Saturday, 28 July 2012

It's London's Turn

The Queen stole the show at the Opening Ceremonies with corgis in tow
I didn't wake up at 4am Hong Kong time to see the Opening Ceremonies live in London, but from the bits I've read and seen on television later, it was a definite contrast from Beijing four years ago.

Director Danny Boyle did not have the same budget to play with as Zhang Yimou, and instead of a grandiose spectacle, Boyle opted to give a more intimate portrait of the country and even made fun of itself.

People are still talking about the scene where James Bond picks up the Queen at Buckingham Palace and they parachute from a helicopter into the stadium. Can you imagine Jackie Chan doing the equivalent with President Hu Jintao?

And Mr Bean performing Chariots of Fire, but then has a dream sequence of running on the beach and then realizes the song is over, only to hit the last note making a farting noise. Only in the UK.

Meanwhile Beijing was only too keen to make sure the prettiest girl lip synched a song that another girl sang instead, but wasn't deemed "flawless".

Its presentation four years ago was about group precision, that no one stood out from the crowd and everything had to be perfect. It showcased China's economic rise and while the ceremony was awe-inspiring, it invoked more fear than friendliness, power than optimism.

Boyle got the participation of many stars to take part, from JK Rowling reading from JM Barrie encouraging children to dream, and David Bowie, to David Beckham making a flashy appearance on a speedboat.

Many people seemed to groan about Paul McCartney coming out of a box and performing the last bit of the show, but were impressed to have the Sex Pistols play God Save the Queen.

In one scene about workers building London, the mainland Chinese who watched the ceremonies were surprised to see ordinary people captured in the show -- while the migrant labourers who built the Olympic venues were not recognized at all for their efforts in the Beijing event.

Artist and activist Ai Weiwei had nothing but praise for Boyle's show.

Beijing's Olympics were very grand -- they were trying to throw a party for the world, but the hosts didn't enjoy it. The government didn't care about people's feelings because it was trying to create an image.

In London, they really turned the ceremony into a party -- they are proud of themselves and respect where they come from, from the industrial revolution to now. I never saw an event before that had such a density of information about events and stories and literature and music; about folktales and movies.

London can breathe a sigh of relief that its introduction to the world was a huge success.

Meanwhile, China has already won the first gold medal of the Games in the women's 10m rifle.

Four years ago it won 100 medals, 51 of which were gold, the most of any other country.

Now that it's not a host country, the pressure is probably off, but surely the Chinese are there to win not lose, which misses out on founder of the International Olympic Committee Pierre de Coubertain's belief of the Games: "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well".

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