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The squeaky clean opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games was squeaky clean, free of any overt politics. Or at least that’s the impression I got from watching the main channel of China Central Television.

Yaoming If any athletes whipped out a Darfur banner or a Free Tibet T-shirt, I (and all of China) missed it. I saw no foreign athletes wearing masks against the air pollution, or pins or lapels pushing any cause.

What I saw were a lot of stadium seats filled with excited, and very hot, people. They cooled themselves as best they could with hand fans, some of them bathed in sweat on a sultry summer evening. The ceremony went over four hours long, ending just after midnight.

Yet there were minor moments, political or not, that struck me, especially the parade of athletes from the 204 countries taking part in the games.

Apart from China, guess which country’s athletes waved Chinese flags as they marched through the stadium? No, it wasn’t the squad from Hong Kong, nor was it the team from Macau. The Taiwanese athletes did not hoist the red flag of China.

Japan, China’s most loathed historical foe, instructed its athletes to clutch small Chinese and Japanese flags together as they circled the stadium. I thought it a generous touch.

So who got the biggest cheers? From the television broadcast, big cheers went up in the crowd for Spain, France, Russia, Iraq and … Canada. I couldn’t figure that last one until I saw Mark Rowswell walking among the Canadian athletes. Rowswell is known to one and all Chinese as “Da Shan,” the foreigner who has utterly mastered Chinese and appears on national television all the time as an emcee and product promoter.

Of China’s neighbors, I’d say the loudest cheers in the crowd went up for North Korea.

And of course there were thunderous cheers for the Chinese squad. The stadium shook with chants of, "Zhongguo, jia you!" or "Let's go, China!"

The stands were filled with dignitaries of all kinds, presidents and princes, but on Chinese television, the cameras constantly lingered on the Chinese leaders. While party chief Hu Jintao was first among equals, the entire standing committee of the Politburo sat beside him. So did former President Jiang Zemin and his wife. Jiang, after all, led the Chinese government when Beijing won the right in 2001 to host the games.

It’s clear that the party is staking all on the games going well. I think they will probably sleep well tonight.


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Arthur Borges

Oops: PLEASE READ "sentimentalists" NOT "sentamentalists".

Arthur Borges

Pfeffer, actually my Chinese freshmen and sophomores think that France is "romantic" and, sentamentalists that I find them by nature, would be learning the language in greater numbers if more universities included it in their curriculum.

Alas, however, as an English teacher, I tell them to go for Japanese or Russian, because French will only mess up their English for years and the spelling is as insane as that of English.

Then I go and tell them, that for a romantic experience of France, they should find their lover in China and THEN go to France -- otherwise, in Paris, they will only meet North African pickpockets.

Very un-PC, I know, and the woman I loved most was Algerian, but that's how it is.


Turns out some of the stuff in the opening ceremony was faked!



Hmmm...not too many comments from the Dr. Nos on Big Bad Obsessive Compulsive China now that:
(1) No athletes have yet died from competing in Beijing (unfortunately we can't say the same for tourists - yes Virginia, crime in Beijing - I wonder how the Nos let that one slip by), and
(2) The real Big Bad One - Vlad the Impaler, decides to bomb Georgia back to the stone age - just to show he can.
BTW, notice how much influence GW has had on Putin? Let's be fair, it was a mismatch from the start, the KGB General vs. the Texas Village Idiot. GW just couldn't understand why Putin would be all putout by GW's attempt to nato-ize Russia's immediate neighbors. After all, Putin was suppose to be his Bud. Hu, on the other hand, is not GW's Bud because he's so damn, well, inscrutable (no really, that's what GW implied to reporters). What the heck does he mean by peaceful rise and harmony anyways? Oh, right, try not to destroy thy neighbor.

A  B

Maybe the cheers was edited out by FLG working for French TV.

Or, maybe they thought the cheers are really only for Carla.

on the other hand


Everyone in the stadium heard a cheer for France.
We also highlighted the French language in the ceremony. But you in Paris heard the other way. There is nothing we can do.


Pathetic cynics like nh and bleedingblue see nothing good no matter what China does. As Arthur Borges put it brilliantly: "Whatever China does, it catches flak. It caught flak for being Communist; now it's catching flak for being Capitalist -- the bottomline is that the only thing really wrong with China is that it is Chinese." You can't win with pathetic cynics like these people, but again why should China or anybody give a damn about people like nh and bleedingblue?

Pierre, I don't think the French were booed, not at all. I was pleased to hear the Chinese audiences actually cheered for them. France simply doesn't matter that much to the Chinese or in the Olympics.

Pierre from Paris, france

"big cheers went up in the crowd for Spain, France..."
Wrong, no cheers for France , it's boo!
The Chinese still don't forgive what they think " betrayal of France " when the torch relay came to Paris, remember the boycott of Carrefour retailer.


@nanheyblahblah - A true hater - I see you're setting up your show in this blog now - starting off mild?

@bleedinglbue - The dividend for the $43 billion? Well, on one hand it's been a helluva party so far, and looks like many if not all Chinese enjoyed it. Think of it as their version of the real estate/credit bubble in the U.S. - where Bubbas all across this fair land had a helluva party buying MB SUVs, going on cruises, putting in granite kitchens, and getting boob jobs - none of which they can afford. Now while everything is repossessed or foreclosed, they will still have a fond memory of the good times to keep them going. While the fake blondes get to keep their boobs, the Chinese get to keep a few new subway lines, the new roads, the new airport, the upgraded public restrooms, and the funky new architectural landmarks. One difference is they can actually afford it because they make stuff - we just sell them to each other.


Xinhua reports an American tourist have been killed and 2 injured after an attack.

What is going on?

on the other hand

The NBC version significantly shortened Li Ning's run (as well as many other things), and so the finale didn't look as spectacular as the live broadcast. It should be a long run (signifying the long way the China has come along) to make it beautiful.


An unnecessarily ponderous production, but then again what do you expect from a government that is convinced that bigger must be better (the Athens ceremony was much better). The playing of the faux drums and the Tai Chi stuff seemed a bit belligerant. Were they supposed to represent millions of Chinese drones working as a collective juggernaut that will one day suffocate the individuality of the world? Also the part where the goose-stepping soldiers take the flags from the children was a bit sickening.

Oh, and what about including the wonders of the Cultural Revolution in the production? Or, when symbolically showing how China is more open now, they should have showed the soldiers yanking the cell phones out of dancing reporters' hands.

The good thing about this production is that when it's all over, and the high millions of Chinese are riding on now is past, the ppl in China will begin wondering where their dividend is for all this.


Just a minor factual error:

There are not 204 countries. There are 204 participating teams that are mostly from countries.

For example, ones are not countries but sent teams:

Chinese Taipei
Hong Kong
US Virgin Islands


It should be daylight soon, then everyone start competing in the smog, er, mist.


From all I have heard it was a great show. Congrats to Beiging for pulling it off!

on the other hand

You forgot the first big cheer was probably the one for Taiwan. Among China's neighbors, Pakistan got a big one too, because this country donated ALL its tents to China after the Sichuan earthquake.

Anyway, it was a good show. Just enjoy it and put politics aside (for at least a while), will you Tim?


Your article says: "From the television broadcast, big cheers went up in the crowd for Spain, France, Russia, Iraq and … Canada"

Fr the live telecast I watched (I think the commentators were fr Australian Ch 7), I would say Team USA & Australia were very well received too, in part due to the Size & Sporting Strengths of these Contingents, & in part for being hosts of recent Olympic Games. There were even clearly audible claps for Team Singapore with a small contingent of 25!

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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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