One of the interesting things about the Opening Ceremony is the outside world gets to see (or is made to pay attention to) a slice of raw Chinese public opinion on full display.
Besides obviously the home team, Taiwan probably got the loudest cheers from the Chinese crowd at the Bird’s Nest today, a sure head-scratcher to foreign pundits stuck in a brain warp, I’m sure, but no real surprise to Chinese people and those who know China.
As we watch the Opening Ceremony, let’s make a list of the teams that got the loudest cheers from the Chinese crowd today. It is bound to be interesting.
Even as “One World, One Dream” is sung, I really appreciate the small ways in which these Games are different. For example, the teams march not in alphabetical order but in Chinese character stroke order. I’m sure all the “Z” countries appreciated that. 😉
And precisely because there is something different to see, we’re finally getting a concrete inkling of what it means to have China host the Olympics and why it should be the host this time around. The world has been missing something: not the CCP, not a faceless government, but 1/5 of humanity that has its own voice. In the face of strong Western-discourse-dominated politicization of the Olympics (and not just the politicization itself), the Chinese populace has rendered its antidotal verdict:
No matter if you are a “leader” of the so-called “free world”, or a supposed “rogue”, you are welcome to play in these Olympic Games. I think this sets the tone perfectly.
Good observation. I did not see the opening ceremony. I have been trying to stay aloof.
I think the volume of cheering each team receives is a good measure public opinion on a particular segment of the Chinese society, those who have access to the ticket. This segment is disproportionately influential on the country’s future.
I am not surprised that Taiwan got the loudest cheers. I would guess Hong Kong would get good cheers too.
I wonder how much cheering Japan and South Korea received, relative to the United States, and of course, France and Germany.
I don’t remember Taiwan (or “Chinese Taibei” got the loudest cheers), but it’s hard to remember exactly (and my ears are no measuring rods 🙂 ). Russia and the US got loud cheers, China the loudest.
Hongkong seemed to get very loud cheers, now that I think of it.
Oops, thanks! Obviously China itself gets the loudest cheers, haha… I meant the visitors.
Among the visitors, Taiwan got the loudest cheers indeed; then Hong Kong, Russia and the US. Japan got loud cheers too, so much louder than I expected.
I missed the opening. I heard that the Japanese carried Chinese flags as well as Japanese flags. That’s a good gesture of friendly relations. 🙂
Gan Lu says
Disappointing opening ceremony. Expected much more. Particularly disappointed with the torch lighting – uninteresting and emotionally vapid. Perhaps it worked better for people who saw it all in person, but the television broadcast was a let down. From start to finish, very conventional. 中庸之道. I’m watching 凤凰卫视 as I write, and several of the commentators have made similar criticisms – as have a number of Chinese netizens whose comments are being reviewed by the 凤凰 news crew. Some have indicated that the opening ceremony was confusing, unexciting, etc. The whole thing with Li Ning fake-running around the rim of the stadium was just awful.
I’m not surprised at all that Taiwan received a warm welcome. After all, we Chinese have been assuring our Taiwanese 同胞 for decades that we will soon liberate them. Check out this link for some excellent, benevolent-sounding propaganda posters concerning Taiwan-Mainland reunification (it’s a fantastic link – propaganda posters galore):
Watching the ceremony on television, it appeared to several of my friends and I that the U.S. received the most sustained applause of the evening. We also took notice of the fact that none of the smaller African nations appeared to receive much applause at all. Not even Sudan and Zimbabwe. Then again, Mugabe was rudely turned away in Hong Kong just a day or two ago. France also received a nice cheer, as did both Germany and Great Britain (or was it England?).
Gan Lu says
Also interesting that the Taiwanese delegation did not carry their national flag.
I watched parts of it online. It was ok. I don’t know how others may react if I said in my personal opinion that it is quite modest compared to what I’m aware they’re capable of. Probably could be better but it’s the first one and there’s probably other issues. I guess now it’s time to watch the games.
The whole ceremony is amazing, spectacular and magnificent, from starting to end!
I am speechless and still in awe!
It’s hard to pick a favorite moment, but the 29 firework footprints and Li Ning’s moon chasing are on top of my list.
Well done China! well done Direct Zhang! Who needs Spielberg?! I knew from beginning that the “artistic consultant” title is a honor and privilege afforded to him as a goodwill, not that he was really needed.
“…none of the smaller African nations appeared to receive much applause…”
African countries should have gotten more cheers.
some media reaction:
What I can tell you for sure is, the opening hour of the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics bent the mind and stretched the imagination. It was a floor show that made the most spectacular revue in Las Vegas look like a church picnic, and it was a privilege to see it in person.
Reuters via Yahoo News:
World media hails Beijing’s perfect night
By John Ruwitch 1 hour, 7 minutes ago
BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing’s Olympic opening extravaganza drew rave reviews on Friday from media around the world awed by rich displays of Chinese culture that eclipsed controversy that has surrounded the city’s hosting of the Games.
“An eight became a perfect 10 in Beijing tonight,” the website of the Sydney Morning Herald declared. With eight the luckiest number according to Chinese, it was no coincidence the Games started on August 8 at exactly 8 p.m.
“The world may never witness a ceremony of the magnitude and ingenuity as that which opens the 2008 Olympics,” it said.
A spectacle of sight and sound, the ceremony featured colorful dances, tightly choreographed drumming and barrages of fireworks up and down city streets.
London’s widely read Evening Standard ran the headline: “China Magic,” and said the “most ambitious Olympics in history opens with most spectacular show.”
“For China, before a TV audience of 4 billion, this was the luckiest moment in a thousand years. It is, too, the start of something even bigger than an Olympic Games. It is, or at least is meant to be, the beginning of China’s new era of greatness, witnessed and implicitly approved, by much of the leadership of the planet,” wrote Andrew Gilligan from Beijing.
“Marvelous. Too Marvelous,” gushed Italy’s Leonardo Coen on the website of the Rome-based daily La Repubblica (www.repubblica.it).
For some, the show drew attention to China’s strengths and the Olympic sports after a politically charged run-up to the Games that saw protests and accounts of human rights abuses grabbed headlines.
“‘Friends who come from far, how happy we are to have you here,’ was the message of greeting to the world, even the part of the world China has had harsh criticism from,” wrote Elio Girompini, a correspondent with Italy’s top daily Corriere della Sera (www.corriere.it).
