from US soldiers is .... what? Riverdancing?

It was a grim reminder that many countries do not enjoy the freedom we enjoy in the US.

Yes, we all saw how New Orleans people fleeing from Hurricane Katrina were warmly welcomed by the marshalls on the bridge. Jeez, Gitmo? Two million of your citizens in prison? The death penalty? (I’m implacably opposed to the death penalty no matter which government is doing it.) Seen the way Walmart treats its workers? BTW, seen many pix of your dead soldiers coming back from Iraq in pine boxes, lately? Or are the authorities still clamping down on what you’re allowed to see?

You only have freedom as long as you have money.

The goose-step opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics was a slap in the face to the world.

Better a slap in the face than a bomb, bullet or nuclear strike. Personally, I find all militarism nauseating. I certainly wouldn’t play holier than thou if I was the native of the most destructive superpower on the planet.

China will not respect our traditions, our culture, our sensitivities

This is surely satire. Are you aware of the plunder and destruction of ancient artefacts in Iraq, one of the cradles of civilisation? Seen how treasures are turning up in the US market? The pillage of Babylon? Your commmentators such as Anna Coulter urging their country to invade countries, kill their leaders, take their oil and convert them to Christianity?

While I’m at it, still waterboarding? Or do you use rendition to get all your torture victims to torture zones so someone else csan do it in your name?

We’re all aware that China needs to clean up its act. But lectures from the country that gave us Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, nuclear strikes and a million dead Iraqis is unbelievable.

How about: all our countries are behaving in ways that need to change?

... there are human beings suffering horribly over there right now, children being exploited and killed, adults being exploited and killed

In 2006 the Chinese government moved to introducing basic workers’ rights so everyone could join a trade union. Guess what happened? The American Chamber of Commerce, supported by the European COC, lobbied hard to stop progress in this area. Government joined in. The Chinese didn’t get their rights. Bought any cheap Chinese goods lately? If you haven’t, I bet your mates have.

BTW, good basketball between the US and China.

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