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Olympic Opening Ceremony celebrates ‘One World, One Dream’
Date Posted: 8/12/2008
Photos and Story by Tim Hipps
FMWRC Public Affairs
(Cleared for public release)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) provides soldier-athletes the opportunity to compete toward qualifying for the United States Olympic team. Qualified soldiers must be nationally ranked in their chosen sport and be certified by the United States Olympic Committee at a world class level. Athletes join the program at least three years before the Olympic Trials. To be eligible for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, soldiers must currently be a member of the Active Army, Army Reserve, or Army National Guard. Soldiers must also be eligible to represent the USA in international competitions and demonstrate the potential to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team or U.S. Paralympic Team.
BEIJING – The elaborate Opening Ceremony of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad featured a display of China’s long and distinguished history and culture intertwined with the “One World, One Dream” theme of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
“Beijing, you are host to the present and the gateway to the future,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge proclaimed before a sellout crowd of 91,000 at National Stadium on Aug. 8. “Thank you.”
An audience of 400,000,000 was expected to watch the spectacle on television.
“Friends have come from afar, how happy we are,” is a well-known saying of Confucius (551 BC-479 BC), a famous Chinese educator and thinker whose thoughts deeply influenced later generations.
U.S. President Bush and wife Laura were among more than 80 world dignitaries in attendance, along with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Bush became the first U.S. president to attend an Olympic Games outside of the United States while serving as Commander in Chief. His father, George H.W. Bush, the 41st U.S. president, also made history by occupying the chair of Chef de Mission of the U.S. Olympic Team, marking the first time the U.S. Olympic Committee has had an honorary chief of the mission.
The four-hour extravaganza featured 110 minutes of music, beginning with the fou, the most ancient Chinese percussion instrument made of clay or bronze. Manned by 2,008 performers, the fou-produced sound of rolling spring thunder greeted friends from all over the world.
The music was specially created by 18 composers for a production that displayed 15,153 sets of costumes in 47 styles. Some of the performers rehearsed for 13 months in preparation for one of China’s most magical nights.
Six hundred people were involved in the installation, direction, and safety supervision for a display of 11,456 fireworks set off from from 287 points atop the stadium and 8,428 more from 27 positions in the central area. Another 1,462 glowing and sparkling fireworks illuminated the upper rim of the stadium.
Gunpowder was invented in China during the Song Dynasty (960 AD-1276 AD). People used the ingredients for gunpowder as medicines for illnesses in ancient times; hence the name “gunpowder,” means “burning medicines.” The invention of gunpowder is one of China’s outstanding achievements in the history of human civilization that changed the course of world history.
A painting scroll revealed the origin and development of China’s history and culture. Paper is another of the four great inventions of ancient China. As one child sang “A Hymn to My Country,” 56 children clustered around the National Flag of the People’s Republic of China to represent the country’s 56 ethnic groups. Immediately following, the famous Chinese painting “A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains” was visible on the stadium floor while the ancient stringed instrument, Guqin, provided the “Sounds of Utmost Antiquity.”
Cliff painting, earth pottery and bronze vessels were displayed to reflect artistic developments of the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC-221 BC).
The Great Wall was illustrated by smooth lines, both concise and vivid, with peach blossoms, romantic and enjoyable, that illustrated the sweet wishes of peace-loving Chinese people.
The “Silk Road” was an important vehicle for economic and cultural exchange between China and Western countries. More than 2,000 years ago, trade caravans of China set out from Chang’an (now Xi’an in Shaanxi Province) with expensive silk, crossed the Hexi Corridor, and entered the European continent.
More than 600 years ago, Zheng He of Ming Dynasty led seven shipping fleets with 27,000 people aboard a long voyage from Quanzhou that arrived in Western Asia and Eastern Africa, thus creating the well-known “Maritime Silk Road.” On opening night, a performer held an ancient compass, another of the four great inventions of ancient China.
In a later segment, Chinese pianist Lang Lang and 5-year-old Li Muzi welcomed a brand-new age. Lang is the first Chinese pianist to have long-term cooperation with first-class orchestras in Berlin and Vienna. He has played recitals in many of the most famous music halls in the world. During that performance, the kite was introduced as another Chinese invention.
An exhibition of Taiji manifested the integration of traditions and the future by illustrating the unity of man and nature. Taijiquan is the most representative shadow boxing among Chinese martial arts, characterized by the “combination of the dynamic and static and the interdependence of hardness and softness.”
The Eight Diagrams of Taiji symbolize eight natural phenomena – heaven, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountain and swamp – that represent the changes of all things on earth. A total of 2,008 Taiji performers formed a circle that illustrated grandness and consummation in the traditional Chinese concept.
As the program progressed, the smiling faces of children from around the world demonstrated the theme of “One World, One Dream.” A gigantic, 16-ton globe arose from the floor, adorned with 58 actors running on nine rings covered with an Olympic Torch pattern. The runners seemingly were free from gravity and full of magic, fantasy and bravery.
The march of nations featured Olympic athletes from 205 countries, led into the stadium by Greece (in accordance with tradition). The host team from China concluded the march of nations.
As Team USA entered they clearly received the loudest ovation of the evening – until Houston Rockets basketball star Yao Ming led the Chinese contingent into the stadium.
The throng representing 596 U.S. athletes occupied more than 100 meters of the running track. As U.S. Flag Bearer Lopez Lomong was rounding the turn, members of Team USA were still filing into the arena from the opposite end of the stadium.
After eight Chinese Olympians carried the Olympic Flag into the stadium, the banner was raised and The Olympic Anthem was played. Athletes’ and officials’ oaths were read, symbolic doves were released, and the Olympic Torch Relay concluded a 33-day journey abroad that covered 97,000 kilometers across five continents and 21 countries.
Chinese Olympic gymnast Li Ning ran 500 meters in about three minutes around the wall of the open-air stadium’s inner roof in what was possibly the most fascinating sight of the night. Supported by a cable, Ning at times appeared to be running on air before lighting the cauldron.
“Many would say that the Olympic Games are of great significance and have profound meanings,” said opening ceremony artistic director Zhang Yimou. “But I once heard someone say: ‘They are all our guests. We should make them happy.’”
"This answer, simple as it is, tells us that we are of one big family. The Opening Ceremony demonstrates the same spirit as we find in the theme song of the ceremony: You and me, from one world; we are family.
“I have never led such a huge team, with so many performers, staff and volunteers. You may not be able to see their faces clearly in this grand stadium and their names may not be printed on this beautiful brochure, but I know how hard they worked for tonight. At this very moment, what do they want to say to you, our distinguished guests, and to the audience all over the world? There is only one simple sentence: ‘From the bottom of my heart, I hope you will enjoy yourselves.’”