“And in a stroke it made the latest polemics about Bush’s words on human rights slide away.”
German state broadcaster ARD said the Chinese organizing committee had been trying to produce compelling pictures for television viewers.
“Because in the run-up it was often not the great sporting event that dominated the news flow but the political situation in the host nation,” ARD wrote on its website (www.ard.de).
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the ceremony celebrated “not the economic giant growing to threatening size but a nation with an ancient culture, fascinating sounds and traditional pictures.
“Not the shocking severity of the dictatorship but what a strictly organized country can achieve if it puts in infinite effort,” it said on the website http://www.faz.de.
To the Los Angeles Times, the show, directed by Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou, was not a welcoming ceremony for a resurgent China rejoining the world stage.
Rather, it was “about China for at least the next 17 days becoming the world stage. The Chinese, accustomed to humiliation, real and perceived, by foreigners for centuries, are secure enough these days that they were willing, even eager, to share the spotlight.”
(Additional reporting by Paul Virgo in Rome, Robert Woodward in Beijing, Katherine Baldwin in London, Iain Rogers in Berlin; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
I really hope that the article that was posted is not the only one. I went to search for news and other information regarding reactions to the opening ceremony, and some have been quite cynical or a little negative, though not too over-board. Not too long ago on CNN they the anchors mentioned about the pollution there and making some cynical remarks on not just that but also another side story of ethnic chinese couples wanting to get married for the “lucky” day. One of the Taiwan channels caught the reactions of some of the locals. In seem like they were frustrated or mad at something but overall still festive about the Olympics.
Which reminds me, I’m sort of anxious to read some of you all in Beijing regarding your stays. Somehow, no matter if it’s positive or negative, or just mundane or random, etc. news, I trust you guys more than watching than the “professionals” in the media. Sometimes.
Charles Liu says
So Japan didn’t get booed. Good that settles that.
Did anyone get booed?
Guess the cheer that Pakistan got should be quite puzzling to most foreigners. I guess the recent news that Pakistan exhausted their strategic reserve of tents to supply China helped quite a bit.
Cuba got a big cheer for quite obvious reasons.
The most interesting one, in my opinion, is the big one that North Korea got, in contrast to what South Korea got.
Yet it’s China that play’s an indispensable role in making and keeping the two countries and separate. What’s more interesting is that Chinese mainlanders share with the Koreans the same ideal of national unification. And the Chinese have always expressed their admiration for the willingness from both two Koreas to make progress, in contrast to the lamentable reality across Taiwan strait. The Chinese public is a bit inconsistent in cheering only one Korea, while admiring their unification ideal and at the same time unconscious/ignorant of the role that China itself plays.
I seem to recall Iraq received a pretty decent cheer from the crowd – nearly disqualified by the IOC a few days ago and all – and then the camera cut to Bush… I wonder if television audience of the world had the same signal from the host broadcaster and what musings the American anchors might have offered at that point…
As for North Korea getting a cheer, I wrote here that it seems more for its status as an underdog more than anything else.
“Yet it’s China that play’s an indispensable role in making and keeping the two countries and separate… The Chinese public is a bit inconsistent in cheering only one Korea, while admiring their unification ideal and at the same time unconscious/ignorant of the role that China itself plays.”
Kinda a bit simplistic and lopsided view of China’s role in this affair, don’t you think? You kinda put us in the paradoxical situation of giving us too much and too little credit at the same time.
You gave us too much credit by making it out to seem like China is the only one involved that is keeping the peninsula separate. Although you didn’t say so explicitly, but by naming China and no one else, that’s implication you were going for, right? Just think about who else is involved here, and what’s their role in this affair? I am sure you can come with of about half a dozen players have a vest interest here. I know you can do it — I believe in you.
This aside, you kind of at the same time give us too little credit by saying that the Chinese public is unconscious/ignorant of the role that China itself plays. That is a bit ignorant in itself. I guess, even someone as ignorant as myself is painfully aware of the strategic importance of the peninsular. Gee, if you want to gain access to China, what’s the like route you would take. At the same time, if you were another one of Korea’s neighbors, which route of access would you want to keep an eye on.
Just use that thing between your ears. Or maybe you shouldn’t, because things will only get complicated.
I think the cheer can be *interpreted* as a indicator of underdog status, which I have agree with you on some level. But this does not *explain* the cheer though, which seems a more interesting question.
Did they cheer because out of an (maybe unreflected) emotional connection with North Korea? The emotional response could be the product of education, history, propaganda or general shared memory by older generations etc.
Or did they cheer because they wanted to sort of ‘encourage’ the country? This explanation assumes N.K’s status as somehow lower, which is consistent with the underdog interpretation.
So I’m thinking the reason/motivation behind the cheers for N.K would be interesting to consider.
I’m not going for that implication at all. (But excused me if I made it look like.) Anyway, what I had in my mind though, was primarily the fact that it was the PLA who fought the Korean war, on the ground, and was vital in defending N.K thus keeping the two countries separate.
And you’re absolutely right about the strategic and vested interest in the region. No country can just watch your strategic rivals exert strong influence on your neighbour.
The cheers (& the silent boo to S.K.) seems to be somehow celebrating the fact that the two countries are separate. (Because you’re affirming one and denying the other).
But, as Confucious says (and also Kant and Jesus), “Do not do to others what you wouldn’t will to yourself”–if you want unification yourself (with Taiwan), you wouldn’t wish separation to others, in this case, the Korean peninsula, right? But that’s what the mainlanders did, by cheering one and shunning the other.
And that’s why I’m saying it’s ‘inconsistent’–their act is inconsistent with their values and ideals. To say they (we) are not insistent, we have to either deny Confucious’s motto or to claim that people are ignorant / unconcsious of those facts.
I’d say people was just unconscious at that particular time, we/they just didn’t think that much about the meaning and implication of the cheering of NK and shunning of SK.
By the way, I’m one of “us”, too. ;p
Guys, this morning (GMT) I watched the 1980 Olympics opening ceremony, OK, no card show, no Olympic boycotters showing the Olympic flag instead of their national flags, but also not right-hand-salutting-youths (although they did have goose-stepping officials with doves in their right hands in 1980).
