The most certain victory of the Olympic Games was duly ratified on
Friday when China won the gold medal in the opening ceremony
competition – presumably for all time.
No country ever has – or surely will – match the Chinese in the
effort, human power, synchronicity, ingenuity and, it has to be said,
money they were willing to put into what was once a little show to
start a big sporting event. Now it is an enormous show and a gigantic
And after an awesome if seemingly interminable four hours of
performance and ceremonial, President Hu Jintao of China formally
declared the games of the 29th Olympiad open.
Then the evening finally descended – or rather ascended – into
pure kitsch when the gymnast-turned-businessman Li Ning was winched up
to roof level to complete a lap of vertigo and light the flame. It
seemed like one trick too many.
Otherwise the first triumph belonged to the evening’s auteur Zhang
Yimou. Inflation of expectations at opening ceremonies began at least
with the Disneyfication of the games at Los Angeles in 1984. Last night
it reached its apex with a show of astounding ambition.
The theme was along traditional lines: nationalism with Chinese
characteristics. But Zhang executed it all with unprecedented panache –
cunningly using the design of the Bird’s Nest stadium for his purposes
– and budgetary freedom. The £50m mentioned in the Chinese media seemed
like a gross underestimate. This was a show that began with 2,008
drummers, and then got more ambitious.
London four years hence will inevitably seem like amateur
dramatics in comparison and sensible Londoners would hope that no one
would even try to match it. Fifty million could buy quite a few new
尽管“鸟巢”美丽，但在开幕式中扮演的角色相对次要。场内9.1万名观众也许感觉不到曾令《纽约时报》(New York Times)建筑评论员兴高采烈的“分层的亲密空间”，此公想必是安排来单独参观的，所以才能感受到这些空间所提供的“意外的私密与孤独时刻”。
每一个运动队都得到轮流演奏乐曲的迎接，结果，马里、圣马力诺、黑山和朝鲜的运动队在《苏格兰勇士》(Scotland the Brave)的伴奏下入场，阿曼队则在听上去像是探戈的乐曲声中入场。
The Bird’s Nest played slightly less of a starring role, beautiful
though it is. The 91,000 spectators inside may or may not have noticed
the “hierarchy of intimate spaces” allowing for “unexpected moments of
privacy and solitude”, which enraptured the architectural critic of the
New York Times on his presumably private visit.
They will have noticed the heat rising up to the roof over the
stands, making the evening considerably hotter inside the stadium than
it was outside. The official Olympic website said there was “a soft
breeze” – so soft that a special wind machine was installed in the
flagpoles to ensure the flags fluttered. The air was more like bird’s
There was no downpour, though. And last night nothing could have
dampened Chinese ardour on a night of national unity and celebration,
which one old China hand thought might not have been seen in Beijing
since the 15th-century heyday of the Ming dynasty.
The 204 competing nations and quasi-nations – number 205, Brunei
was a last-minute withdrawal – marched or sauntered (according to
national taste) round what will become the running track to their
It’s lucky this is not an especially large planet: no one could
endure an evening much longer than this in such conditions, least of
all the official cheerleaders who were obliged to jig non-stop for
nearly two hours.
Each team was greeted by music played in rotation so that Mali,
San Marino, Montenegro and North Korea were piped in to the tune of
Scotland the Brave; Oman had what sounded like the tango.
-图伊托(Natalie du Toit)；从苏丹难民成为中长跑运动员的洛佩兹·拉蒙(Lopez
There were big cheers for China’s little rival, Taiwan
(diplomatically called Chinese Taipei in this event) and for the team
billed as Hong Kong, China, which sounds like a postal address.
Sometimes the crowd took notice of politics beyond their own
corner of the globe. Iraq got a special roar, which was interpreted as
an anti-American gesture. So did Russia, which was more surprising. The
welcome for the US team, which stretched out almost to infinity, was
Hardly anyone noticed the individual athletes whose presence was
often the result of extraordinary endurance and suffering, like the
one-legged swimmer Natalie du Toit who carried South Africa’s flag; or
the Sudanese refugee-cum-middle distance runner Lopez Lomong, who, in a
highly political gesture, was given the job for the US; or the
Cambodian marathon runner Hem Bunting, who lives in a fly-blown
dormitory at the ramshackle national stadium where he trains.
There was the Sudanese team itself, which does its weight-training
using paint pots filled with concrete; the Kenyans, several of whom
suffered grievously in the recent violence, and the benighted
Zimbabweans. Switzerland’s flagbearer, on the other hand, was the
squillionaire Roger Federer. They were all blessed to be there: the
rich, the poor, the long, the short and the tall.
But the athletes knew they were not the stars of the show, because
then the stadium erupted for the Chinese. Their flag was carried higher
than anyone else’s, but then it was carried by the 7ft 6in basketball
player Yao Ming.
It was China’s night, an occasion when a people’s republic felt,
for once, like just that. It will probably be their fortnight.