Live-blogging the Opening Ceremony

Go here and keep scrolling. UPDATE: this one is definitely worth a look as well.

I’ve only been able to watch bits and pieces. It’s way cheesier than I had hoped.

UPDATE: I have to say, I was wrong when I called it cheesy. I was only able to watch about 2 hours of the Opening Ceremony and I learned yesterday that by chance I caught the very worst part – the interminable walking around the track by athletes waving flags -and some children dancing. Since then I saw some extended clips of what I missed, and I spoke with many people who were actually there. The clips I saw were amazing. Absolutely beautiful. And everyone I know who was there said it was truly beyond belief despite the oppressive heat. They loved it. (They all agreed about the flag-waving athletes.)

So I retract my earlier comment. I should have said some sections were cheesier than I expected.

The Discussion: 37 Comments

Quick question: I noticed that many of the foreign leaders were with their wives at the ceremony, but didn’t see any of the Chinese leaders with their wives. (Except the woman next to Jiang Zemin, whoever she was). Dumb question, but why don’t Chinese leaders hang out with their wives in public? I asked my wife (Chinese) and she didn’t even know who Hu Jintao’s wife was…

August 8, 2008 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

I read that Dashan was there with the Canadian delegation, you have to love it. That guy is going to have his own mausoleum next to Mao after he goes to the great English Circle in the sky.

August 9, 2008 @ 12:03 am | Comment

Where is Carla Bruni-Sarkozy?

August 9, 2008 @ 12:28 am | Comment

Yahoo, George W and it alliance with China?

Who hates freedom as much as China? George Bush does and so does Yahoo’s Jerry Wang.

George Bush is envious of the way China strips citizens of Civil Rights, forces interminable incarceration and spying on innocent civilians. Sound familiar? George W. wishes he could implement the kind of “Patriotism” that Communist China wreaks on its people everyday. George W. has come close and now he visits China to pick up first hand knowledge on how to fully subjugate citizens.

Jerry Yang is an asshole, entrepreneur and the Co-founder, CEO and Chief Yahoo! of Yahoo! Inc. As of 2008, his net worth is estimated to be US$2.3 billion and is ranked 524th among the richest people in the world according to Forbes. He is a tool of the Communist Chinese government.

Jerry Yang was criticized for a statement regarding the role of Yahoo! in the arrest of mainland Chinese journalist Shi Tao by Chinese authorities.
While in China, Shi Tao used a Yahoo email address to notify a pro-democracy website that the Chinese government ordered the Chinese media not to cover the fifteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 on June 4th. Yahoo! provided the Chinese security agencies with the IP addresses of the senders, the recipients and the time of the message.

Tao was subsequently convicted for “divulging state secrets abroad.” Yang was heavily criticized and Reporters Without Borders called Yahoo! “a Chinese police informant” whose actions led to the conviction of a journalist and writer.

Jerry Yang declared, “To be doing business in China, or anywhere else in the world, we have to comply with local law[s].” This was controversial, as critics claimed Yahoo! violated international law as well as a 1989 decision by the U.S. Congress to prohibit U.S. companies from selling “crime control and detection” equipment or software to the Chinese Government.[8]

The New York Times reported that political prisoner Wang Xiaoning and other journalists had brought a civil suit against Yahoo for allegedly aiding and abetting the Chinese government which, it was claimed, resulted in torture that included beatings and imprisonment.[9]

August 9, 2008 @ 12:35 am | Comment

“Who hates freedom as much as China? George Bush does”

I wonder if there’s an effective Zhongyao (Chinese Medicine) treatment for BDS?

(Bush Derangement Syndrome)

Stupid-a** comment, dollface. W’s only in office for another 5 months. About as lame as a lame duck can be.

But not quite as lame as your opinion that W’s in Beijing to learn about totalitarianism.

PLEASE stay overseas, nitwit.

August 9, 2008 @ 2:01 am | Comment

Well said Chinadoll, thankfully in the US we have the second amendment and there are literally tens of millions of gun owners. After Katrina, individuals in the US army are starting to wonder “what the fuck?”. The Libertarian philosophy, if not the party itself, is gaining big ground. Local PBS fund raisers were showcasing writers of that philosophy during their latest round.

August 9, 2008 @ 2:04 am | Comment

Is it just me or was that a truly crappy craptacular? It was even worse than I expected. The best moment: the guy holding up a giant compass as if to say, “Hey! We invented this!” That was awesome. And how many millions of the 300 million did the puppet show set them back? You know, the puppet show in which the puppets were in danger of being crushed by dwarves?