The “Bird’s Nest” stadium releasing the virtual doves of peace!
Not that the raised right hand salute was unexpected in Beijing, but if anyone wanted to avoid comparisons to Fascism, the chance was lost.
I think the lukewarm reception the South Koreans received is at least partly due to Korean broadcaster’s leaking an opening ceremony video and recent rumors that some of the Chinese students who protested in the Seoul leg of the Olympic torch relay received heavy prison terms.
I think I know what FOARP is getting at.
“The first sour note of the ceremony: while the Chinese national anthem was playing, the costumed children raised their right arms in something close to a Nazi salute. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to look that way, but I’m also sure that if Steven Spielberg remained as a consultant he would have headed it off. He bailed out of the project after getting what he regarded as inadequate answers to concerns he raised about China’s sluggish efforts to end in the genocide in Sudan”
By which I meant this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQBhxOFjCn0
Today’s actions clearly show that such thoughts are prevelent today, what are we to do to combat them. Today a good friend in law of mine said that the Georgia-Russia dispute sounded like a coimpromise, when really it was just a slower exchange of views than normal.
There are only so many ways to salute with your right hand. You tell me…
FOARP # 23
The children’s right-hand-over-the-head salute has nothing to do with Fascism; it is purely communism. It is the salute of the Chinese Children’s Communist Pioneers (中国少年共产主义先锋队，or, 少先队 for short). It is the organization of all the “good kids” in elementary school. Its organization structure parallels the school structure. The head of all the members in the elementary school is an adult (in my memory), a teacher, with the title of “advisor” 辅导员。Below the school each grade (年级，year) has a head, who is a student (good one too), with the title of 大队长. Below the grade, each class (班e.g., Class # 3 of the Third Grade，三年级三班) has a student head, with the title of 中队长. I was a 中队长 in third grade and then moved on to 大队长in Fifth Grade, very proud of that part of personal history. Please do not insult the good kids of our country. My big brother’s kid is following my footstep, already a 中队长，at the same elementary school as me and my brother.
The right-head-over-the-head salute symbolizes the pledge of “placing the interests of the nation above everything else (祖国的利益高于一切)”. Also, each member of the Pioneers wears a red scarf on the neck every single day, including weekends. Its red color symbolizes that it has been soaked in the national martyrs’ blood （先烈的鲜血染红）. Am I leaking state secretes?
We also have a group chant: “ready anytime！ (时刻准备着！)”
Ready for what, you may ask. That is state secret.
We also have our own song. The Anthem of the Children’s Communist Pioneers (少先队队歌), very exciting.
This is our history and I am proud of it and expect respect from people who may have different histories.
More on the right hand salute.
All in all, these freaking games are taking place in our country, with our salute and everything. Our salute is as part of our history as the dances, costumes, taichi and scrolls.
“…but I’m also sure that if Steven Spielberg remained as a consultant he would have headed it off. ”
I am so glad that Spielberg did not have the opportunity or influence to head off the cool children’s salute. When they raised Chinese flag I almost had a emotional breakdown. Had to escape to the bathroom and stay in there for a long time.
Thanks BXBQ for the background.
But really, it isn’t the kids but the little minds of little people that would slosh such mud at them.
I didn’t know that the right hand salute can be misinterpreted like that. However, I don’t think we should avoid this just to comfort the westerns who is oversensitive. I think they will be shocked to see the word “卍” written in every Buddhist temple everywhere in China.
Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran appeared to be booed by the crowd. I was utterly confused by this; especially when I further saw the Chinese cheer the United States like they were close friends. Are the Chinese unaware of how much anti-Chinese sentiments the U.S. government and media spreads to its people?
None of the African countries got any cheers, not even Nigeria, with its close trade relationship with China. Yet they cheer the United States. Utterly confusing.
dude, are you always on 🙂
“…but I’m also sure that if Steven Spielberg remained as a consultant he would have headed it off. ”
Steven Spielberg is Jewish.
A little strange…this is the only place, at the moment that I’m aware of, which mentions the distinctions between the cheering. Some of them are pretty obvious, but the way it was, there’s bound to be someone(s) out there besides this blog to discuss about it.
You got a very deep insight, and put it in a very witty way. I wish I could swap the mud in my head for some of your crap, like God created the world in 7 days, and Dalai Lama had a previous life. But let’s not be too preoccupied with our personal issues and think about the big picture.
Just came back from watching the opening ceremony on NBC. I saw President Bush and his wife and could not stop thinking what was going on in his mind. He is an upright and God fearing man. He knows that communists are evil. Yet he was attending a party presided over by the head of the Chinese Communist Party, with a wide grin. Did it occur to him that he was committing a sin by cheering the Heretic Pagan rituals complete with the commie salutes and goose stepping commie soldiers?
Do you think President Bush would remember the Dalai Lama during the show?
Did Dalai Lama watch the opening ceremony? His Holiness once said he was a big supporter of the Beijing Games. What are his thoughts?
How did Steven Spielberg feel about the show? Did he go? Did he get any media attention if he did go?
How did Mia Fallow and her genocide Olympics associates feel about the opening ceremony?
How did the French president think about the opening ceremony?
These questions were racing in my head as I watched the show. I even wondered whether the Pope was watching the ceremony.
There are so many things that you would love to know. Overall I think it is a good show.
Cuba and Venezuela definitely were not booed, they were cheered.
But yes, Iran was booed and the United States received the second biggest cheer of the ceremony. My guess is that there were many Americans in the audience.
For those who interpret the right hand salute to Fascism – you are guilty of viewing others’ culture through your own culture’s myopic lens.
Even if the salute had been exactly a fascist salute – so what! Some people confuse the buddhist swastika with the fascist swastika. Thank god they are not the same. BUT – so what if the symbols had been the same. Does one culture’s history mean that the other’s culture can not develop as they are???
Judge everyone as what they are – not what you are.
Judge the Nazis for what they are. Judge the Americans for what they are. Judge the Chinese for what they are.
The head of the IOC looked totally disinterested and unenthusiastic the whole time, even passive aggressive. It seemed that he would rather be somewhere else. Did somebody upset him?
I think Kobe got a bigger cheer than any country. Yea, back to sports.
consider where a majority of Olympic sponsorship deals come from. Americans made up a good portion of the audience.
