Friday, August 15, 2008

Pomp, Pageantry & Pyrotechnics At Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

China couldn't have chosen a more auspicious date of 08.08.08 and a more propitious time of 08:08:08 pm for the Olympic Games opening ceremony. There certainly was plenty of pomp, pageantry and pyrotechnics at the opening ceremony of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing. Held at the iconic National Stadium, more affectionately known as the Bird's Nest, the spectators numbering more than 90,000 included royalty and dignitaries such as the King & Queen of Malaysia, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, President George Bush of the United States of America and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia. A cultural tableau highlighting 5,000 years of Chinese history was presented to the spectators and to the estimated 4 billion television viewers worldwide before the start of the march past by athletes from the 204 participating countries

Greece led the march past but in breaking away from the tradition of having the countries march in alphabetical order, the countries marched in the order in which their names were written in simplified Chinese characters according to the number of strokes. This meant that the countries with the least number of strokes in their first syllable got to march first followed by those with more strokes, in ascending order. In keeping with the Olympic Games tradition, the host country; China, fielding the largest contingent of 639 athletes were the last team to march in and were greeted with thunderous applause from the crowd. The flag bearer for China was Yao Ming, China's most famous sportsman and Houston Rockets, USA basketball player.

The lighting of the Olympic flame at the cauldron was the climax to a spectacular show. The last person to receive the Olympic torch in the stadium was Li Ning, a former gymnast and 3-gold medal winner at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA in 1984. Hoisted by steel wires to the roof of the stadium, Li Ning "ran" round the periphery of the stadium with visuals of the Olympic torch run around the world projected onto the wall of the stadium and giving the illusion that he was running around the world. At times Li Ning looked like Spiderman traversing the wall and at times he looked like Superman flying through the air! Li Ning stopped before the cauldron which was built in the shape of a giant torch before lighting the flame which had the crowd roaring with approval.

Over the next 16 days till August 24, the 10,500 athletes will compete in 302 events covering 28 sports. I am really surprised that they have included baseball and softball as medal events in this Olympics as they are not popular sports worldwide. These games are popular only in a handful of countries particularly the USA and certain countries in South & Central America and the Caribbean. In Asia they are played mainly in Japan and Taiwan and are hardly ever played in China. Among batting games, cricket is actually more popular and has a huge following in the Indian Subcontinent and Australia. Thankfully, baseball and softball will not feature in the next Olympics in London in 2012.

The world dancing fraternity must now really push hard for dancesport to be included as an Olympic medal event. Dancesport is of course very popular in the Americas. In Europe it is well liked all the way from Great Britain to Russia. In Africa dancesport is favoured in the countries in the south. Nine-times world professional latin champion and seven-times Blackpool professional latin champion Bryan Watson was born in South Africa. Besides water sports, the Australians also love dancing. In Asia, dancesport is popular especially in China and Japan. The Chinese are really crazy about dancing and you can see them doing ballroom dancing in the parks and in the open. My wish list is for the Olympic Games to proceed smoothly, for China to top the medals tally and for dancesport to be included as a medal event in the Olympics soon.

Best Wishes,

Dance Aficionado
Dancesport Malaysia

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