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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing's 2008 Olympics and its cinematic Opening Ceremony: spectacle and its power to inspire

Mesmerized, I marveled at the jaw-dropping spectacle of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games, enjoying it more than any other opening ceremony I've watched before. Surely this feast for the imagination was the most arresting, audacious and innovative yet? With its epic scope, theatrical scale, dreamy atmosphere, and experimental film-like form more at home in a cutting-edge gallery of conceptual art than a popular sporting event, it was completely involving and entrancing. The lavish costumes, clever choreography and acrobatics, thousands of extras, innovative use of multimedia, and enchanting soundtrack by Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon composer Tan Dun were, for me, constant reminders of the qualities that have made contemporary Chinese cinema so compelling. Indeed, the creative director behind the extravagant show was none other than China's most gifted and celebrated filmmaker, Zhang Yimou, who made such captivating films as Raise the Red Lantern and House of Flying Daggers among others. The event was inspiring. It made me wish I was there. And it made me want to return to Beijing. It also reminded me of our summer in the city a few years ago. While a heavy smog clouded Beijing for the whole of our stay - as it will the sporting events during these coming days - we still had an amazing time. It was one of those trips where, while having our expectations continually met - from eating the most delicious Peking Duck we've ever eaten to seeing Pekingese dogs in the hutong alleyways - we still found ourselves being constantly dismayed (the time we stumbled across a charming traditional performance of Chinese opera by amateurs at a simple teahouse in the basement of a modern shopping mall) and delighted (our afternoon spent piloting our own boat around Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace). Pictured? Costumed staff at the Summer Palace. It was very Raise the Red Lantern. So, did the Opening Ceremony inspire you to book a ticket to Beijing?


Wendy said...

Hi Lara,
It was spectacular. I was last in Beijing in November 2005 and look forward to going back to see the changes in the last few years. Which part of the world are you in now?

Nomadic Matt said...


They were showing the opening games on tvs in London and, I only caught the last 30 minutes, but it was amazing. The visuals were stunning and when the athlete ran around the stadium to light the torch which was also an amazing lighting ceremony. The Chinese put on a great show.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Wendy - I'm keen to return to see the stunning new architecture - the Birds Nest looks wild! We've just finished a 3 month trip in Europe (before that Turkey and Cyprus), then returned to Dubai to check out the latest restaurants and hotels, and are now busy writing up the European books!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Matt - the Chinese put on a great show indeed, didn't they? But then we shouldn't have expected any less of them with their incredible cultural history and long history in performance, opera, acrobatics, puppetry, martial arts, and cinema - yet I think so many critics had forgotten about that, and everyone has been surprised. You know, it's the one games where I think I could watch the whole ceremony again. I've never said that before!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Don - I'll check out your link.


Anonymous said...

We're going in November!! Absolutely inspired...I can't say that the opening ceremony is the reason we are going, but I am much more excited now.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Jamie

I'd love to know what inspired you in particular to go to Beijing in November (that hadn't inspired you to go before) - what inspires people to travel is one of my interests.