Looks like the reclusive Kim Jong-il did’nt attend after all.
North and South Koreas March Apart in Olympics ceremony
Hong Kong’s contingent also marched in separately.
So it’s medal count if any, may not be added to China’s medal count.
Dan po says
Spectacular and magnificent opening ceremony. The best ever of all Olympic. Simply amazing specially
how the cauldron was lit.
No way, my feeling was that both Iran and Iraq received cheers, which was strange to me. Then talked with my friend, he said that it manifested China’s “maternal instinct”(母性)…Very funny indeed
BTW, I think France was booed…at least not as welcomed as America or GB or even Germany….
Team Japan was great, they each carried both Japanese and Chinese national flags( the only team did so!).
Nice photo comparisons of “only so many ways to salute with your right hand”, which is a good point. Perhaps the only sensible variations left is to place the hand over the heart. But if it is done, wouldn’t cries of “disrespect of IP” be raised?
I realize that you were quoting someone’s remark in a news report. Nevertheless, such ignorance should be criticized rather than endorsed. Besides the background BXBQ provided on the Chinese youth salute, check out the following info from Wikipedia:
Yeah, the show was just… Wow! such a great show. I loved the drummers. It was funny, throughout the entire show, you can hear Bob Costas and Matt Lauer’s sheer amazement in the background, they were blown away.
Yeah. The show was great. The effect would be much better if you were in the stadium.
The drummers were not as rousing as expected. I was expecting Zhang Yimou to use the the traditional Chinese big drums (Da-Gu) or the waist-drum (Yao gu) for intensity.
I like the last part, Li Ning’s running in the sky too. It’s called夸父追日, according to mitbbs.
The choice of 歌唱祖国sung by the little girl when raising the Chinese flag was also great.
I think Yao Ming was in tears in the last part when he was interviewed by American TV, with the Sichuan earthquake boy in his arms.
Yao Ming was the biggest star of the night.
Oh yeah, i’ll throw it out there, surprisingly for me, Australia got a big welcome too, I mean one of the top ones.
Breaking News: Foolsmountain wins prestigious Danwei medal for best blogging on China, in the categoy of “China news aggregators and translations from Chinese”.
The boos for Iran were clear and audible. I don’t see how you couldn’t tell the difference between the cheers for Iraq and the booing shown towards Iran; especially considering they were introduced consecutively.
But it’s true, China, unlike Russia, Japan, and the IEAE has bought into the Western-World’s baseless allegations that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. That would explain the boos.
“The head of the IOC looked totally disinterested and unenthusiastic the whole time, even passive aggressive. It seemed that he would rather be somewhere else. Did somebody upset him?”
That’s perhaps was just a show of his personal style or more likely it was because he has been under tremendous pressure from the rights activists around the world, from his job to reconcile differences between Beijing and critics of Beijing, and from terrorist threats made to the games. On many occasions he wrote and spoke defending China. once he wrote that if the Beijing games failed to meet the world’s expectation his career would be finished, but this would not stop him from showing his firm support for and confidence in Beijing 2008 Olympics. A very respectable gentleman.
Still doubt that. I will check it if I see it again.
That’s good to know. It was the first time I saw him. He did look lacking in festivity. I am still dumbfounded by the show. There are a lot to sink in. I think the audience is the most impressive part. I wish I were in Beijing, not inside the stadium, but somewhere in the streets, probably outside Tiananmen, to soak in the excitement.
“Team Japan was great, they each carried both Japanese and Chinese national flags( the only team did so!).”
Greek team did that too.
The Spanish team was waving Chinese fans, and the Swedish ladies wore qipao.
Guys and gals… I watched how NBC showcased it, and honestly, I can’t tell apart from the cheers other than the most obvious ones like China and US like you all mentioned. The report said Singapore recieved a lot and some of the smaller countries little but because of all that yapping of the NBC announcers and possibly the commercials, it looked liked it was rushed. The South Korea and North Korea difference I could hear but just a bit because at that time there was less talking. The online ones I watched was the CCTV and I think an Australian network, but they were only clips.
S.K. Cheung says
To Karma #39:
completely agree with you in principle. But if you were a Jew who survived the Holocaust, it might be a little harder to maintain that distinction. And they probably wouldn’t be fond of the Buddhist symbol either, though I thought the Nazi swastika “propeller” was propelling in the other direction.
I think it might be even headed to a bit reserved regarding how other people truly think and feel. I’m aware of some Jews who are quite knowledgeble regarding Buddhism and understand the differences. Their religion is actually a bit more tolerant to others than what many people assumed, but I guess we’ll have to leave that subject for another time since I suspect any discussion involving religion will be very long and detailed.
Moving on, my cousin recorded the ceremony, the NBC broadcast version and I saw a small glimpse of the kids bending their arms. I’m not sure if it’s the angle of the camera or what, but from this point of view, it really did not look anything close to a Nazi salute or Roman salute that is stereotypically viewed as.
sun bin says
i am not sure if Zambia likes that, poor Zambia was before Zimbabwe in the past now it is just before the host. 🙂
Something never done before in previous Olympics,
“The parade of nations also had a uniquely Chinese flavor. Instead of the usual alphabetic order, the record 204 countries and territories entered the stadium in accordance with the number of strokes in the Chinese characters used for the nations’ names, with those countries whose names contain the fewest strokes coming first.” (Simplified Chinese, no doubt)
Zhang Yimou disappointed me although I knew he wouldn’t do without his old tricks. He had been showing obvious weakness ever since his peak time in the mid 1990s. His biggest weakness is lack of thought. The grand showcase last night was mediocre or conventional in terms of technology and theatricality (what he tends to emphasize or good at) and shallow and superficial in terms of thematic or subject matter, in comparison with some of the best opening ceremony showcases.
For one thing, the elegant文房四宝, 昆曲, 四大发明 and Confucian 和为贵 are only part of Chinese culture and civilization; they are in no way representative of the things that have made China suffered, endured, but still aspired to achieve greatness with her four thousands of years of history especially the last one hundred years. The mythologies of 女娲补天, 夸父追日, 精卫填海 are not from elite culture, but would have been more representative of fundamentals of Chinese greatness as an ancient civilization still thriving today (Lining’s final performance of lighting the Olympic torch might give a remote hint on夸父追日, but did not resonate with many audiences due to its abruptness). A nation’s mythology always faithfully reflects the imagination, mentality and spirits of this very nation at deepest level and therefore is a rich reservoir for artistic inspiration. Both Greek and Chinese have great mythologies. While Greek director of the opening ceremony made best use of their mythology, an elitist interpretation of Chinese culture and civilization and a lack of understanding of China’s history and present seemed to have set limit on Zhang’s creativity and imagination.
