Chinese leave the world dazed with brilliance on and off the field (LEAD)

August 25th, 2008 - 12:09 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 24 (IANS) The world watched in awe as China delivered yet another jaw-dropping performance at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. Coming close on the heels of its amazing ascent to the top of the medals tally, China lent a new meaning to closing ceremonies with a performance that may well have tied for the gold with its sensational opening two weeks ago.The flawless execution on and off the field of a $42 billion party that took years in planning was perfect and knocked off the doubters.

The Bird’s Nest, which in its construction phase had drawn wide criticism, looked so beautiful that even its worst critic would have had little option but to have a change of heart.

Drenched in a cornucopia of colours and crowned, as it were, by the most spectacular firework display, the performers at the Bird’s Nest left the rest of the world star-struck.

Where opening ceremonies are always spectacular affairs, closing ceremonies have always been somewhat muted. But Beijing may well have changed that and set a new trend.

The 16-day long Games during which China scaled the peak of the medals tally were book-ended by two grand ceremonies and together as a package the Games will surely have redefined the image of China.

The Chinese have taken over the top spot in the medals tally by a huge margin in gold count and the margin seemed to be even bigger when it came to the spectacle they put up.

China’s image of a reticent nation not open or receptive to the outside world will never be the same after the Games.

The spontaneity itself may have been planned meticulously, but its execution provided unrestrained joy. With the crowds inside the Bird’s Nest and elsewhere in the city, be it the Tiananmen Square or elsewhere, Beijing was transformed into a giant dance floor.

The two-hour closing ceremony also saw London take eight minutes to give a glimpse of what is in store in four years’ time. Sure, the London organisers had two days ago warned that the ‘Handover’ segment was not an abridged version of the opening ceremony in London, but the enormity of the task ahead of them would have been re-emphasised as they soaked in the Chinese offering.

The stadium was in a thrall for an entire hour and never once did it seem that they were stretching, for so captivating was the whole affair.

Technology and fireworks blended by spectacular choreography were accompanied by a riot of colours. It was possibly one of the most remarkable Olympic Games in history.

“Tonight, we come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever,” said International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge while declaring the Games formally closed. “Through these Games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world. These were truly exceptional games.”

Chinese heritage walked hand-in-hand with modern technology and the crowd provided the atmosphere as 90,000 people inside the “Bird’s Nest” and more than 10 times that number around the city watched and participated in two hours of festivities that promised to continue late into the night.

In the fitness of things, China topped the gold tally with 51, leaving the United States way behind. China have rounded off their medal tally to hundred. The United States were second with 36 gold, but they are ahead overall at 110.

Boxing bronze medalist Vijender Singh carried India’s flag at the closing ceremony.

An hour-long pre-ceremony featured sequences with Fuwa, the mascot, as the creative theme. Then followed pyrotechnics and display, which only the Chinese could have provided. Using imagery and technology of the highest level, they have now taken Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics to new heights.

Add to it the crowd involvement, not just inside the Bird’s Nest but around the entire Olympic Green, which also houses the spectacular Aquatic Complex, called the Water Cube.

Thousands of Chinese assembled around this gigantic city, and positioned themselves in front of giant screens, some of them as big as six stories in height and 100 metres in width. It was a city in the throes of joy.

With it started the prelude, countdown and the fireworks display. With the countdown music as the background, videos played out images simultaneously on the screens. The countdown started from “29″, indicating the highlights of the 29th Olympic Games.

All this was accompanied with sound effects and then began the countdown from 10. The numbers appeared in the sky as it were, accompanied by fireworks.

The fireworks at the top of the Bird’s Nest flowered out forming a great circle in the sky, symbolising the success of Beijing Games. The circle in traditional Chinese culture is a symbol of harmony and renewal.

Soon after the lights went out in the stadium and a video was played on the large screen to explain the theme of the closing ceremony.

The video reviewed the memorable moments of the Games and with it began the celebration. Two hundred drum performers lined up in a circle on the steps of the main stage.

Two large heavenly drums flew in from the north and south. The beats was magical in sound and scintillating.

The drums in the Chinese tradition signal the start of a grand celebration and 1,148 dancers wearing silver bells gathered around the main stage. The silver bell performers dancing to the tune of the heavenly drums then greeted the guests. Following them were eight drum carts in different shapes entering the stadium.

Rotating poles, whirling cycles in the form of lights and light wheels shuttling, and 200 bouncing and flying men ran and rolled over in celebration. It was sheer joy as the crowd soaked it all and acknowledged it with non-stop with roars of approval.

Then followed the national flags of all delegations. The Greeks came in first and the Chinese came in last.

Once the flag-bearers assembled, the medal-winning athletes followed and then the other athletes came in from all four gates with no distinction in nationality, signifying the togetherness of the world.

The next big segment was the handover of the Olympic flag to London for 2012 Games, highlighted by a musical rendition by Leona Lewis and Jimmy Page. They were followed by soccer superstar David Beckham, who was accompanied by a British girl of Indian origin Tayyab Dudhwala, kicked the handover ball.

London’s gig started with a symbolic red London double-decker bus driving around the Bird’s Nest and it was chased by cyclists Chris Hoy, a triple gold medallist in Beijing, Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade. When the bus stopped, it was surrounded by the dancers from the three groups, the Royal Opera House, street dance theatre group ZooNation and CandoCo, a contemporary dance company of disabled and non-disabled dancers.

The bus transformed itself with the top half folding down in segments to show a hedge cut into shapes of the London skyline with landmarks such as the Tower Bridge, Battersea Power Station and the Parliament.

That handover symbolically marked the start of a new four-year Olympiad and the celebrations, which so highlighted China over the past four years, will now move on to the new hosts, London.

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