I’ll be interested to see how the Chinese internets react.

August 9, 2008 @ 2:16 am | Comment

It’s way cheesier than I had hoped.

You hoped it would be cheesy? 😉

August 9, 2008 @ 4:21 am | Comment

Let the brilliant Brits teach the dumb Chinese how things are done and how not to be cheesy. Can’t wait, London 2012!

August 9, 2008 @ 5:24 am | Comment

I would love to see a Benny Hill skit during the London opening ceremony. Pfeffer you are one big [deleted]

August 9, 2008 @ 6:32 am | Comment

Anything would be better than a hyper Spring Festival show.

August 9, 2008 @ 6:33 am | Comment

Bits seemed interesting, but then I thought “why the f… are they doing that – what’s the relevance”? Why were hundreds of men banging drums at the same time – to show that Chinese people are like the Borg?

August 9, 2008 @ 6:58 am | Comment

I thought it was pretty cool.

August 9, 2008 @ 8:45 am | Comment

re politician wives: Actually, I’ve often wondered the opposite: why do western leaders feel the need to drag their wives along to work? My wife doesn’t sit next to me at my work meetings.

August 9, 2008 @ 8:52 am | Comment

What exactly did you find cheesy, Richard?

August 9, 2008 @ 8:59 am | Comment

Hahaha! Hahaha! Hahaha!

“The little girl said, “But he doesn’t have on any clothes.”


August 9, 2008 @ 9:14 am | Comment

What exactly did you find cheesy, Richard?

The dancing children (so many for so long) and the teams walking around endlessly waving flags and putting on forced smiles. All extravaganzas like this will be cheesy to some degree, no matter which country does them. It’s not a harsh criticism. I wrote a long post once about the cheesiest event I’ve ever seen, but I still enjoyed it tremendously.

August 9, 2008 @ 9:51 am | Comment


Good question. Speaking for the US, voters like to SEE a leader with “strong family values” (whether true or not), so we like to get to know/see the wives as well. With one of Chinese culture’s claims to fame being “family values”(and a growing divorce rate), I would think that the Chinese people would also want to see a leader that espoused the same in his/her personal life. Then again, you could argue that no one over here gets to vote for them, so why should they care about “keeping up appearances”? (even though they “keep them up” in so many other ways i.e. a 50 billion dollar Olympic Games!)

August 9, 2008 @ 10:05 am | Comment

Was that it? Was this what the world waited for these last four years?

After spending billions and billions of dollars and having four years for planning, is this the best China can do?

Little Greece and Australia, with less money, presented a show that is still remembered.

For return on investment, this opening was a bad investment.

England will do far better.

August 9, 2008 @ 10:31 am | Comment

COme on. That was a great opening ceremony.
Who criticizes using star trek jargon? Loser.

August 9, 2008 @ 11:12 am | Comment

It is pretty ironic that the same Communist Party which tried to destroy 5,000 years of Chinese tradition and culture during the Cultural Revolution now seeks to use the 5,000 years of tradition and culture as the highlights of the Beijing Olympics.

I wonder what would have happened to the performers who sang Chinese opera, wear traditional costumes if we were back in the 1960s. Red Guards would be coming in large droves baying for their blood for being the “dog-heads” of old feudalistic China.

August 9, 2008 @ 11:54 am | Comment

As a person who’s been learning Mandarin here in the US, while I can see why some folks found a couple of points sort of “cheesy” such as the guy playing the role of Zheng He holding the huge darned compass or the guys standing on top of the large red & gold pillars (the ones that look like totem poles), other elements were astounding in their precision during grandeur. While I understand that it’s specifically this kind of thing that laowai living in China tend to label “craptacular”, I really need to say…now that I just finished watching the whole thing through on NBC, a network I don’t typically feel particularly friendly toward…this opening ceremony pretty much took the gold. Previously, I had really really enjoyed Athens’s opening and closing ceremonies. They were imaginative and evoked Greece’s history and contribution to world culture over the millenia. And I was living in Atlanta during the ’96 games. (Not that I was too impressed with Atlanta’s ceremonies.)

THIS ONE? It went far beyond anything I’d ever seen.
Despite its continuing problems, despite the criticisms often levied at China’s government and society, levied here and elsewhere…some of which I fully agree with, some of which I’m less in support of…I’ve gotta say, the opening ceremony took this American’s breath away. I really found it inspiring and think China really deserves accolades for an amazing show. Any national pride they feel over this, I think they earned it.