Also, the entire narrative turned to be rather fragmented without coherence, while the occasion had provided him a best opportunity for an articulate grand narrative of China rising from history.
Good explanation of the Young Pioneers’ solute in your #28 comment.
As I remember, this solute and flag ritual was originally introduced or copied from former USSR in the early 1950s.
The Pioneer Movement and Hitler Youth Movement are the communist and Nazi counterparts of the Boy Scouts movement in the West, so we should not dismiss FOARP’s comments out of hand. Moreover, whereas the recreational aspects have overtaken the paramilitary side of the Scouts movement in the West, the opposite seems to be the case in China. The PRC fascination with military style salutes and uber-collectivism with blood mystique-nationalism does have frightful connotations. BXBQ remarks about the martyrs blood make me think of the Nazi Blutfahne. More later.
Charles Liu says
Time to invoke Godwin’s Law and this “nazi kids” BS to rest.
I didn’t know what it was until I looked on Baidu:
Frankly it’s more Benny Hill than Hitler, a$$hole.
hey all. the papers here in the UK are abit negative about china but i just wanted to say im hoping the olympics shows the west that there are othe powerful accomplished nations out there – which the opening ceremony yesterday showed fantastically. how amazing – even sitting watching a room the sights and sounds made us gasp. go china!
In regard to the children’s solute:
Do you North Americans sometime put your hand on your heart when you sing the national anthem? That gesture in Chinese means the same thing – respect, love, growth. It’s actually supposed to be almost vertically above their heads, with their arms bent.
#37: “Did it occur to him that he was committing a sin by cheering the Heretic Pagan rituals complete with the commie salutes and goose stepping commie soldiers?”
Putin may have been happy to see the goose-stepping, while Bush may have had some goose-bumps 🙂
“The Pioneer Movement and Hitler Youth Movement are the communist and Nazi counterparts of the Boy Scouts movement in the West.”
What an oversimplified view devoid of historical perspective with a stamp of Cold War mentality!
wuming - wumaodang says
Zhang Yi-mo’s ancient epic phase suited Olympics perfectly. Chinese directors tends to be painterly, Zhang Yi-mo is the foremost of them. The “Not One Less” style, though great film making, would not have worked here at all, would it?
There are also subtle touches, such as performers poking their heads out and grinning after the movable types dance, like in traditional lion dance, suddenly humanize the spectacle.
I can imaging the implication is a unsettling to many around the world, a people that can do that …
Snow # 63
“…this solute and flag ritual was originally introduced or copied from former USSR in the early 1950s.”
Is that right? I have never seen it in old USSR movies. Seemed to me at least its symbolism is totally Chinese. We own that salute, and I am glad the ceremony included this piece of our history. Some reviews (I think NYT but could be wrong) were saying that the historical account missed out the PRC segment. Not the PRC history was clearly in it, represented by the children, especially the song accompanying the march of the Chinese flag by the children and then the soldiers.
Hemulen # 64
I do not see how the Nazi German youth movement is related to our Children’s Pioneers. The Chinese Children’s Pioneers organization is first and foremost an organization of good kids.
Jesus, and at the drum tower too.
That opening ceremony got me to think a lot. I could not sleep for a log time after watching it and had a lot of weird and incoherent dreams after falling asleep.
One effect of the show on me is clear, this Olympics is a serious event. It was the first time that I was able to take the Beijing Olympics. It had been hard to take the preparations (e.g. the torch relay) because of the many bizarre elements involved, the silly disruption and distractions from the activists, Dalai Lama, the bus bombers etc.
Many issues are fogy in my head. There were 80 some heads of states, all sitting through the four hours in intense heat and murkiness (you have no idea how bad Beijing summer could be if you have not been there). They all came in dress suites and tie. Obviously they could not pull up their shirt to expose their belly buttons to cool off, like regular Beijing Hutong guys do in summer. Did they enjoy the show? Did they think it was worth the intense discomfort in the heat? I clearly show both George and Laura looking at their wrist watches early into the show. When the show was over and they were having a long showering at their hotel, what would be going on in the minds of President Bush or the French president whatever his name is? Would they be thinking “what a great show, I just had a once-in-a-life-time experience”? Or would they think “I have just made a fool of myself. I will never attend another Olympic or Chinese event.”
Another observation is that the Chinese team’s “tomato and scrambled eggs” outfit looked perfect , very loud and festive 很喜兴， 热闹，祥和.
“Foolsmountain wins prestigious Danwei medal for best blogging on China, in the categoy of “China news aggregators and translations from Chinese”.”
I started with TIME Chinablog, then PKD (until the owner for no obvious reason to me banned BXBQ (????) Still a puzzle to me now.) But it was on PKD that I discovered FM, and now I am addicted to it. BlogFoolsMountain: Comments on China International by International Chinese, with civilize discussions among China Intil’s friends & foes. Bravo!
I hope this Comment Section will not deteriote like PKD has or like TCB, which was rubbish from the get go. Cheers!
#72 “… and at the drum tower too.”
Seems Beijing security is on the lookout for terrorists but not mental cases.
The history of modern China (not only PRC’s) was indeed absent from Zhang’s opening ceremony. Perhaps it was intentional as he did not know how to touch on the subject. The visualized symbols of what some thought as essentials of Chinese culture and civilization were presented as a spectacular floor show of things without human face (in terms of human spirits) and historical narrative line and all performers were merely functioning as instruments. I don’t know if this can be properly called an ancient epic.
All in all, it was very technically visual and spectacle not without nice touches (such as the girl’s singing of national anthem and the dove ritual) but it did not resonate much. Nor did it tell the world more than what the world has already known about China: that she invented such and such, has five thousands years of history and cherishes peace and harmony. I felt that what I perceived from the ceremony did not do justice to the great historical significance this occasion carries.It could be much better. But perhaps it was too much to expect from Zhang who is well known for his empty spectacular/theatricality.
