Fairies, Confucius herald superpower China on world stage (Roundup)

August 9th, 2008 - 12:47 am ICT by IANS  

By V.Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 8 (IANS) A grand opening ceremony with Apsaras descending from the skies amidst a rendition of Confucius’ famous saying “Friends have come from afar, how happy we are” ushered in the 29th Olympic Games - and heralded China’s arrival on the world stage as a superpower in every sense of the word. Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the Games open in the presence of International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge, an ecstatic capacity audience of 91,000 at the National Stadium as the Asian nation unfolded a breathtaking story of its rich ancient civilisation and technological brilliance. An estimated four billion people worldwide watched the most colourful extravaganza on their TV screens.

The occasion also marked the culmination of China’s Olympic dream. Once dejected at the failure to win the Games of 2000, it finally staged the Olympics in 2008, in the eighth - auspicious for Chinese - year of the new millennium.

Witnessing the spectacle were the world’s most powerful leaders seated in the VIP galleries, whose thunderous applause added weight to the success of the ceremony, which was kept under the wraps until the last moment and had heightened the audience curiosity.

Chinese gymnastics legend Li Ning brought the more than three-hour opening extravaganza to a befitting climax by lighting the Olympic cauldron after being spectacularly lifted 75 feet above the ground.

Viewers around the globe watched in awe as an airborne Li - winner of six gold medals in the 1982 Gymnastics World Cup and three in the Los Angeles Olympics two years later - took a bird’s eye view of the stadium, holding the torch aloft, as video footage of the worldwide torch relay and a breathtaking pyrotechnic display formed the last act of the gala show.

A pre-ceremony show lasting nearly an hour and a quarter preceded the main Opening. The pre-ceremony show included a series of cultural dances, sequences full of colour accompanied by some inspiring music, which the crowd loved. The pre-ceremony itself seemed to be a great gala, as the audiences were asked to get to the Stadium at least two to three hours before the main ceremony began.

The pre-show had several interactive elements blended into the programme. Among the early highlights was the 2008-member Fou band (an ancient form of Chinese percussion instrument made of either bronze or ceramic), which entered from the four gates, and then stood in a rectangular formation on east and west sides of the stadium with a huge passageway in between.

The 224-member chorus dressed in 56 traditional Chinese ethnic costumes added to the attraction and then the 201-member Military band entered the stadium, which resembled a colourful bowl.

The famous band, formed in July 1952 by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, played the welcome music as Jintao, accompanied by Rogge, entered the stadium at the completion of the pre-ceremony.

Then there were 29 colossal footprints symbolising the 29 Olympic Games and comprised of fireworks, representing the invention of gunpowder, one of ancient China’s great inventions.

The footprints passing through Tiananmen Square went all the way to the north of the stadium and then the fairies, 20 graceful ‘Apsaras’ with their glittering costumes, descended from the sky and clustered around the Olympic rings manifesting beauty and romance.

The entry of the Chinese Flag at 8:08:08 p.m. on Aug 8, 2008 created a theme of eight and in a manner of speaking the Games began at this auspicious moment with the rendering of the Chinese national anthem by a chorus comprising 56 ethnic groups.

Spectators were treated to Chinese traditional operas with the performance of the Peking Opera followed with the exhibition of Silk Route, an important passage for economic and cultural exchanges between China and the West.

Ancient Chinese music, a starlight performance, a rendition of romantic melody, was accompanied by a 1,000 performers building a “Bird’s Nest” towards which a kite flew through the sky.

Nature’s association with China came out in the form of Taiji and integration of tradition and the future.

Finally, before the contingents entered the stadium, there was the sequence of ‘Dream’ which also demonstrated the theme of “One World, One Dream”.

A giant elevating globe which came on show had taken a year to design and construct and install and was one of the secret elements of the opening ceremony, and actors ran on the nine runs covered with Olympic Torch cloud pattern.

Next followed the theme song “You and Me” sung by several thousand students. There were exactly 2,008 smiling singers, once again representing the 56 Chinese ethnic groups.

The orchestra from the five continents performed as the athletes of the world marched into the stadium and the Games were on. And the 1.3 billion Chinese faces were smiling, their chests brimming with pride. They certainly will try to take the No. 1 spot even on medals tally for the first time.

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