August 9, 2008 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

I was amused by the breathless exclamations from the NBC announcers about how this was the Best. Opening. Ceremony. EVER. Because in the end…it was basically a glorified Spring Festival craptacular, right?

But then the wee earthquake survivor boy (with that ungrown patch of hair) came onto the screen and my ovaries bursted.

August 9, 2008 @ 1:01 pm | Comment

interesting how wapo changed their headline from Opening Ceremonies Mix China’s Excess, American Expression to “Clear Messages in a Colorful Show” … not really sure what the second column is even supposed to mean.

August 9, 2008 @ 2:00 pm | Comment

err headline, not column…

August 9, 2008 @ 2:01 pm | Comment

That was a great performance.

But nothing less can be expected from a top-down, command system

Read: North Korea, ex-Soviet Union.

See the parallels?

There is no health care system, but they can spend all this cash on this. So much for the ‘people’s government.’

August 9, 2008 @ 5:40 pm | Comment

American tourist murdered in Beijing (CCTV9). That’s all they said, except 2 others injured and the attacker took his own life .

August 9, 2008 @ 7:16 pm | Comment

Sorry – off topic, I know.

Josh is on the ball:

August 9, 2008 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

There were drums, and lots of explosions.

I felt sorry for the cheerleaders. Boy they looked wilted by the end of that.

August 9, 2008 @ 10:33 pm | Comment

Agree on all accounts with others about it being a really good show, EXCEPT for the VERY creepy scene of the flag being snatched by goose-stepping PLA soldiers from the children costumed in ethnic clothing. A great deal of analogy can be seen in that exchange.

August 10, 2008 @ 6:38 am | Comment

Please see my update to the post above. Thanks.

August 10, 2008 @ 6:53 am | Comment

I enjoyed the opening ceremony. I thought it very much reflected Zhang Yi Mou’s sensibilties. Only complaint might be length of time. The precession of athletes was long. Speaking as a US citizen native, I thought the US athletes great gadsby hats were the most cheesy thing that happened. The final torch relay was a little over drawn out. The guy running around the giant screen opening the scroll by highwire was not all that necessary. But it was visually spectacular, much like Zhang Yi Mou’s movies curse of the golden flower or yingxiong or his outdoor folk show in yangshuo about the sisters liu.

Sad to say the gravity of the Russian invasion of Georgia should overshadow Tibet and other issues with China. Seeing GW hanging out with his soulmate putin in beijing while russian tanks violate georgian sovereignity even more egregioiusly than saddam’s invasion of kuwait seems like a fitting finale for his administration. China’s crankdown in Tibet pales in comparison.

The Beijing Olympics will porbably end up being successful over all and possibly a high point for 2008 global relations.

August 10, 2008 @ 10:39 am | Comment

I watched part of it at the Frog in Taichung. And like Richard, I often enjoy such spectacles. I didn’t see a whole lot, but it looked great. No one was really watching it, and they switched to a Taiwan baseball game, which no one watched either.


August 10, 2008 @ 4:37 pm | Comment

Accually I quite liked it. Thought to many cute little children children for my taste.

August 10, 2008 @ 6:59 pm | Comment

i saw the first 20 mins and then the rest on and off and, ahem, quite enjoyed it.

August 11, 2008 @ 3:28 pm | Comment

Opening ceremony outstanding.

Scoring for anything that is not on clock – more like the bad old days where we could expect hard to believe things from the Bloc nations.

But as for on the clock things – the men’s 4×100 relay was without a doubt the best race and most amazing comeback I have ever seen – and this is as a swimmer. Thorpe in 2000 was great, but this was beyond that.

August 11, 2008 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

I didn’t see the opening ceremony and probably will not but before it’s all forgotten or buried note that the event was directed by Zhang Yimou, but he scripted (“designed” if you will) the first part; the last part was scripted by others.

Also, the US$42-43 billion figure (what’s a billion more or less? I meant that humorously, please) accounts for all the construction and public infrastructure in Beijing for this Olympiad; the actual cost of the venues on site is nowhere among the most expensive for an Olympiad. Sorry, but the Beijing Olympic authorities did not pay US$43 billion for The Bird’s Nest, The Water Cube, fireworks and extras for opening and closing ceremonies.

August 13, 2008 @ 9:06 am | Comment

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