Oops, I missed that. Sorry to Greeks, if they can hear me;)
I dunno, I think it’s planned maybe. Ordinary Chinese are forbidden to carry knives, but this guy surely carried one.
I do not see how the Nazi German youth movement is related to our Children’s Pioneers.
Just because I’m saying that the different movements are similar doesn’t mean that I’m saying that they are identical, but there are chilling parallels which you ignore at your own peril. The Boy Scout movement has never been tied to any political party, whereas the Pioneer Movements in the Eastern bloc and the Hitler Youth were products of the militarization of politics in mid-war Europe and had close ties to the mother parties. As more and more countries became one-party dictatorships they evolved into recruiting grounds for the party in power and aimed at indoctrinating the youth. The same goes for the Chinese pioneers, which is modeled on the Soviet Pioneer Movement. All the virtues you listed – to put the interest of the nation and/or party über alles – are integral part of these totalitarian youth movements.
We own that salute, and I am glad the ceremony included this piece of our history.
You know better than that.
If the assailant near the drum tower were Uighur, I think people who have assumed he was a terrorist.
@bianxiangbianqiao 37 – you misread me.
“But perhaps it was too much to expect from Zhang who is well known for his empty spectacular/theatricality”
I was a fan of Director Zhang. In fact, before Zhang, I had no interest in China made movies, until I watched ‘Raise the Red lantern,’ on Liser Disc. After that I went back to KPS to rent all his earlier works – great stuff.
“The history of modern China (not only PRC’s) was indeed absent from Zhang’s opening ceremony.”
Modern Chinese history is the westernization of China – a sneeze in the long history of this great culture,
which was vividly depicted in bright light thru the beautiful angelic little girl in western clothing singing a traditional commune song and the 56 ethnic darling representatives in full traditional regalias holding the Communist flag. This was a goodwill night, I was glad there were no modern days western style ideological propaganda that would remind the audience of the coldwar period.
As for the China’s great cultural heritage, like musical scores left by the old Masters, history is interpreted thru the collective consciousness of ANCIENT tales, legends, mythologies, art relics etc, hence the dreamlike ambience of the Scroll motiff mythical scenarios from eons pass mostly in adagio with the spectacular Yin and Yang balance and harmony of the TaiChi Circle and Square depicting the dynamic chaotic-orders and the eternal cycle of life that encircles the Square of pragmatism and hopes in our posterity through education, peace on earth (human doves/the globe of humanity singing a New song of friendship) and finally celebrating China, like a strong middleman, catching up with the times.
What a wonderful story of humanity!
wuming - wumaodang says
Zhang Yimou didn’t set out to do a chronological history of China, it would have been miserable had he tried. Before this epic phase, he was a great director, cinematographer (Yellow Earth) and actor (Old Well.) I have trouble with his latest phase as well, but the genre happen to be perfect for an Olympics spectacle. He couldn’t tell a more complicated story than that, and the world does not know as much about China and you think.
There is certain quite a bit of “can you top that” stuff in the show (Taichi in perfect concentric circles, Li Ning’s space walk and such.) But I don’t mind, we Chinese need ego boosters from time to time.
Ops, I meant, Middle-AGE man…( like a strong middleage man, catching up with the times.
What a wonderful story of humanity!)
I agree. When one talks about modern history – one gets into politics. Modern history – or perception of history – is the basis of the current world order.
Modern history is still being written. The context and true meaning of modern history will depend to a large extent on the success / failure of the rise of China. So it was good not to get into that at this time…
In the ceremony, the ancient history phase of China’s achievements may have been inspired by the Athens 2004 Olympics Opening, which was about the rise of Western culture and science,
“The Opening Ceremony is a unique opportunity for modern Greece to share its joy in, and pride of the centuries of its history; a history that gave birth to ideas, values and principles, which enlighten us all today. Democracy, philosophy, theater, sport itself, the Olympic Games – all were born in Greece,” concept creation and artistic director Dimitris Papaioannou wrote in the media guide circulated just hours before the highly-anticipated ceremony.
More than 2,100 cubic meters of water were used to fill the main performance area, with the water covering some 9,600 square meters of the stadium floor’s surface.
Organizers said it took six hours to fill the space with water, but only three minutes to drain via 10 high-speed drainage valves. An underground reservoir will hold 2.3 million liters of water.
Some 10,000 meters of fabric have been used for the 2,428 volunteer performers.”
“The Opening Ceremony is a unique opportunity for modern Greece to share its joy in, and pride of the centuries of its history; a history that gave birth to ideas, values and principles, which enlighten us all today. Democracy, philosophy, theater, sport itself, the Olympic Games – all were born in Greece,”
Isn’t Dimitris Papaioannou one of the artistic directors of this Olympics’ Opening ceremnony with Zhang YM as the Director in Chief..? I thought the whole thing last night was very well thought out and much thanks to LaoTianYe (Heaven, God, Divine grace) it was perfectly executed. Bravo China, incredible job ZYM & Co.
MutantJedi, # 80
“…you misread me..”
Sorry about that. I was shocked and awed and disoriented by the show and by the connection made between the Chinese children’s salute to the national flag and nazis.
My sincere appology.
I was worried about Zhang Yimou would do with the ceremony too, from my past experience with his creepy movies like the Red Lanterns and Judou. I am glad that he did not bring out 500 creepy red lanterns.
The ceremony should not be taken as a history lesson. It cannot give anyone knew knowledge. It did get people excited. Nobody in the audience or in front of the TV will be in the mood to receive a seminar.
Thanks for the picture. The gesture does look similar. Our salute is still cool.
“If the assailant near the drum tower were Uighur, I think people who have assumed he was a terrorist.”
The assailant was not Uighur. Therea are already sources feeding suggestive information.
According to the “News Center for China’s Human Rights and Democracy” based in Hong Kong, the man was a petitioner in Beijing from Hangzhou. The content of his petition is currently unknown. One would wonder how does this organization get such inside information before everyone else. Do they have inside link to the Chinese authorities?
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/world/china/080809/chn0808092210011-n1.htm (Japanese, Sankei, Kyoto)
That’s pretty sad. So, the attack was a mental case, or does anyone have more information?
