Monday, August 18, 2008

The Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony March Past - Part 1

It was indeed a spectacular opening ceremony at the 29th Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing on 08.08.08. A record 204 countries are taking part in this Games and they will be competing in 28 sports over 302 events. Unfortunately dancesport has yet to feature as an Olympic medal event. One of the highlights at every Olympic Games opening ceremony is of course the march past by the athletes from the participating countries. As in previous Olympic Games, Greece had the honour of leading the march and China being the host country was the last to march in.

However in breaking with the tradition of having the countries march past in alphabetical order, the other 202 countries marched past in the order according to the number of strokes their names were written in simplified Chinese characters. Those with the least number of strokes in their first character got to march in first followed by the others with more strokes. The first country to march in after Greece was Guinea. The Chinese name for Guinea is Ji Ni. The word Ji in Chinese has two strokes and that is why Guinea and 4 other countries which had 2 strokes in their first character got to march in earlier.

If several countries had the same number of strokes in the first character, the second character would be compared and if they again had the same number of strokes the third character would be compared, and so on. Marching in at numbers 8, 9 & 10 were the athletes from the countries of Malta, Madagascar and Malaysia respectively. For easy explanation, I will break down the number of strokes it takes to write the characters of these countries in Chinese: Malta or Ma Er Ta (3,6,5); Madagascar or Ma Da Jia Si Jia (3,6,5,12,5) and Malaysia or Ma Lai Xi Ya (3,7,6,6). So now you should be able to understand how the system works. There you have it. The Chinese conundrum has been decoded and demystified!

The United States of America or Mei Guo, meaning Beautiful Country in Chinese marched in at number 140. There are 9 stokes in the character Mei. The last 2 countries to march in before China was Australia ( Ao De Li Ya) with 15 strokes and Zambia (Zan Bi Ya) with 16 strokes. China or Zhong Guo incidentally had 4 strokes. Many agreed that it was a novel idea to have the countries march past in this order. In Part 2 to be published on August 20, I will mention interesting trivia of some of the participating countries.

Best Wishes,

Dance Aficionado
Dancesport Malaysia

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