I looked into other websites, and so far, it’s just stating that an American tourist, who is related to one of the Coaches, was killed, wife and tour giude wounded. Not really much details and still a lot of speculation on motives. Kind of disheartening but I really hope people do not twist the event into something else.
That is sad. So was the attack a mental case or anyone have more information?
I read other english websites and it’s just stating how an American tourist related to a Coach was killed, wife and tour guide, not really much details or speculation on motives.
Kind of disheartening, and hopefully the family and others who are affected are well, (hope the athletes and tourists/ordinary citizens not get too scared) criminal investigation do their job and people do not twist this event around for whatever causes.
I share your disgust with people who strive to see Nazis behind every Chinese bush at the Olympics. To appease these people, one might have to assign a squad of grannies with tissue in hand ready to clean any stray dark dabs on people’s upper lip lest the spectacle gets caught on film. But that would be matching silliness with stupidity, wouldn’t it?
I watched the Opening Ceremonies on CBC with my dad (70+). Reflecting on his reaction to the show, I’d say the organizers get absolutely full marks.
haha – if I’m going to try to be cleaver… I best get my English right, eh? Should be “stupidity with silliness”.
clever… I meant to say clever. Okay… I’m going to go over to that corner and be quiet now.
wuming - wumaodang says
I am still in awe of Zhang Yimou and his performers. That was unimaginable hard work behind it.
Spielberg must have had his 既生史,何生谋 moment last night
I will settle everything – CANADA got the loudest cheers. Oooops – that was from my living room.
Hey, Canada did get loud cheers! Or, at least Da Shan did. Where we were watching in Tianjin (outside with big crowds of people), everyone noticed Da Shan.
Wu Di says
Did anyone notice that the Japanese team carried two flags: The Japanese AND the Chinese! Imho they would have deserved to win the ‘loudest cheers’ competition, a great gesture indeed!
(Would any Chinese Olympian even imagine doing something like that if the Olympics were held in Japan?)
Wu Di says
@Nimrod: You wrote: “No matter if you are a “leader” of the so-called “free world”, or a supposed “rogue”, you are welcome to play in these Olympic Games. I think this sets the tone perfectly.”
Well, to me the tone you mention has a rather sinister undertone: As long as innocent (!) Chinese rights activists such as Zeng Jinyan simply disappear (or better: get ‘disappeared’) because someone in the government is afraid of what she could tell the press — it kind of ruins the Olympic experience for those who care.
@Wu di #98
Other countries did the same thing. It’s a nice gesture but IMO not a qualification for the loudest cheers. Maybe if they got D-wade to hold their flag, then we can talk 🙂
“Would any Chinese Olympian even imagine doing something like that if the Olympics were held in Japan? ”
Don’t see why not, it’s a nice gesture for the host nation.
I share your disgust with people who strive to see Nazis behind every Chinese bush at the Olympics.
This is not about settling scores. You can find fascist elements in the nationalism of almost any country, this time it happens to be China.
I think what MutatJedi was getting at is it’s an overly nitpicky and superficial comparison to make.
Anyone know where I can catch a replay of the Opening Ceremony? I don’t have a TV here, and I was hoping to find it online sometime today. The only place I’ve found is here; unfortunately, the quality sucks.
I heard from my family back in the States that it was really an incredible show. They were especially impressed with the Chinese characters made by the men in boxes (or something like that). The only slightly unnerving thing to them was de-individualization of it all. Of course, that’s a Western point of view – though some of the comments over as ESWN seem to agree. Overall it sounds like it was amazing, and I am eager to see it. If anyone has any links please post them! Thanks
@bianxiangbianqiao: “The head of the IOC looked totally disinterested and unenthusiastic the whole time, even passive aggressive. It seemed that he would rather be somewhere else. Did somebody upset him?”
He always looks like that. I’ve been wondering if he can smile at all. He seemed to have an inkling of a smile before he began holding his speech, but it disappeared as soon as the spotlight was on him.
yeah, if you find a link, I want it too 🙂 I loved the drums and the moving boxes.
That’s funny because I had a totally opposite impression in regards to the emphasis of the group, I thought it was a nice display, showing the humanity of China. I love the fact that a lot of the show used people as opposed to fancy machines. It was hilarious when at the end of the moving box part, all the actors popped out of the boxes, smiling, waving, and just elated. It was like they were saying to the crowd, ha, didn’t see that coming did ya 🙂 Damn, I want to see that show again!
I tend to agree more with yo in the previous post.
The unity of China is on display – but no reference is made of a dictator. Yes – the common interest is emphasized – but it represents the sum of the hopes of millions of individual Chinese – not in spite of the hopes of the individual Chinese. I think the show focuses on the hopes and wishes of all Chinese people – not individual Chinese persons – which is all good – and very humane and deeply impactful, at least according to my book.
Charles Liu says
Karma, I too think some people missed the point. They typeset performance at the end revealed the precision is human powered exactely shows the humanity that’s literally unerneath, unseen by us all.
A 50-min long recap of the opening ceremony by NBC.
Now I’m really pissed at the camera angle and coordination in the CCTV broadcast (or was it a company called BOB).
Some foreigners apparently mistook the typeset performance as mahjong.
The typeset displayed “Harmony” in essence, letter and action – Something that is quinessential to Chinese culture, and as old as time, but has upset some westerners in China when the call for the revival of a harmonious society by Pres. Hu, absolutely puzzled me! It is as quintessential as their ubiquitous slogan of ‘United we stand or God save our Queen/King/America,’ no?
You can find the opening ceremony on BitTorrent, although shhhh… don’t tell the media companies that bought the rights 🙂
I am running late on this interesting thread.
overall it was the best opening ceremony I’ve ever seen. the only part I didn’t like was the “Li Ning Torch ” part which wasn’t that impressive(the ideas might have been run out of how light the torch).
Iraqi team did get a loud cheer I cleanly remember and my local TV commentator said”Listen to the roar” after Iraqi team received the bid cheer. It’s no surprise the U.S team got one of the biggest applauds. Many Chinese still love America to death. Even many Chinese dislike some of U.S. political polices towards China but still like America as a good society and love American sports.
It was moving when I saw most of the Japanese team held Chinese flags together with their national flags. This should be another lesson to some anti-Japanese elements among some narrow minded Chinese.
I immediately though people would link the ” kids salute” to something else as soon as I saw it on the screen. I think it won’t do any harm to the whole performence without the salute which leads unnecessary confusion and explanation.
I expected more from other ethnic performers like ethnic Tibet.Mogul,Uyghur etc. They only appeared very shortly just before the athletes walked in. Han culture is not the only Chinese culture. I hope would see more other ethnic performances in the closing ceremony(well, it might draw criticism from people who think those ethnic are not Chinese).
@Gan Lu #7 “Also interesting that the Taiwanese delegation did not carry their national flag”
Taiwanese team is not allowed to carry ROC flag and not called the team of ROC by IOC(well, the policy was forced by PRC). This has upset lots of Taiwanese people. I would like to see Taiwanese fans waving ROC flags or with painted ROC flags on their faces during the games.
@Shenwen #20 ““Do not do to others what you wouldn’t will to yourself””
I agree. But I think S.Korea team didn’t receive that loud cheer like the N.K did wasn’t much to do with if today’s Chinese people still want to separate the Koreans which was true in the Korea war and cold war time and I don’t think it’s that true for today. The reason I think might be more to do with the un pleasant torch protest and the outcries after wards between the two people. The huge Chinese audience supported Italian soccer team yesterday during the Italy vs S.Korea man’s soccer match yesterday.
@Wudi #98 “(Would any Chinese Olympian even imagine doing something like that if the Olympics were held in Japan?)”
wow, don’t give up hope to Chinese people (whom include you and me). we are doing something right(of course not everything right yet)
I think it was so good without touching modern China.(I don’t know how to touch that? revolutions ?wars ? communism? capitalism? reforms? too hard to display)
@Nimrod: Thanks, I’ll give it a try with uTorrent.
@Karma and yo: I hadn’t even thought about the mass performances representing the humanity underneath. Now that you bring it up, I can totally see that side. The ceremony definitely showcased people’s potential as a group.
It’s interesting how different people can watch the exact same thing, yet come away with totally different impressions. This blog is doing its job well 😉
@Wudi #98 “(Would any Chinese Olympian even imagine doing something like that if the Olympics were held in Japan?)”
Please read this
Cheering for an Old Enemy
I really liked the opening cerenomy. but while watching I had the feeling the footprint were like a computer animation…
I was right: the footprint we saw at the TV was not real, it was computer generated:
They should have told us, or write it… I feel a bit cheated.
@Smith – yes I thought the footprint was like a scene from Star Wars – i.e. too perfect to be real, too.
Now I know…
The darn thing is: the photo of the footprint in the telegraph link looked more real and more like a footprint than the computer animated one to me!
My parents saw the foot prints fireworks in Bejing , they were lovely, though might indeed be very difficult to catch by cameras all the way.
There must be a lot of repressed sour grapes over the weekend over the awesome ceremony last Friday, because, while the article Smith linked to still resembles the truth, the news sphere has just exploded with thousands of articles with sensational titles like this one:
“China faked awesome Olympic opening ceremony”
Really? The whole opening ceremony was faked? Time to pull out the old Chinese saying “a dog can’t change its habit of eating sh*t.” 😉
wuming - wumaodang says
First, they could easily have done the firework of the foot steps the way they did of the last few live. But it was impossible to film them in real time.
Second, during the show, NBC commentators kept saying that it was a “cinematic” show. My impression is that broadcasters knew before hand it was not live.
Third, I think Zhang Yimou borrowed the idea from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, the chain of signal fires lit across landscape, which in turn could have been borrowed from actual devise of ancient China.
Did China fake the fireworks or did NBC???
The footprint fireworks weren’t faked, they went off… but I guess the video feed from China overlaid that part with a simulation. I don’t think NBC did anything with it, although they sliced and diced the ceremony in other ways for their tape delayed broadcast 🙂
Yes, yes…. I was being facetious. Of course, the fireworks went off. Of course, the footprints fireworks went off splendidly. But because it is too dangerous for camera to catch all the displays safely, NBC has decided to use some simulations so they don’t have to get too close to the fireworks.
In light of that – did China fake the fireworks or did NBC?
Of course, NBC. Why are people blaming China?
Thanks for bring up that story. I am very glad children are being taught in this way. But unfortunately not many people see good stories like this. they are not only the ultra-nationalistic anti-Japanese elements in China.(maybe because of good stories don’t sell well)
I remember there were organized cheerleaders for other countries during 1990 Beijing Asian Games. But I only saw adult cheerleaders.(I don’t have very good memory. Can anyone was in Beijing in 1990 back me up?)
The footprint fireworks on tourist camera.
The location seems to be TianAnMen Square, where the ‘steps’ began.
I hope those tourists go back and read their own papers and realize how warped their coverage of China can be. That would be a gain.
They may also find out that they’ve been in a warped space so they weren’t actually seeing the fireworks, or that the Chinese had replaced sky with a giant slab of cheap LCD. Someone from CNN doesn’t have to work too hard for that to be credible.
Here in Australia they said Australia got a really loud cheer. I’m not sure what the connection is between China and Australia – I get the feeling they crowd was getting excited that China was on its way out. Italy got a loud cheer. Is it the MArco Polo connection?
Australia is a big sports country and has a mandarin speaking PM
There are millions of Italian soccer fans in China .
I guess that’s it
the chinese public admire taiwan for its calls for freedom.actions speak louder than words ccp.
Judy, your sense of reality really confounds…
Many people on the Mainland believe Taiwan is a horrible place of constant chaos. That might be because of different reasons, but it’s in a sense an interesting mirror image of the Western reports on China – as negative and constantly belittling. It’s also an interesting counter-argument against the claim that Chinese people, contrary to Westerners, understand that their media is biased and so do not believe in it as much.
Join indian army
Startup Jobs Portal says
Among the visitors, Taiwan got the loudest cheers indeed; then Hong Kong, Russia and the US. Japan got loud cheers too, so much louder than I expected.
Resume writing tips for the freshers also. since this time I am reading this enormous informative article here at my home. Thanks a lot for massive hard work Resume writing tips for the freshers
Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly that love and read more on this topic. If possible, such as gain knowledge, would you mind updating your blog with additional information? It is very useful for me
this article helped me lot thanks.